Men on the Moon - UK’s First Sale of Rare Vintage NASA Photographs

We are thrilled to be holding Britain’s first specialist sale of photographs showing how man landed on the Moon. Victor Martin-Malburet’s collection includes all the classic images we have grown up with,’ said Sarah Wheeler, Bloomsbury Auctions’ Photographs specialist.

What we are offering at Bloomsbury on 3rd November are historic artefacts - rare, iconic vintage photographs taken by the astronauts themselves and printed within days of their return to Earth, and very different from today's downloadable images.’

All the photographs are vintage and the majority are in colour with estimates ranging from £200-£800 each for the ‘standard’ 20 x 25 cm (8 x 10) and £2,000-£10,000 for the rare large-format prints. Steven Dick, chief historian of NASA, succinctly summed up the importance of these photographs, ‘The astronauts brought back two treasures from their extraordinary journey: samples of moon rock and their photographs.’

This year is the fiftieth anniversary of manned space flight. On 12th April 1961 Yuri Gagarin's Vostock spacecraft orbited the Earth for the first time and three weeks later, Alan Shepard in Freedom 7 became America's first man in space. In May 1961 President John F Kennedy addressed Congress saying: ‘I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.’

Within little more than a decade NASA had met President Kennedy's challenge and landed not one, but twelve men on the moon and returned them all safely to Earth. This remarkable private collection of photographs put together with care and discrimination by Victor Martin-Malburet, provides dramatic visual evidence of the extraordinary achievements of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programmes.

To begin with, NASA was slow to realise the importance of photography both for documentation and for publicity. But on 20th February 1962 John Glenn took the first photographs from space. He had bought himself a 35mm camera and had persuaded engineers to modify it for use with his bulky pressurised spacesuit, so that he could record the first Earth orbital flight from the Cape. The watershed came in June 1965 with Jim McDivitt's stunning colour photographs of his partner Ed White, the first American astronaut to walk in space, floating freely above the earth; ‘It’s fun’, he told Mission Control, ‘I’m not coming in!’(Lot 14 estimate £600-800).

These images captured the world's imagination, they marked a turning point in the role played by space photography and the popular view of manned space exploration. Three years later on Christmas Eve 1968, the crew of Apollo 8 became the first men to see the Earth rise above the lunar horizon; they captured a magical image which changed man's relationship with the cosmos. Half a billion people watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin live on television as they walked on the moon, but the extraordinary images they brought back to earth were seen by many more. Lot 136 encapsulates man’s first tentative contact with the moon: Buzz Aldrin’s boot stepping onto lunar soil (estimate £600-800).

This collection of photographs offers a magnificent field of investigation midway between science and art. Lot 163 is the first colour photograph of the Earth from space; this memorable image from 1967 is a rare large format vintage print expected to fetch between £10,000-15,000 and shows north and South America, part of Africa, Europe and part of the Greenland ice cap, while Antarctica is covered by cloud. Earthrise, Christmas Eve, 1968 (lot 164), presents the Earth floating in silent blackness; this iconic image is also a large format vintage print and it too is estimated at £10,000-15,000.

In recent years Victor Martin-Malburet has done much to increase awareness of this half-forgotten photographic heritage. The collection for sale at Bloomsbury Auctions has been exhibited at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris and at the Musée d'Art Moderne de Saint-Etienne Métropole. ‘At an early age I realised that these images had a real magic to them, a poetic dimension as well as historical, political and scientific value,' said Martin-Malburet.

These hauntingly beautiful images are, as Buzz Aldrin remarked, ‘A symbol of the insatiable curiosity of all mankind to explore the unknown.’ It is fitting that Bloomsbury Auctions should commemorate this extraordinary feat with the sale of a distinguished private collection.

The catalogue can now be viewed at

For press information, please contact: Vanessa Clewes Salmon:

For specialist information, please contact: Sarah Wheeler:

The Exploration of Space. Vintage NASA Photographs: The Collection of Victor Martin-Malburet on Thursday 3rd November at 1.00pm, Bloomsbury House, 24 Maddox St, London W1S 1PP

Bloomsbury Auctions - 17 October 2011