LONDON – A letter written by a passenger on the Titanic describing the "wonderful passage" — hours before the ship hit an iceberg — sold at auction Saturday for 119,000 pounds ($200,000).
Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said the handwritten note, which had belonged to a collector, was bought by an anonymous overseas telephone bidder during a sale in Devizes, western England.
The price, which includes a fee known as the buyer's premium, topped the pre-sale estimate of 100,000 pounds ($168,000).
Aldridge said the price reflected "the exceptional quality and rarity" of the letter.
The letter was written by second-class passenger Esther Hart on April 14, 1912. "The sailors say we have had a wonderful passage up to now," she said of the ship's journey from England toward New York.
Her 7-year-old daughter Eva added a postscript: "Heaps of love and kisses to all from Eva."
Hours later the passenger liner described as "practically unsinkable" hit an iceberg and sank, killing more than 1,500 people including Hart's husband, Benjamin.
The letter, on White Star Line notepaper, was tucked inside the pocket of a sheepskin coat Benjamin Hart gave Esther as he put his wife and daughter in a lifeboat. The family had been traveling from England to Canada, where they planned to settle.
Esther and Eva were rescued, along with some 700 others.
Esther Hart died in 1928. Eva Hart, who died in 1996, became a prominent Titanic survivor, critical of attempts to salvage the ship, which she considered a mass grave.
Prices for Titanic memorabilia have soared in recent years. In October, a violin believed to have been played as the doomed vessel sank sold for more than 1 million pounds.
Aldridge, whose auction house specializes in Titanic items, said the continuing fascination with the ship and its passengers was no surprise.
"It was a microcosm of society," he said. "Every man, woman and child on that ship had a story to tell, so you have over 2,200 individual subplots to the main story.
"The Titanic encapsulates almost every human emotion we are able to experience."