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.

Rare draft of Betjeman poem for sale

28 January 2013

The handwritten draft of one of John Betjeman’s best-known poems, ‘The Arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel’, is just one of the gems in the next tranche of the Roy Davids Collection to appear at Bonhams Bond Street.


Documents highlight Chinese workers forced into slavery

25 January 2013

A group of hitherto unknown 19th century documents has come to light revealing illegal trafficking of Chinese people to Latin America where they were forced into slavery.


Prayers for the siege of Prague

08 November 2012

Printed in German, this Judaica booklet relates to the siege of Prague by the Prussians led by Frederick the Great in 1757.


Raphael drawing from Chatsworth to be sold at Sotheby’s

06 September 2012

Later this year, Sotheby’s will be offering three valuable works of art from the Devonshire collection at Chatsworth House including one of the best Raphael drawings remaining in private hands.


Washington’s Constitution sets an $8.7m record

02 July 2012

What has been a rich summer season of American book and manuscript sales culminated when Christie’s New York saw a record for any American book or historical document.

Trial and terror – an account in Robespierre’s own hand

06 June 2011

THE man who oversaw the French Revolution's 'reign of terror' but who finally met his end at the guillotine himself, Maximilien de Robespierre, was back on the block again at the end of last month as Sotheby's auctioned an extraordinary cache of documents in Paris.


Unique cache of Enid Blyton material up for sale

31 August 2010

A UNIQUE archive of original Enid Blyton material is being offered for sale by her elder daughter's estate at Ilkley auctioneers Hartley's on September 15.


The train crash that cost Steinbeck ‘part of his brain’

26 July 2010

“ED seriously injured late today when train hit car – Ritch”. When a shocked John Steinbeck received this telegram in May, 1948, he left immediately for Monterey, California, but by the time he got there his good friend Ed Ricketts, the man he later described as being “part of my brain for 18 years”, was dead.


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.