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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.


Paper Props & Stubbs’ Anatomy of the Horse

04 April 2002

Above right: the ‘Library’ portion of the Ken Paul Collection, a three-day sale of ‘antique’ film props that raised £1.5m at Sotheby’s last month was not large and was dispersed in eight job lots, but someone will doubtless have fun sorting through this collection of several hundred deeds, wills, leases, probates, transfers etc., mostly on vellum and largely 19th century, but including a few made-up props.

That Mozart moment when high comedy is transmuted into poignancy and self-realisation...

22 February 2002

The music sale held by Sotheby’s on December 7 contained two exceptional manuscripts – both of them presenting examples of the composer’s best loved works.

Music scores with the museums, but Dreyfus and Zola hit the high notes

23 January 2002

PARIS: The Piasa letters and manuscripts sale on December 17 brought Fr7.25m (£690,000) hammer with just 1 per cent bought in, and no fewer than 18 pre-emptions for the Bibliothèque Nationale, Comédie Française, Assemblée Nationale, Musée Victor-Hugo, and the towns of Avignon, Grenoble and Besançon.

Mystic Meg of the Middle Ages…

03 December 2001

This codified sequence of columns, dots and captions is what the superstitious folk of 16th century Italy consulted with more zealotry than a tabloid-reading lottery pundit in search of Mystic Meg.

For abusing the sergeant – 200 lashes

30 November 2001

BIDDING was rather more subdued than usual at this recent Sussex sale at Strides on 6 November, but as ever, the manuscript section contained much that was of interest and, at a comfortable, safe distance, even rather amusing.

It was cheaper in the 1930s...

14 August 2001

Probably written within a generation of the death (in 1279) of the author, Conrad of Saxony, a charming and almost perfectly preserved manuscript containing his Speculum Mariae Virginis and other sermons or texts in praise of the Virgin was another of the highlights of the manuscripts from the Ritman collection sold at Sotheby’s – and one with a distinguished provenance.

Rashi’s commentaries – the pristine version?

14 August 2001

Written in northern France around 1200, apparently by a scribe called Jacob, this vellum manuscript of Solomon ben Isaac Rashi’s Commentary on the Prophets (II Samuel 22:1 to Zechariah 6:13) is incomplete, but Rashi (1040-1105) was responsible for the most important and influential Hebrew biblical commentary of the Middle Ages and this is one of the two or three oldest extant manuscripts of Rashi’s commentaries on the Prophets.

The Eumaeus episode, an early draft from Joyce’s Ulysses manuscript

27 July 2001

A previously unknown and early draft of one of the key closing chapters of James Joyce’s Ulysses, the Eumaeus episode, was offered at Sotheby’s on July 10, and it was one of two committed private buyers who took the lot to £780,000, just short of the low estimate.

The Hours of Albrecht of Brandenburg number £2.7million

19 July 2001

UK: This article looks at a magnificent Book of Hours illustrated for one of the wealthiest prelates and patrons of the arts in 16th century Europe, Cardinal Albrecht of Brandenburg.

Christmas 1666: the Plague Toll

17 April 2001

UK: One of the least prepossessing lots, but obviously rare and among the more sought after of the day’s offerings, was a small handbill recording the plague tally and burial record for the Cambridge colleges from Christmas Day 1666 to New Year’s Day 1667.

Hortus sanitatis and the Atlas minéralogique de la France...

26 March 2001

A spread from a 1491 first edition of the most comprehensive and richly illustrated medical or natural history publication of the 15th century, the Hortus sanitatis.

Locke’s Essay Concerning Humane Understanding

26 March 2001

A 1690 first of Locke’s Essay Concerning Humane Understanding, bound in contemporary English mottled calf gilt and formerly in Sir Isaac Newton’s library, that reached $190,000 (£131,035) was acquired by Freilich at the Haskell F. Norman sales of 1998, when the price was $200,000.

A familiar face in unfamiliar garb

19 March 2001

UK: A 1632 MANUSCRIPT plan by Johan Williams of the Maniera de Monk Lytons, alias Kentwell... in the Suffolk parish of Melford, executed in ink and watercolours and including details of Kentwell Hall and Melford church, sold for £2000, in this East Anglian sale, and other local lots included a three-year run of the Norwich Mercury (1801-04) at £500 and A.H. Patterson’s Broadland Scribblings of 1892, at £480.

Sacked for insolence by Pepys, but 50 years in post

19 March 2001

UK: THE FORMER Arpad Plesch copy of Sir Joseph Hooker’s 1855, first edition of Illustrations of Himalayan Plants which was sold for £19,500 in this Nottingham sale was featured in last week’s Antiques Trade Gazette (Issue No. 1480), but there were a few other interesting results in the natural history section.

Galileo Galilei’s Istoria e Dimostrazioni...

12 March 2001

UK: THE title page of a 1613, first complete edition of Galileo Galilei’s Istoria e Dimostrazioni..., containing his observations on the sunspots and his discoveries relating to the rotation of the sun – the first to contain Scheiner’s letters to Welser – which, bound in contemporary vellum, made £4500 (Quaritch) as an ex-Fort Augustus lot.

Via Crucis

26 February 2001

UK: ONE of the scarcer plate collections in the Phillips sale was Via Crucis, novellamente eretta nell’ Atrio del Santissimo Crocifisso della chiesa parochiale, e collegiata di S.Polo. Engraved throughout, this small quarto Venetian volume of c.1780 comprises 16 full-page illustrations of the Stations of the Cross by Leonardis after Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, plus 29 pages of text.

Dick Francis' Dead Cert

19 February 2001

UK: THE title page had a semi-circular portion excised from the outer margin, but this copy of the 1962 first of Dick Francis’ annual racing thrillers, Dead Cert, had a jacket and it sold for £2050 to Bromlea & Jonkers at Dominic Winter's sale held on January 31.

De Villa Dei's Doctrinale and Audubon’s Birds of America...

12 February 2001

US: ALTHOUGH literary manuscripts and first editions of the 19th and 20th centuries rather dominated the Christie’s New York sale of December 14, other areas of the market were represented in the catalogue, and illustrated here is a specimen of Dutch prototypography which sold at $26,000 (£17,930).

Heures de la Vierge manuscript

29 January 2001

FRANCE: THIS Heures de la Vierge manuscript, from Auvergne or the Lyon area (c.1485) fetched Fr215,000 (£20,5000) at Bondu on December 22. This Book of Hours (Use of Rome), 61/2 x 61/2in (17cm x 17cm), had a tired 16th century brown morocco binding but contained 14 full-page paintings influenced by Jean Colombe and artists from Bourges, and many of its 131 leaves (from a probable 135) had decorative borders with flowers, strawberries, fabulous creaturs and acanthus leaves.

Declaration of Independence sets $8.14m Web record

10 July 2000

SOTHEBY’S are celebrating setting the top price achieved for an object at auction on the Internet with the $7.4m paid on June 29 for a first printing copy of the American Declaration of Independence.