‘It was actually my father who bought these prints at Christie’s — in South Kensington, long ago. They are hand-tinted engravings by Henry Salt (1780-1827), who is a direct ancestor of mine. One depicts Galle in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), the other Lucknow in India. They are part of a set of 24 images published as a book at the beginning of the 19th century.
‘Salt travelled widely and documented everything in his drawings. He also collected artefacts, animal and botanical specimens, and later became consul general in Egypt. It was all part of his quest.
‘I am fascinated by Henry’s adventures, and I have an absolute passion for India and Sri Lanka. For me, the prints are a window into a different time and place, but they are also reminiscent of some of my travels, my own memories. I suppose that spirit of exploration is still there.
‘My father gave me the prints when I came home, knowing how much I love those countries. As a family, we keep an eye out for other engravings from the set, as they come up at auction from time to time. There are about nine of the 24 distributed among various family members.
‘I always peruse the catalogues, but I generally bid on the phone. It’s exciting to watch the countdown on the website as lots go by, and to know that the thing you are waiting for is not yours just because you want it. There’s no paying over the counter, you may well have to compete — and that’s part of the fun.’
Find out more about Sophie Elborne’s interior design work