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List of catalogues of English book sales, 1676-1900, now in the British museum online

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University of California, San Diego
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Messrs. Longmans & Co., 39, Paternoster Eow ; Bernard Qxjaritch,
11, Grafton Street, W, ; Asher & Co., 14, Bedford Street, Covent
Garden ; and Humphrey Milford, Oxford University Press Ware-
house, Amen Corner, London.


[All rights reserved.]





The collection of some eight thousand catalogues of English book
sales here listed ranges from the sale of the library of Dr. Lazarus
Seaman on 31 October, 1676, the first occasion when books were
sold by auction in England, to the end of the nineteenth century.
It owes its importance mainly to the long sets of the auctioneers'
own copies, carrying on interleaves the prices and purchasers' names
for every lot, and the totals of each sale, of various well-known
firms. The longest of these sets is that of the firm which began as
S. Baker, over Exeter Change, Strand, in the first half of the
eighteenth century, and now fliourishes under the style of Sotheby,
Wilkinson and Hodge. This runs from 7 January, 1744, to the end
of our period. Other priced sets are those of Evans (1812-1845),
Southgate (1825-1868), Lewis (1825-1852), Wheatley (1825-1837),
and Puttick (1846-1888).

In addition to these special sets the Museum is fairly rich in the
earlier catalogues and in those of other firms, though few of these are
priced, and fewer still give the purchasers' names. For some twenty
years in the middle of the eighteenth century the collection is very
weak, but, taken as a whole, it offers to the student of the history of
book-collecting an unrivalled mass of material. Partly to preserve
this historical interest, but mainly because of the large number of
early anonymous sales, and for greater economy in printing, the
order of the List itself is chronological, with a full Index of Owners,
with the dates of their sales.

The greater number of the Sale-Catalogues here fisted had never
been entered in the General Catalogue of the Department of Printed

Books, and were made avaiUil)lc for use by means of a rough hand-
list on cards. Others appeared in the old manuscript catalogue of
the Department of Printed Books, under one of six subdivisions of
an unwieldy heading, Catalogues, which was much curtailed when
it came to be printed. They are now all brought together in this
Special List, which, it is hoped, will be found convenient to handle
by those interested in them, while the General Catalogue is relieved
of a burdensome addition.

The compilation of the list was begun, in the intervals of more
pressing work, by Mr. Harold Mattingly, then an Assistant m the
Department of Printed Books, and on his transference to the
Department of Coins and Medals was continued by Mr. I. A. K.
Burnett. On the outbreak of war in August, 1914, Mr. Burnett, and
also Mr. Mattingly, volunteered for military service. The preparation
and indexing of the List were then far advanced, and the work was
taken up and seen through the press by Mr. A. W. Pollard, Assistant
Keeper of Printed Books, who had previously to some extent
supervised it.


BiuTisH Museum.

March, 1915.


The earliest book auction of wliicli record siirvives is said to be that
of the library of Philip van Marnix on 6 July, 1599. It took a
little more than tliree- quarters of a century for this method of
selling books to be adopted in England, and there is clear evidence
that it was at the suggestion of an English Presbyterian minister
ordinarily domiciled in Holland that the first English book sale Avas
held. The Presbyterian minister was Dr. Joseph Hill, who, after his
career at Cambridge had been cut short by the Act of Uniformity in
1662, transferred himself to Leyden, and later on became pastor of the
Scottish Church at Middelburg, in Zeeland. The publication in 1673
of a pamphlet defending the tortuous policy of Charles II. led to Hill
being ordered to leave Zeeland till the war with France was over.
Until 1678, when he accepted a call to Rotterdam, Hill was in England,
and it was about the middle of his stay here that there died " the
Reverend and Learned Divine, Dr. Lazarus Seaman, sometime Vice-
Chancellor of Cambridge, Master of Peterhouse, and late Minister of
the Gospel in All-Hallows, Bread Street " (the recital of his titles is
taken from a contemporary elegy), whose library was the first in England
to " come under the hammer," on 31 October, 1676. That it was Hill
who advised that the library should be sold in this way we know from
a letter written to him 25 June, 1697, now preserved as Stowe MS. 709
in the British Museum, with an early endorsement, " Mr. Millington,
the noted auctioneer, to Mr. Jos. Hill." The final cause of this letter
was apparently a desire to interest the recipient in the forthcoming
sale of part of the library of Dr. Edward Bernard, over which
Millington presided at Oxford in the following October. Reserving
mention of this, however, for a later paragraph, he addresses Hill
with a warm expression of thanlcs " for your great Service done to
Learning and Learned Men in your first advising and effectually
setting on foot that admirable and universally approved of way of
selling Librarys by Auction amongst us," and if this outburst of
gratitude, over twenty years after the event, was not entirely
disinterested, there seems no reason whatever to doubt the information
which it conveys.

