Canada’s cash-strapped national archives may have missed a chance to buy rare maps and manuscripts at bargain prices because years of austerity have severed its special connections with auction houses and private sellers. That’s the lesson being drawn by senior staff at Library and Archives Canada after the agency paid about three times the pre-sales estimate as winning bidder at a spring auction for the Sherbrooke collection.

The rich bounty of Canadian maps and manuscripts from the early 1800s cost the agency about $720,000, including taxes and shipping. Bonhams, the house that conducted the auction in London on June 19, had estimated the value somewhere between $160,000 and $230,000, plus a buyer’s premium.

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