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The late Peter Selley.

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After several years in the book trade with Rick Gekoski he joined the auction world in 1993. For a quarter of a century Peter took many of the auctions for the department of printed books and manuscripts. With great suavity he wielded his gavel for a wide range of sales from the lamented general book sales through to significant items such as the autograph manuscript for Mahler’s Symphony No 2 (sold for £4.5m in 2016) and JK Rowling’s The Tales of Beedle the Bard (sold for £1.95m in 2007).

He was responsible for many significant sales including Lewis Carroll’s Alice (2001), the Library of Frederick B Adams, Jr (2001), The Stanislaus Joyce Collection (2004), The George Cosmatos Library (2005), The Modern Movement: The Annette Campbell-White Collection (2007), sales from the Library of an English Bibliophile (2010-2018) and Charles Dickens: The Lawrence Drizen Collection (2019).

Private sales included the James Joyce/Paul Leon papers (sold to the National Library of Ireland in 2002).

Above all, Peter displayed a deep knowledge and love of his specialised area together with considerable loyalty both to clients and colleagues. When Sotheby’s decided to abandon its final salary pension scheme it was Peter who became a charismatic leader to challenge the proposal. Although the company rejected all opposition, Peter helped found The Association of Sotheby’s Pensioners and, in doing so, highlighted the plight of many Sotheby’s pensioners. It was typical of Peter’s sense of honour and fairness.

He fought a brave and protracted battle against brain cancer which was first diagnosed in 2012. He was 57 and leaves behind a wife, Juliet, and two sons, George and Max.


Dr Philip W Errington (of Peter Harrington, Fulham Road, London SW3)