The auction was preceded by the publication of a catalogue dignified
by a Latin titlepage, reading : —

Catalogus Variorum & Insignium Librorum Instructissimse
BibliothecsD Clarissimi Doctissimiq; Viri Lazari Seaman, S.T.D.,
Quorum Auctio habebitur Londini in sedibus Defuncti in Area &
Viculo Warwicensi, Octobris ultimo. Cura Gulielmi Cooper

As a Preface to it we find the following Address : —



It hath not been usual here in England to make Sales of BOOKS
by way of Auction, or tvho ivill give most for them : But it having
been practised in other Countreys to the Advantage both of Buyers
and Sellers ; It was therefore conceived (for the Encouragement of
Learning) to publish the Sale of these Books this manner of way ;
and it is hoped that this will not be unacceptable to Schollers ;
and therefore we thought it convenient to give an Advertisement
concerning the manner of proceeding therein.

First, That having this Catalogue of the Books, and their
Editions under their several Heads and Numbers, it will be more
easie for any Person of Quality, Gentlemen, or others, to Depute
any one to Buy such Books for them as they shall desire, if their
occasions will not permit them to be present at the Auction them-

Secondly, That those which bid most are the Buyers ; and if
any manifest Differences should arise, that then the same Book
or Books shall be forthwith exposed again to Sale, and the highest
bidder to have the same.

Thirdly, That all the Books according to the Catalogue are
(for so much as we know) perfect, and sold as such ; But if any
of them appear to be otherwise before they be taken away, the
Buyer shall have his choice of taking or leaving the same.

Fourthly, That the Mony for the Books bought, be paid at
the Delivery of them, within one Month's time after the Auction
is ended.

Fifthly. That the Auction will begin the 31st of October at the
Deceased D''^ House in Warwick Court in Warivick lane punctually

at Nine of the Clock in the Morning, and Two in the Afternoon,
and this to continue daily until all the Books be Sold. Wherefore
it is desired, that the Gentlemen, or those Deputed by them, may
be there precisely at the Hours appointed, lest they should miss
the opportunity of Buying those Books, which either themselves or
their Friends desire.

The priced copies of the catalogue which have come down to us
show that the five or six thousand volumes which formed Dr. Seaman's
library sold very fairly well, and there is ample evidence, though
much of it is derived from prefaces to subsequent sale-catalogues,
that the new method of selling books was a distinct success. The
most decisive proof of this is the fact that in the summer of 1686,
when it had been in use for ten years, William Cooper, who had
presided at Dr. Seaman's sale, was able to print a list of no fewer
than seventy-four auctions which had been held, in London or the
provinces, mostly by himself or Millington, Of the catalogues of these
seventy-four sales, copies of all but five are entered in the present
list, the missing ones being : —

12. M. Jon. Edwin, Bibl.

. , ^ ^ , Mar. 29, 1680.

cum Append. D. Dan

19. D. Th. Jessop ) j,^^ ^1. 168^

D. Castel 3

22. Pet. Cardonell, June 6, 1681.

28. Robert Croke, Esq. Feb. 23, 1681.

64. A Catalogue of Civil Law Books, being but half a sheet.

Feb. 25, 168|.

From the collector's standpoint, the most interesting of these
early sales was that, on 15 May, 1682, of Richard Smith, the
" Secondary of the Poultry Compter " (an office equivalent to that
of under-sherifE and worth £700 a year), who had acquired and
enlarged the collections of Humphrey Dyson, one of the earliest
of " printed-book " men, and left behind him as many as eleven
Caxtons, which, at prices ranging from 2s. for the Booh of Good
Manners, to 18s. 2d. for Godfrey of Boloyne (" being K. Edward
the IV.'s own Book "), realised a total of £3 45. 2d.

