A previously ?unseen? photograph captured by pioneering photographer Peter Henry Emerson has been snapped up for a few pounds from auctioneers who were apparently not aware of how rare it was.

AP has learnt that the image, taken around 1886, turned up at an auction in Gloucestershire where it formed part of a lot of 31 items that sold for a total of around £160.

The precious image was discovered among 16 albumen prints by freelance museum curator John Taylor who bought it. He told us: ?This photograph was in a job lot of various 19th century albumen views of Great Britain and was described in the [auction] catalogue as ?Tidal Creek and old Warehouses, south of Southwold, Suffolk.?

Taylor, who has been researching Emerson?s work for some time, declined to discuss the amount he paid for it when we spoke to him but added: ?I recognised the scene as very like a PH Emerson photograph of 1886 called ?Walberswick?, which is held in George Eastman House.? He also recognised Emerson?s signature which he described as ?unmistakable?.

Confirming the lot?s sale price a spokesman for Dominic Winter Book Auctions, which is based near Cirencester, told us that the picture was auctioned in August.

The ?unseen? and ?previously unpublished? gem has gone on show at the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in Bradford, West Yorkshire as part of an exhibition which is co-curated by Taylor.

An NMPFT spokesman said: ?It is rare to find a completely unknown photograph by Emerson. It is even more extraordinary to find an albumen print with the title written by Emerson himself.?

Emerson is credited for inventing a new type of art photography, called ?naturalism?, explains the NMPFT who add that he used ?soft focus to show things as natural eyesight sees them?. He produced platinum prints and later created prints using the photogravure process.

The show, called The Old Order and the New: PH Emerson and Photography 1885-1895, is on at the NMPFT until 4 February 2007. The picture also appears in a book to accompany the show. For details call the NMPFT on 0870 701 0200.

Picture credit: Albumen print courtesy of John Taylor