A first edition 1817 Lakes flock identification picture book sold for almost £2,000 at auction.

Intense bidding saw £1,820 paid for an 1817 flock identification book at an online auction that closed yesterday evening (Sunday, April 3).

Bill Nelson from 1818 Auctioneers, near Milnthorpe- who held the sale, said there was great interest in the first edition, calf bound book.

“A sheep farmer in Martindale, Joseph Walker, had the idea of collecting and publishing drawings and descriptions of the flock identification marks used by shepherds in the Cumberland fells,” he said.

“It was to help them return sheep to their owner as well as being a record of the marks used by each farmer on their flock.

“Much of Cumbria is common land. Sheep that graze on common land, land with no fences, learn from their mother which area is theirs to graze on, known as the heft. But they can go astray.

“Lug marks (ear notches) and smit marks (coloured stripes and spots on the fleece) ensure sheep are easily identified and returned to their native heft.

“The Shepherd’s Guide has been updated many times since Walker’s first edition. It is still in use by farmers today, with 30 percent of England's common land in Cumbria.”

The book was sold by an anonymous vendor from Carlisle to a private bidder in Cumbria.

In the same sale, a small selection of John Ruskin ephemera made £2,650. Included were signed hand-written notes and letters; two small portrait photographs and a small water-colour drawing or sketch endorsed by Ruskin – and titled 'dead twig and lichens'.