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.


Aristophil trophy lots declared ‘national treasures’

02 January 2018

The Marquis de Sade’s manuscript, '120 Days of Sodom', and André Breton’s 'Surrealist Manifestos' have been declared national treasures by the French government and were withdrawn from a planned auction.

Marquis de Sade’s manuscript

French government declares the Marquis de Sade’s manuscript, 120 Days of Sodom, a national treasure

19 December 2017

The Marquis de Sade’s manuscript, 120 Days of Sodom, and André Breton’s Surrealist Manifestos have been declared national treasure by the French government and have been withdrawn from a planned auction tomorrow.


December date for first Aristophil manuscript sale

20 November 2017

After a two-year wait, lots from the defunct manuscript investment scheme Aristophil will be resold at the Drouot in Paris next month.


Multi-million-pound collection of manuscripts from the scandal-hit Aristophil to be auctioned in Paris

16 November 2017

A huge collection of manuscripts from investment scheme Aristophil will finally be resold in Paris after a two-year wait.

 John F Kennedy documents

Purchasing Powers – dealer offers archive of John F. Kennedy speeches for sale at £375,000

03 November 2017

One of the largest collections of original John F. Kennedy documents remaining in private hands is being offered for sale by a London book dealer.

Lizzie Borden

Lizzie Borden auction lot recalls infamous New England axe murder trial

25 October 2017

'No, you can't chop your Poppa up in Massachusetts', the refrain from a once hugely popular song, and the verse from a skipping-rope rhyme with which this article ends, both derive from the controversy that continues to this day regarding one of America's most famous murder trials – and to a legal document sold on October 19 by Heritage Auctions of Dallas.

Ship logbook Australia

Logbook recording brutal treatment of teenage 'exiles' transported to Australia sells for £11,000 at Gloucestershire auction

10 October 2017

A logbook recording three voyages to Australia and the Far East made in 1847-52, two of them transporting young prisoners, or 'exiles', to Australia, led Dominic Winter’s latest sale.

Sheridan’s ‘School for Scandal’

Manuscript copy of Sheridan’s ‘School for Scandal’ takes £3100 at Gloucestershire auction

14 September 2017

Bid to £3100, some ten times the high estimate, a contemporary manuscript copy of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s ‘The School for Scandal’ sold at a recent Dominic Winter sale.

Pirate document

Pirate-hunter manuscript offered in selection of Venetian documents at Christie’s

07 July 2017

It was known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice but life in the Italian city state could be turbulent. The maritime republic spanned the 8th to 18th centuries though opportunities to amass power and wealth were challenged by outside threats, particularly from the Ottoman Empire. Among a group of documents on offer at Christie’s is one which recalls the city’s naval endeavours - a commission for the pirate-hunter Benedetto Pesaro.


Illuminating Brussels result at 18 times the top estimate

22 May 2017

An unexpected highlight of an April 28-29 sale held by Brussels saleroom The Romantic Agony (24% buyer’s premium), was a leaf from an illuminated manuscript.

‘Light at the end of the tunnel’ for Aristophil

25 March 2017

The legal impasse surrounding the restitution of thousands of historical documents and manuscripts from the scandal-hit Aristophil investment scheme was finally broken last week.

illuminated Gospels

10th century Gospels return to Germany at $3m

25 March 2017

Following a deal between the German state and specialist manuscripts dealer Les Enluminures, this 10th century illuminated Gospels created at Liesborn Abbey will return to Westphalia.


Rare book trade hit by shocking £2m theft

13 February 2017

The antiquarian book trade has suffered one of its biggest-ever thefts after an audacious robbery in west London.

Washington painting

America’s founding father Alexander Hamilton takes centre stage as letters head to auction

13 January 2017

America’s previously neglected founding father Alexander Hamilton is now firmly back to prominence after the Broadway hit ‘Hamilton’, which won eleven Tony Awards last year. The show is now coming to London's West End this year.

Beethoven manuscript at centre of attribution debate fails to sell at Sotheby’s

29 November 2016

A musical manuscript at the centre of a row over whether it was handwritten by Ludwig van Beethoven or a copyist has failed to sell at an auction at Sotheby’s.

Barry Cunningham

JK Rowling's hand-written and personalised 'The Tales of Beedle the Bard' comes to auction

05 November 2016

The publisher of JK Rowling's Harry Potter books is to auction his copy of 'The Tales of Beedle the Bard' at Sotheby’s next month.

Photograph of Wilbur and Orville Wright

Hand-written speeches by John F Kennedy and Theodore Roosevelt go to auction

15 October 2016

A hand-written and autographed speech by President John F Kennedy is among the lots from Malcolm S Forbes’ estate to be sold at auction next week.

Thousands of ‘frozen’ manuscripts from bankrupt Aristophil fund to return to market

28 July 2016

Historical documents and manuscripts from the scandal-hit Aristophil investment scheme could soon return to the market as the slow process of restitution promises to quicken in the coming weeks.

Emancipation Proclamation of 1863

Signed copy of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to be offered at Sotheby’s New York

20 May 2016

A signed copy of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 promising freedom to all slaves in the rebel states will be offered at an upcoming Sotheby’s sale in New York.

15-10-16-2214NE07A button gwinnett auction.jpg

Signature of Button Gwinnett, the forgotten man who signed the Declaration of Independence, emerges at Shropshire auction

16 October 2015

“Button who?” When Shropshire documents consultant Ben Jones was told that an American client was considering selling the clipped signature of Button Gwinnett he reached for the search engine.