On February 22 Humbert & Ellis Auctioneers near Silverstone offered the set estimated at £800-1200, but after a competition between room and internet bidders it was hammered down at £6000 (or £7400 including premium). The drawings set was bought by Swindon council for a new Brunel exhibition it is holding.
The set is contained in an oak case, with a brass plate inset into lid engraved I K BRUNEL.
Humbert said: “It came from an octogenarian client of mine, a lady whose great-grandfather was a contemporary of Henry Marc Brunel, Isambard’s son. I’m a little unclear as to whether my vendor’s great-grandfather and Mark Henry might have studied together.
“Henry Marc was also an engineer. In about 1902, shortly before his death, the drawing set and a set of Smollett’s History of England books were gifted to my client’s great-grandfather by Mark Henry.
“The drawing set has IK Brunel written upon so would have been his father’s, and it is likely Brunel had many such drawing instruments, travelling round for many jobs. He probably wore a few out, kept his best for home maybe, but what is lovely is to suppose what feats of engineering were invented using this very set – possibly the Great Western Railway, Clifton Suspension Bridge, the SS Great Eastern – who knows?
“They had been in my client’s family ever since and were consigned without expectation or reserve. Her phrase was long the lines of ‘if they make couple of hundred quid and do somebody a good turn, I’ll be delighted’. She was certainly delighted by that result.”
The Smollett’s, a four-volume full set from 1848, were also offered at Humbert & Ellis, each with IK Brunel’s written signature on the insides of the front cover. Estimated at £800-1200. They sold for £1250 to a private buyer.