Under the hammer: Rare books from collection owned by Horsham doctor and Japanese PoW

HOR 250810 Horsham. Dr Nowell Peach, a 97-year-old who served as a doctor in the Far East and spent three years in prisoner of war camps in Java.  -photo by steve cobb
HOR 250810 Horsham. Dr Nowell Peach, a 97-year-old who served as a doctor in the Far East and spent three years in prisoner of war camps in Java. -photo by steve cobb
0
Have your say

Ornithology texts, from Horsham Hospital surgeon Dr Nowell Peach’s collection, are up for auction this month.

The 45 volumes, which are being sold individually, have a combined estimated value of £43,300 to £62,600.

Nowell Peach, who died last year aged 98, was training to be a surgeon when the Second World War II broke out.

He joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve and, after service in Malaya, was taken prisoner by the Japanese on Sumatra in 1942.

There, and in subsequent camps, he used his medical knowledge and ingenuity to devise walking aids for prisoners with beriberi, and to recycle their small stock of barium to provide x rays for soldiers with gastric ulceration.

He also carried out important neurological research into a prison camp condition known as ‘burning feet’, a complaint caused by nerve damage linked to malnutrition and vitamin deficiency.

During this time he memorised the entire 1,300 page medical text book, Grey’s Anatomy, a copy of which he had been given by his commanding officer shortly after capture.

As a result, he was able to pass his medical exams very quickly following his release and return to the United Kingdom after the war.

Throughout the years of his imprisonment Nowell Peach pursued his passion for ornithology, keeping meticulous notes of the nesting habits of the native birds and making drawings using crayons given to him by a fellow prisoner.

During his later career as a GP and surgeon in Horsham, he put together an impressive library of books on birds, a selection of which is being offered for auction.

Auctioneer Bonhams said the star items include:

A first edition monograph of the Coraciidae or the family of the Rollers by Henry Dresser, estimated at £3,000 to £5,000.

A signed edition of Dresser’s A monograph of the Meropidae or the family of the Bee-Eaters, estimated at £6,000 to £8,000.

A numbered first edition of Harmonica Ruralis or An Essay Towards a Natural History of British Song Birds by James Bolton, estimated at £3,000 to £5,000.

Bonhams specialist Simon Roberts said: “Nowell Leach was a remarkable man who achieved much over a long and varied life.

“Ornithology was one of his major interests - pursued with characteristic determination and eye for detail - and this selection from his library is a treasure trove of rare and important books on birds and bird life.”

The books are being auctioned at Bonhams Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Photographs sale in Knightsbridge on June 19.

An exhibition of Dr Peach’s wild bird photographs is on show at Horsham Museum.