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Book Auction Catalogues: Finding Auction Catalogues on SOLO

Auction & Booksellers’ Catalogues in the Bodleian Library: Catalogues of Printed Books

Finding Auction Catalogues

Historically, the Bodleian Library placed its sale catalogues in runs, under the name of the bookseller or auctioneer, rather than listing them under the name of the original owner. For example, the catalogue entry for Sotheby’s on SOLO is:

The old decimal shelfmark is 2591 d.1. A decision was taken about fifteen years ago to catalogue each separate item individually. For example, the Sotheby’s catalogues for the auction sales of the Macclesfield library from Shirburn Castle, now appear in the following way on SOLO:

David Pearson’s Provenance Research in Book History: a Handbook (London, 1994, repr. with new introduction, 1998), pp. 132–70, is helpful to those new to the field. In addition to his introduction on the history and importance of sale catalogues, he has notes on collections of sale catalogues (those at the Bodleian are on p. 146), and sections on individual auction houses and booksellers (pp. 147–69), including references to the Bodleian’s holdings, with shelfmarks. Since the publication of Pearson’s work, the location of ‘Room 132’ has ceased to exist. The books recorded by Pearson as being on the open shelves of Room 132 have been re-located to the Weston Library. Readers wishing to consult the card indexes mentioned by Pearson (the Sotheby’s book and manuscript sales between 1900 and c.1988, arranged by vendor; the non-book auction catalogues from 1686 to 1978, arranged chronologically; and the modern booksellers’ catalogues) should contact Rare Books ( well in advance of any proposed visit.