DESIGNS FOR THAMES TUNNEL – EIGHTH WONDER OF THE WORLD
at Bonhams Book Sale

Designs for the Thames Tunnel, signed by Marc Isambard Brunel and his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel, are to be offered for sale at Bonhams Fine Books, Atlases, Manuscripts and Photographs Sale in London on Wednesday 15 November. The archive, which comes with the signed Brunel family album in which the drawings were originally kept, is being sold by a direct descendent of Marc Isambard Brunel. It is estimated at £50,000-100,000.

Built between 1825 and 1837, the Thames Tunnel – which connects Rotherhithe and Limehouse in East London – was the first ever successful underwater tunnel. It was described at the time as the Eighth Wonder of the World. The techniques pioneered by the Brunels revolutionised tunnelling and had a significant impact on the development of the London Underground – indeed they were still influential in the construction of the Channel Tunnel in the late 1980s. The Thames Tunnel remains in daily use, 180 years after its completion, as part of the London Overground rail network.

Brunel's main technological innovation was the development of a 'shield' – 38 feet wide by 22.5 feet high, containing 36 cells in twelve frames over three levels that became the prototype for all future shield construction. Many of the drawings feature this remarkable invention, including three miners at work in the tunnel showing how the miners would dig forward and the whole shield would be driven forward by hydraulics. (A fascinating cardboard model of the shield is included in the sale). Although originally expected to be operational within two or three years, the tunnel eventually took 18 years to build because of technical and financial issues.

Marc Isambard Brunel presented a set of drawings of the shield to the Institute of Civil Engineers in 1837, for which he received their Silver Medal. The archive for sale at Bonhams, however, is more comprehensive, and contains a wealth of other material, including his initial rough sketches for the shield.

Bonhams Head of Books and Manuscripts, Matthew Haley, said: "This is an extraordinarily important archive of one of the great engineering feats of the pre-Victorian era – not just in Britain but in the world. The Thames Tunnel can be seen as Marc Isambard Brunel's last great project, and the launch pad for the meteoric career of his son, Isambard Kingdom Brunel."

Marc Isambard Brunel (1769-1849) was a French-born engineer who, as a monarchist, fled to America in 1793 to escape The Terror that followed the French Revolution. He arrived in Great Britain in 1797. A talented and much respected mechanical engineer, he was less successful as a businessman, spending time in Debtors Prison until the intervention of the Duke of Wellington secured his release.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859), son of Marc Isambard, was a civil and mechanical engineer and one of the most important figures of the Industrial Revolution. His construction of the Great Western Railway changed the face of public transport, and his many ingenious solutions to engineering problems have been enduringly influential. One of the few engineers to enjoy wide public recognition, he was placed second only to Winston Churchill in a 2002 BBC poll to identify the 100 Greatest Britons.

Sale: Fine Books, Atlases, Manuscripts and Photographs
Location: Bonhams Knightsbridge
Date: Wednesday 15 November at 1.00 pm
Specialist: Matthew Haley, Head of Books and Manuscripts

Enquiries

For further information and images call Pippa MacNeil on +44 (0) 20 7468 8210, or email pippa.macneil@bonhams.com or press@bonhams.com.

NOTES FOR EDITORS
 
Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest and most renowned auctioneers of fine art and antiques, motor cars and jewellery. The main salerooms are in London, New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong, with sales also held in Knightsbridge, Edinburgh, Paris, San Francisco and Sydney. With a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 22 countries, Bonhams offers sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of forthcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments, please visit bonhams.com.


NOTES FOR EDITORS

Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. Today, the auction house offers more sales than any of its rivals. The main salerooms are in London, New York and Hong Kong. Sales are also held in the UK in Knightsbridge and Edinburgh; in the US, in San Francisco and Los Angeles; in Europe, in Paris and Stuttgart and in Sydney, Australia. Bonhams also has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of forthcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments, please visit bonhams.com

Contacts
  1. Matthew Haley
    Specialist
    Bonhams
    Work
    Montpelier Street
    London, United Kingdom SW7 1HH
    Work +44 20 7393 3817

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