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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.


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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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).

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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.

Welsh history continued

29 September 2004

IN rebacked old panelled calf, a 1584 first edition of Welsh historian David Powell’s “corrected, augmented and continued” version of the Historie of Cambria, now called Wales left in manuscript form by Hugh Lhuyd, was sold for £1350 in a Lawrences of Crewkerne sale of July 6.

Lucy Clifford’s correspondents

22 September 2004

OFFERED as part of a Lawrences of Crewkerne sale of July 6 was ‘The Valehouse Collection of Letters to Mrs W.K. Clifford’. Though little read nowadays, ‘Lucy’ Clifford was immensely popular in late Victorian and early Edwardian times and was even classed with Edith Wharton, Joseph Conrad and H.G. Wells as one of those whose books “will never die”.

$1.4m quotation from AA

22 September 2004

SOLD for $1.4m (£760,870) at Sotheby’s New York on June 18 was a working draft, or heavily annotated multilith copy of the text that was to become known after the organisation established by its compilers as Alcoholics Anonymous.

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Henry VIII hands over a confiscated priory

16 September 2004

FEATURING a fine portrait initial of Henry VIII and other devices associated with the Tudor monarchs, a vellum document of November 24, 1537, in which the Priory of Combewell [near Goudhurst in Kent] is granted by the king to Thomas Culpeper, was sold for £4400 in an August 26 sale of autographs, historical documents and ephemera held by Mullock Madeley of Ludlow.

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Fund seeks new buying direction

16 September 2004

THE National Art Collections Fund (Art Fund) has criticised the state of public collecting in the UK on the same day as announcing a £500,000 offer to help keep the Macclesfield Psalter in the UK.

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Will a wealthy Armenian step in to buy cultural heritage in one collection?

16 September 2004

WHAT is billed as the first ever selling exhibition of early Armenian art to be held in a commercial gallery will be mounted by Sam Fogg at 15d Clifford Street, London W1, from September 22 to October 15.

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Voragine’s Golden Legend ...

09 September 2004

ILLUSTRATED right is the opening page of a 1468 paper manuscript copy (in period-style panelled calf with period clasps) of Jacob de Voragine’s 13th century history of the lives of the saints, Legenda Aurea – otherwise decorated with rubricated initials throughout – that with some staining to the opening leaves sold at $18,000 (£9780) in a Bonhams & Butterfields of San Francisco sale of June 28.

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16th century weather report?

09 September 2004

RIGHT: though I suspected a sub-text, this black letter broadside, printed “at London in the Olde Baily by Richard Lant for Thomas Porefut in Paules Churchyard at the sygne of Lucrese”, seems to offer a straightforward account (in a translation by Renolde Olyver) of a violent storm and consequent disasters that took place at Mechlin [Malines], near Antwerp, in August 1546.

£30,000 for Il Guercino

09 September 2004

SOLD for £25,000 at Sotheby’s on June 25 was a group of letters, documents and sketches by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, or Il Guercino [the ‘Squinter’], his painter nephew, Benedetto Gennari and his patron Claudio Bertazzoli, that relate to the former’s altarpiece for Santa Maria della Pieta dei Teatini in Ferrara – The Purification of the Virgin.

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Parrot and poet support the Arvon Foundation

19 August 2004

The Parrot Pen-man, an ink and watercolour drawing by Quentin Blake that sold for £1200, was among 40 lots offered at Sotheby’s on July 8 on behalf of the Arvon Foundation, a literary charity that provides residential creative writing courses.

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Nicholas Jarry

10 August 2004

SEEN right is the illuminated title which, together with a full-page miniature of The Annunciation and numerous coloured and gold initials, make up the principal decoration of vellum manuscript collection of Prières et Oraisons Dévotés produced by the great calligrapher Nicholas Jarry (c.1615-7).

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Holmes past and future...

10 August 2004

THE sale at $350,000 (£190,215) of Conan Doyle’s autograph manuscript of the Sherlock Holmes story, The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire, has already been noted in the Antiques Trade Gazette (No.1646) but the Christie’s New York sale of June 9 that brought that very high bid also included the pair of first edition copies of The Adventures... and Memorials of Sherlock Holmes (1892 and ’94) seen right.

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Tame Cats & Wild Things

21 July 2004

A LARGE scale oil by Kathleen Hale of Orlando Reclining Amongst Flowers failed to sell against a £10,000-15,000 estimate at Sotheby’s on July 8, but the autograph draft manuscript of Orlando (The Marmalade Cat) becomes a Doctor of 1944, right, each page with pencil and coloured crayon drawings (some with added wash or gouache, a few unfinished) did sell at £5000 to a London gallery.