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The late Roy Davids.

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Roy joined Sotheby’s manuscript department in 1973 having read history at the University of London, and after a spell in the trade.

After a series of departmental upheavals Roy became head of a reunited books and manuscripts department towards the end of 1981, and soon set about overturning the traditional methods of selling both books and manuscripts as Peter Wilson had similarly revolutionised sales of art before him. Both can be said to have left an indelible mark upon the company, their colleagues, and the market in general.

Over the course of the next decade or so Roy managed or oversaw a series of outstanding auctions, including the sale of early printed books from the John Rylands Library in Manchester (1988), the magnificent collection of botanical books assembled by Robert de Belder (1987), the autograph manuscripts of nine Mozart Symphonies (also 1987), the autograph manuscript of Kafka’s Der Prozess [The Trial] (1988) and many others.

Pioneer and Friend

He was a pioneer within the company for his introduction of computers for the purposes of cataloguing and client development (despite never mastering them himself).

Latterly he became the head of the marketing department for five years, before leaving in 1994 to become a dealer and to concentrate on writing. He was a published poet, and became a good friend of Ted Hughes, whose Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being (1992) is dedicated to him.

Roy was a highly discriminating collector of literary manuscripts, portraits, medals, Gothic furniture and porcelain, finely displayed in his former house at Great Haseley in Oxfordshire. His collections were sold in a series of successful sales at Bonhams from 2005 onwards.

Peter Selley

Senior director/senior specialist, Department of Printed Books and Manuscripts, Sotheby’s, New Bond Street, London