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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.


'120 Days of Sodom'

French state buys infamous Marquis de Sade’s manuscript with help from a wealthy banker

13 July 2021

France’s Ministry of Culture announced the acquisition by the state of the ‘120 days of Sodom’ by the Marquis de Sade and a number of other manuscripts.

A copy of the Declaration of Independence

Pick of the week: Philadelphia to Scotland and back again at $3.7m

05 July 2021

Charles Carroll’s printed copy of the Declaration of Independence – discovered earlier this year in a Scottish family home – sold at auction in Philadelphia for $3.7m (£2.85m) plus premium.

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George Washington’s slave purchase note comes to auction

21 June 2021

The opening lot in Hake’s June 29-30 auction Pennsylvania, is a 1767 promissory note hand-signed by a prominent Virginia slave owner – George Washington.

Emily Brontë

Fundraising begins for Brontë Honresfield Library collection after Sotheby's postpones auction to give museums more time

17 June 2021

Sotheby’s has delayed the sale of a library collection related to the Brontë family to give a chance for institutions to raise funds to buy it.

'The Oath of a Freeman'

Infamous forgery 'Oath of a Freeman' doubles estimate at US auction

17 June 2021

The 'Oath of a Freeman', one of the most infamous forgeries in US history, sold for a double-estimate $42,000 (£30,000) at Heritage.

Chronicle of Fortingall

Sixteenth century Scottish Highlands manuscript bought by Edinburgh museum

08 June 2021

A 16th century manuscript has been bought by The National Libraries of Scotland at auction.

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Museum hopes to buy Brontë manuscripts at Sotheby’s

31 May 2021

The Brontë museum hopes to raise funds to buy rare manuscripts from a rediscovered library collection coming up for sale at Sotheby’s.

Professor Stephen Hawking in his office

Archive of Stephen Hawking acquired by Cambridge University Library and the Science Museum after tax deal

26 May 2021

Archive papers and personal objects belonging to the late Professor Stephen Hawking (1944-2018) have been acquired by two institutions.

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Napoleon’s letter giving orders to invade of England sold at Sotheby's

10 May 2021

In the bicentenary year of his death, relics connected to Napoleon will inevitably catch the eye.

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Pick of the week: ‘Greatest enemy of the East African slave trade’

22 February 2021

The handwritten journal of Colonel Christopher Rigby, recording his success in securing freedom for thousands of slaves in east Africa, was the highlight of a collection of his papers sold in London.

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Coats of arms guide makes £4200

22 February 2021

A manuscript volume sold for £4200 was the main attraction of a sale held by Crow’s (22% buyer’s premium) of Dorking.

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Beethoven sorry for the trouble

01 February 2021

Simple, undated note by the Beethoven bought for $220,000 at Heritage auction by a big fan

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Wallis cracks it in the saleroom

30 November 2020

Unpublished work by mathematician John Wallis who was also a major influence in code breaking sells at Dominic Winter

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Sang collection of historical documents returns to Sotheby's New York

30 November 2020

Several decades on from the last of the five major auctions Sotheby’s held to disperse items from the remarkable collections of American historical documents and letters formed by Philip (1902-75) and Elsie Sang (1906-97), a further selection appeared at Sotheby’s New York (26/20/13.9%).

Charles Darwin 1881 Barraud.jpg

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).