The Smith sale stands by itself ; when we examine the catalogues
of the other early book sales, we find that their main importance lay

in the increased facilities they offered for buying and selling the
learned works printed abroad on which English scholarship was still
largely dependent. In the first half of the sixteenth century the
demand in England for books of this class printed at Cologne, Basel
and Paris, was sufficiently great for foreign book-agents to establish
themselves in London in order to supply it. With the publication of
editions like the Eton C/irusostom and Walton's Polyglott Bible,
England was now a producer as well as a purchaser, and the premature
challenge in the Oxford Phalaris of 1485,

" Celatos Veneti nobis transmittere libros
Cedite : nos aliis vendimus, Veneti,"
was a little better justified. But the need of foreign editions, as well
as of the representative works of foreign literature, was still great ;
and English book-agents visited the Frankfort book fair and traversed
the Continent to supply their customers, not with the typographical
curiosities or books valued for their rarity for which we find search
being made in the eighteenth century, but for works which were
wanted for study. Much of this searching had been done by private
arrangement with wealthy buyers, but it had already led to the
publication of catalogues, of which the British Museum possesses a
few. Thus, in 1639, Robert Martin, whose premises were " in Old
Bayly," issued a " Catalogus librorum ex praecipuis Italia; emporiis
selectorum " (122. g. 22/1) ; in 1655 the library of Joannes Riolanus,
a Paris physician, was offered for sale by John Martin and James
Allestrye at the Sign of the Bell in St. Paul's Churchyard (S.-C. 842) ;
in 1657 Octavian PuUeyn put forth a " Catalogus librorum in omni
genere insignium " to be sold " at the sign of the Rose," also in
St. Paul's Churchyard (S.-C. 922*/6), and in 1674, two years before
the Seaman sale, Robert Scott, of Little Britain, issued a " Catalogus
librorum ex variis Europfe partibus advectorum " (821. i. 13/5).
These catalogues are not priced, their setters-forth preferring apparently
to have a look at their customer, possibly also at the state of their
own till, before deciding how much to ask.

As we have noted, while the new method of selling books by
auction, " or who will give most for them," speedily established itself,
definite praises of it come mostly from the prefaces of the auctioneers.
The same prefaces, however, allow us to see that some serious
difficulties speedily arose. As early as the third a hope is expressed

" of receiving such Encouragement from the Learned as may prevent
the stifling of this manner of Sale," and in the fifth the auctioneers
(Dunmore and Chiswell) refer to a report " that we intend to use
indirect means to advance the Prices." Stigmatising this as " a
groundless and malicious suggestion of some of our own Trade,
envious of our Vndertaking," they yet meet tlie attack by the notice
that " we have absolutely refused all manner of Commissions that
have been offered us for buying." There can be no doubt that the
ordinary booksellers had some reason for the hostility with which they
are here credited. The private library must hitherto have been their
easy prey, and these auctions, in which, according to the preface,
" the Benefit (if rightly considered) " was " equally balanced between
Buyer and Seller," were a tlu'eatening innovation. Before the first
decade was over, however, we find several booksellers testing the
efficacy of selling by auction as a means of turning their stocks into
cash, and apparently the experiment was regarded as successful, as
the trade sales quickly increased till, for a time, they far outnumbered
those of private libraries. The mysteries of these trade sales soon
become baffling. It seems clear that alongside of what may be called
a commission business, in which libraries were sold by order of the
owners, there was also a considerable speculative business in which
the auctioneer himself collected, from home or abroad, the stocks of
books which he offered for sale. On the other hand, we find quite early
a tendency on the part of booksellers who did not actually take to the
" rostrum " to give to the catalogues which they continued to issue
some resemblance to those of the now popular book auctions, bv
announcing that they would begin on a certain day. We find George
Thomason selling the library of the Rev. Dr. Hawkins in this way in
April, 1685, and C. Bateman, of the Bible and Crown, Holborn, sold
several collections thus somewhere about 1695.* These sales more
nearly resembled those of a modern draper than genuine auctions,
but inasmuch as their number rapidly increased, and they frequently
dealt with all or part of the books of important private owners, from
Archbishops of Canterbury downwards, they are both interesting in
themselves and an essential feature in any history of book-collecting.

* The catalogue of the sale announced for Tuesday the 24th of an unspecified
month or year probably is closer to this date than to 168G, under which it is
conjecturally entered.

