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Manuscript

Manuscripts are books, letters, documents or pieces of music written by hand as opposed to being printed.

Handwritten material relating to historical events or famous and literary figures has sparked an active collectables market. Nowadays a wide range of examples can be available from auctions and dealers from illuminated medieval manuscripts to 20th century political speeches.


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Plea to help find missing Darwin notebooks

24 November 2020

Cambridge University Library has launched a public appeal for help to locate two missing notebooks from its archive – including one with Charles Darwin’s famous 1837 ‘Tree of Life’ sketch.

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Pick of the week: Window into 18th century gentry life

16 November 2020

An item of local interest to bidders at Bamfords in Derby was this 18th century account book for Radbourne Hall, the seat of the Chandos-Pole family.

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Papers reveal doomed anti-slavery colony

09 November 2020

In 1793, well in advance of the Slave Trade Act (1807) and the Slavery Abolition Act (1833), 275 British men, women and children attempted to settle an uninhabited island off the coast of Sierra Leone.

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King George III document takes £7500 at Canterbury Auction Galleries

09 November 2020

Estimated at £200-300 in a Kent sale, a military commission that bears the signature of King George III and is additionally signed and endorsed by William Pitt the Elder, Britain’s prime minister at the time of the Seven Years War, sold online instead for £7500.

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Illuminating an African royal dynasty in India

02 November 2020

An early 19th century royal manuscript produced for the Nawab of Sachin, c.1830, was given the Antiques Trade Gazette prize for Outstanding Indian or Islamic Work of Art from an Auction House when the annual Asian Art in London awards were announced last week.

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Pick of the week: Manuscript at Roseberys reveals a little-studied era

02 November 2020

As referenced in an inscription to the opening folio, this early 19th century manuscript – offered at Roseberys in south London – was produced for the Nawab of Sachin, Ibrahim Muhammed Yakut Khan I Bahadur (r.1802-53).

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Monypenny and Mary Queen of Scots make a lively sale

28 September 2020

Bid to £1.35m at Christie’s (25/20/12.5% buyer’s premium) this summer, as part of a ‘Classic Week’ evening sale of paintings, drawings, manuscripts, sculpture and decorative arts of all ages, was a lavishly illustrated Book of Hours attributed to the Master of the Monypenny Breviary and associates.

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Warrant appointing Napoleon’s ‘hideous’ jailer on St Helena returns to Sotheby's

14 September 2020

Napoleon’s view after first meeting on St Helena did not improve on closer acquaintance

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Letters feature prominently in exceptionally varied Edinburgh auction

03 August 2020

An exceptionally varied and very successful recent Scottish sale contained a great many letters and plenty of fascinating manuscript material.

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Mary Queen of Scots' prayer book sells at Christie’s Classic sale

30 July 2020

A prayer book that once belonged to Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-87) sold at Christie’s Classic Art evening sale in London.

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Estimate €5000, sold for €6.4m: Lost folios of Chinese encyclopedia surface in Paris

13 July 2020

Two lost folios from the 'Yongle Dadian', the Ming dynasty encyclopaedia that has assumed national treasure status in China, surfaced for sale in Paris last week.

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A chance to buy a piece of vaccine history – Edward Jenner’s innoculation book comes to auction

09 July 2020

Vaccinations are high on the agenda at the moment as the world searches for immunisation against the coronavirus.

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Early French books of hours on top as Paris reopens

29 June 2020

The Paris auction centre Drouot opened its doors again last month in France following the lockdown.

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Mary Queen of Scots' prayer book comes to auction in London

02 June 2020

A prayer book that once belonged to Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-87) will be offered at auction during Christie’s Classic Week of sales.

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UK Auction Previews of Books, Maps and Works on Paper – including an autograph letter by Robert Burns

26 May 2020

A selection of upcoming lots of books, maps and prints from auctions taking place around the UK.

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Saving the Pickwick Papers

26 May 2020

In keeping with the convention of the time, autograph leaves of serialised novels were nearly always destroyed as soon as they were set in type.

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Men of letters: Dickens and Burns light up works on paper parade

25 May 2020

Two outstanding works on paper – a letter by Robert Burns and a page from the manuscript for Charles Dickens’ 'Pickwick Papers' – headline the June offerings across the field of books, maps and prints.

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Book of Hours made for Charles VIII of France offered online by Les Enluminures

20 April 2020

This small-scale book of hours, below, was made c.1490-93 for Charles VIII of France. Containing 12 full-page and 10 small miniatures by the Master of the Chronique scandaleuse, it is offered by Les Enluminures for $575,000 as part of its online initiative: a Books of Hours online update to be sent out biannually.

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Middle Eastern medical manuscript proves to be £70,000 saleroom cure

09 March 2020

Said to date from the 12th-14th century, an incomplete and dampstained Middle Eastern medical manuscript sold for £70,000 at Bellmans (22% buyer’s premium) on February 22.

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Pick of the week: Institutions flock to Cheltenham sale for Maria Edgeworth archive

17 February 2020

Two institutions dominated bidding for the notebooks and correspondence of a significant Regency period female author at the Cotswold Auction Company in Cheltenham last week.