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Book Auction Catalogues: Finding aids

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

Finding Aids

David Pearson’s Provenance Research in Book History: a Handbook (London, 1994, repr. with new introduction, 1998) refers to various printed finding-aids for auction and booksellers’ catalogues in the Bodleian: 

  • List of Catalogues of English Book Sales 1676–1900 now in The British Museum (London, 1915), for which see Pearson pp. 139–40. This covers the BM’s collections, as they were in 1915, and only includes auction sales. The Bodleian possesses two annotated copies: one is an interleaved copy (shelfmark 2590 d. Lond. 1 c.24), partially annotated with Bodleian shelfmarks. The other copy is a photostat (shelfmark X.2.14/BML) of the extensively annotated copy which belonged to the Cambridge bibliographer A. N. L. Munby (see Pearson p. 140), marked up more fully with Bodleian shelfmarks.

  • Munby himself, along with Lenore Coral, compiled British Book Sale Catalogues, 1676–1800: a Union List (London, 1977), listing retail and auction sales chronologically (Pearson p. 139). The Bodleian’s copy of this is on the open shelves at X.2.14/MUN.

  • Robin Alston’s Inventory of Sale Catalogues of Named and Attributed Owners of Books Sold by Retail or Auction 1676–1800: an Inventory of Sales in the British Isles, America, United States, Canada, and India, 2 vols (St Philip, Barbados, 2010). This work, by the former Head of the School of Library, Archive and Information Studies at University College London, discusses (at pp. 4–5 of his preface) its predecessors. Alston updates and augments the work of his predecessors by including, for example, more detail in the entries, and adding the dates of the person whose books were being sold, a full title, and a list of extant copies. The Bodleian’s copy is at X.2.14/ALS.

  • The Bodleian also has a relatively scarce resource, namely a copy of the published microfilms of the marked-up Sotheby’s catalogues (Films 866); boxes may be ordered via SOLO in the usual way. At X.2.14/SOT.1 is ‘Sotheby’s Catalogue of Sales: A Guide to Microfilm Collections’. This covers sales from 1734 to 1945. Within each year, the sales are divided by category, for example, ‘autograph letters’, ‘books’, ‘manuscripts, western’, ‘manuscripts, oriental’, etc.

  • Details of some book auctions (both British and continental) may be found in Frits Lugt, Répertoire des catalogues des ventes publiques intéressant l’art ou la curiosité, 3 vols (The Hague, 1938–64) [shelfmark X.2.14/LUG]], although Lugt focuses mainly on sales of art and objects. 

  • Further information on American auction catalogues may be found in George L McKay, American Book Auction Catalogues 1713–1934: a Union List (New York, 1937) [shelfmark X.2.14/McK]

  • Still looking for information on book auctions? Check out the X.3 section on the open shelves in the Weston Library