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H.P Kraus was established by Hans P. Kraus in 1932 who ran the business from the former Lehman townhouse, 16 East 46th Street until he died in 1988. His widow Hanni continued to run the company until her death in January this year when the Kraus family entered into negotiations with Sotheby’s.

The family and executors had considered an auction of the inventory but, said Sotheby’s vice chairman David Redden, “when they determined an en-bloc sale would better answer their needs, they asked us if we would agree to proceed on this basis.”

Sotheby’s, who have not disclosed the price paid for the library, will offer the books and manuscripts in three parts with a total estimated value of $9-12 million. The legendary reference library – “without doubt the largest and most complete … on the subject of bibliography ever put together by a book dealer” say Sotheby’s – will be sold in New York on October 7-10 with further sales for the inventory of the New York store and the Kraus subsidiary Helmet Schumann of Zurich.

… and negotiate sale of $30m civil rights archive

Meanwhile the Sotheby’s New York manuscript department is in private negotiation with several institutions to sell more than 7000 items from the family archive of Martin Luther King. King’s widow, Coretta Scott King and their four children – who all hope to keep the archive intact for use by scholars – have loaned the documents to Sotheby’s for cataloguing and a current exhibition in New York. The collection has been valued at around $30m.

Sotheby’s have reportedly spent six years drawing up the inventory that covers every aspect of the Baptist minister’s life from early college examination books to papers found in his briefcase after he was shot dead in a motel in Memphis 35 years ago.

Of particular importance are nearly 100 sermons in King’s hand dating from the 1950s and early 1960s plus material covering central events in the history of the American civil rights movement, including the anti-segregation sit-ins at the Magnolia Tea Room, the firebombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama and the murder of civil rights campaigners in Mississippi. Perhaps the jewel in the archive is an early draft version of the I Have A Dream speech delivered before 250,000 in Washington on August 28, 1963. Providing an idea of how the address developed, the draft does not include the speech’s most famous four words that were added by King as he improvised from the Lincoln Memorial.