AN HISTORIC collection of drawings and watercolours was sold by Lord Derby’s estate to a museum in Australia for a multi-million pound sum.
The Merseyside peer sold the six bound volumes of paintings, consisting of 741 watercolours, to the State Library of New South Wales, in Sydney.
The drawings from the days of Australia’s early exploration were acquired in around 1842 by the present Lord’s ancestor, the 13th Earl of Derby.
They remained out of public view at the Knowsley Hall family seat.
It is believed the paintings were sold for 7.1m Australian dollars – around £4.5m – making them one of the most expensive purchases in the State Library’s history.
The watercolours are of Australia’s birds, fish and plants, some of which are now extinct.
The artist is unknown, but it is believed the drawings were based on specimens and drawings brought to England in 1795 by London collector Aylmer Bourke Lambert.
The 13th Earl was a keen naturalist and, in a forerunner to the present Knowsley Safari Park, had a large menagerie at his estate, including species from all around the world.
A spokesperson for Lord Derby said: “We are pleased that the new home of these watercolours is the State Library of New South Wales – ‘back where they belong’, as the museum’s chief executive said.
“The drawings are a key piece of Australian natural history, so though we are sad to see them go, we know they will be treasured and enjoyed.”