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.


De Gaulle’s original call to arms revived

14 June 2010

WITH the retreat from Dunkirk so much in the news at the moment, Aguttes have a particularly topical offering in their June 18 sale of manuscripts, postcards and historical documents.


Courts set to rule over multi-million euro Vasari archive

29 March 2010

A VERY Italian tale involving an important collection of papers that once belonged to the ‘father of art history’, Giorgio Vasari, took a new twist last month when a court injunction halted its sale by auction at the eleventh hour.

Two Presidents, two centuries, one vision

10 November 2008

AS millions of Americans celebrated the victory of Barack Obama, Christie's announced that they will be offering an important memento from another historic Presidential election which brought a sense of hope to the country.


British Library wins unique key to medieval English heraldry

15 September 2008

The British Library has secured the oldest surviving roll of arms in English history after a successful fundraising effort to keep it in the UK. The Dering Roll dates from the last quarter of the 13th century and depicts 324 coats of arms, approximately a quarter of the English baronage during the time of Edward I, making it a vital record for the study of heraldry in medieval England.

US to keep $19m Magna Carta in DC National Archives

21 December 2007

The last privately owned copy of Magna Carta will remain in the USA after its $19m (£9.8m) purchase by billionaire David Rubenstein.


Landmark sale as Perot offers Magna Carta for $30m

01 October 2007

What price one of the most important legal documents in the history of democracy? On December 10, Sotheby’s New York will offer for sale one of just 17 surviving 13th century copies of Magna Carta.

€3.5m deal struck for Easter Rising documents

28 August 2007

DUBLIN auctioneers James Adam have negotiated a €3.5m (£2.4m) sale of remarkable papers setting a record for a single transaction of documents relating to the 1916 Easter Rising.


Australia’s blueprint sells for over £100,000

20 August 2007

In the same way that Americans hold any material relating to the Pilgrim Fathers in the highest esteem, so anything associated with Australia’s earliest European settlers carries a huge premium for its domestic market.

Manuscript saved

23 July 2007

HERITAGE grants have helped the British Museum acquire the 15th century illuminated manuscript known as the Wardington Hours.

Martin Luther King archive goes to his alma mater

10 July 2006

IN what must be one of the least surprising private treaty sales negotiated, The Martin Luther King Jr Collection will go to Morehouse College, Dr King's alma mater in his home city of Atlanta.


Stitched, greased and ready to fight

26 June 2006

Compiled in the second half of the 15th century, the Fechtbuch of Hans Talhoffer (fl. 1435-82), the most celebrated and experienced fighting-master of the age, is a veritable encyclopaedia of medieval combat.


Bowrey journals go with a bhang at Bonhams

18 April 2006

CAPTAIN Thomas Bowrey’s principal claim to fame has been as the author of a 1701 English-Malay dictionary. Despite criticism of its clumsy errors, eccentricities of transliteration and quaint dialogues, this remained a standard reference for over 100 years.

Borg and Hooke raise a wry smile in Bond Street

03 April 2006

IT was a case of sweet and sour as two headline-grabbing London auctions came to an end before a bid could be raised last week.


The secretary’s minutes

14 February 2006

FROM a Hampshire cupboard find to “missing link” scientific discovery of a generation. A manuscript minute book kept by Robert Hooke during his years as Secretary to the Royal Society has rapidly and rightly been elevated to scientific sacred relic and national treasure.


Roll’s royals

28 February 2005

IN February 1885, a 21ft long illuminated manuscript dating back to the 1320s was exhibited to the Fellows of the Society of Antiquaries in London.It was described as “a very curious Genealogical Roll of the Kings of England” whose “chief point of interest is the artistic excellence of the figures”.


The fascinating passage of time

04 January 2005

PRINTED ephemera, often disregarded detritus, is not generally highly valued material. But should it chance to survive, it can acquire socio-historical and even monetary value.


Three more ‘Goostly’ leaves and a first-class sandwich wrapper

23 December 2004

Autographs, manuscripts and printed ephemera have long been a great strength of sales at Strides of Chichester, but the December 3 sale was rather special, being devoted entirely to that field and, though not billed as such, the first part of the personal collection of Derek White, who for many years has catalogued for the Sussex saleroom.


Sir Isaac Newton and the trouble with transmutation…

15 December 2004

The small group of Sir Isaac Newton’s manuscripts and papers offered by Sotheby’s New York on December 3 were not for the most part concerned with the work that will forever ensure his fame – although an autograph draft of a letter concerning the presentation of six copies of the 1726, third edition of the Principia to the Académie Royale des Sciences sold at $28,000 (£14,560).


Henry III takes over the royal reins

14 October 2004

AN October 21 sale of historical documents and letters to be held in Ludlow by Mullock Madeley includes a vellum document of 1227, witnessed by Hugh de Burgh, in which Henry III grants the right in perpetuity to hold an annual fair to the Prior and Canons of St Mary Magdelene of Combwell (on the Kent/Sussex borders).


John Davis (?) and Nares in Arctic waters

14 October 2004

THE portrait of John Davis seen right – if it is indeed the man after whom the straits between Greenland and Baffin Island are named – was far and away the earliest of the Arctic lots on offer, but not the most expensive.