Bravo, LAC !

, par (P.-F.-X.)

I agonized over whether to blog about this or not over the last week. Sotheby's was offering up in its December 5th sale two significant documents. The first was a lovely manuscript map of Louisbourg by a certain sieur Lartigue, entitled "Carte topographique du Port et de la Ville de Louisbourg assiégé par les Anglais pendant les mois de Juin et Juillet 1758" ; the second was an intriguing two-part journal of said siege and its aftermath, totaling some 180 pages, penned by an anonymous officer of the Régiment de Cambis. As far as I know, this journal had not previously been available to researchers ; I couldn't find it quoted anywhere. The auctioneer's estimate for the map was of $15,000-$20,000 USD, and for the journal was of $8,000-$12,000 USD. 

It's one thing to blog about a forthcoming auction and call out the auctioneers for an outlandish overvaluation of a lot's historical and monetary value (readers may remember an earlier sortie). But in a case such as this one, where the manuscripts for sale are of exceptional interest, to make a big deal out of it before the sale essentially means giving free publicity to the auctioneer and the consigner — and potentially contributing to raising the sale price beyond the means of the most deserving institutions. So, having agonized, I thought I'd best bite my tongue.

I'm now overjoyed to report that the journal was acquired by Library and Archives Canada. Yes, the same LAC I was disparaging in a recent post for not making any acquisitions as of late. A wind of change rises ? You can read the government's proud announcement here. LAC paid $40,625 USD, or about four times the estimate. This appears to be a deal, since from what I can tell the same two-part journal was sold by French auction house Piasa as recently as 2010 for 51,345 euros, or about $70,000. Well done, LAC ! 

PS : The map, meanwhile, sold for almost seven times its high estimate : $137,000 USD !



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