In or about 1732 the further step was taken of printing the prices at
which the books were to be bought. It may be noted that on
27 January of that year John Darby, of Bartholomew Close, issued
an unpriced catalogue of the books which he was prepared to sell
very cheaply on quitting business, and on 7 February reissued it with
the prices affixed. The catalogue was quite an unimportant one,
and it is very improbable that it set a new fashion in the trade. It is
more likely that the quick adoption of the practice was due to the
success of some more important sale not represented in the Museum
collection, which, except for its long sets of auctioneers' copies of
their own catalogues, has grown up very promiscuously. In any
case, from about 1732 the dealer's catalogue with fixed printed prices
(noted in our entries by the letters " P. F. P.") gradually supersedes
those which left the disclosure of the fixed prices * to be made verbally
by the dealer, or ascertained from a note written in the beginning of
the book. As late as the end of the eighteenth century we trace the
influence of the genuine auction in the addition to ordinary dealers'
catalogues of such words as " This day," " Now selling," etc., and down
to the close of that century all these catalogues are included in our
list, as too intimately connected with the auction system to be omitted.

If the Museum collection were equally representative in all its
sections, as to which a caution has already been given, it would be
clear that in the early part of the eighteenth century dealers' sales were
far more common than genuine auctions, many private collections being
sold in this way, presumably after having been purchased by the
bookseller eyi bloc. Genuine book auctions, however, always continued
to be held, and those of Thomas Rawlinson were on a scale which
could hardly be paralleled till the dispersal of Heber's collections.
That a still greater number were not held is due to the fact that the
stream of gifts and bequests of books to public institutions which
began in the seventeenth century continued to run freely during the
eighteenth, and thus many books were prevented from coming under
the hammer.

The record of the auctions of the seventeenth and eighteenth
centiiries, though augmented by many entries of dealers' catalogues,
fills less than a quarter of our list. To prevent the interest of the

* These sales are denoted by " P. F.," the reverse order of the letters being too
closely associated with copies on Fine Paper to be turned to any other meaning.

nineteenth century sales being depreciated by too large an admixture
of anonymous trade sales of no importance, many of these have been
omitted, it being easy to find them by the name of the auctioneer and
date, while a printed record of them serves no purpose. All the book
sales, however, belonging to the longest set in the Museum collection,
that acquired periodically from Messrs. Sotheby and their predecessors,
are here recorded. From this and the other sets mentioned in the
Preface, information has in many cases been obtained both as to the
owners of books sold anonymously, and the dates of sales incompletely
dated on the titlepage. On the other hand, little or no help has
been derived from this source in the difl&cult task of identifying or
distinguishing owners bearing the same name or initials ; and despite
much trouble having been taken it is probable that several owners
have been split into two in our List or Index, and in other cases two
or more men of the same name have been treated as one. The difficulty
in these questions of identification arises from the twin facts that
many collectors, after a sale (possibly a sale of their " mistakes "),
make a fresh start and collect again, sometimes for many years ; and,
on the other hand, that the heirs of collectors often keep their books
intact as long as neither space nor money is needed, and then sell
them. Thus, a collector holding a position in the Church, the legal
profession or the Army, w^ho could easily be supplied with his full
personal names if it were certain that his sale took place immediately
after his death, has often had to be left with the incomplete description
conferred upon him by the auctioneer, for lack of any certainty as to
his floruit.

In regard to this and other small points it cannot be hoped that
the List has not suffered from the necessity which removed both its
compilers to the work of national defence and left their task to be
completed by another hand. For the Index, again, very valuable
help was being given by a volunteer worker, Mr. Gordon Goodwin ;
and deprivation of this, unhappily through Mr. Goodwin's serious
illness, has probably also caused a few threads to be dropped. But
the List, which is only a List and not a Catalogue, offers in a compact
form a conspectus of English book sales for two centuries and a
quarter, and it is hoped that students, collectors and dealers will all
find it useful.



The order of the entries is chronological. Catalogues of sales of
which the year only is known are placed at the end of the list for that
year, and those specifying the year and month, but not the day, at the
end of the list for the month.

The style and address of every firm, according to the information
supplied by the catalogue, is given in full the first time it occurs in
the List for any year ; in subsequent entries for that year (unless a
change is made in it) in a shortened form, or, in the case of well-known
firms, by initials only. The key to any initials used will thus always
be found in an earlier entry for the same year. The letters " P. F."
stand for Fixed Prices, and the letters " P. F. P." for prices fixed and



Seaman, Lazarus, D.D. Library. With preface. Priced. W. Cooper,
at Dr. Seaman's House, Warwick Lane. 31 Oct.

821. i. 1. (1.) & 11906. e. 1.


KiDNER, Thomas, Rev. Library. With preface. Priced. W. Cooper,
the King's Head, Little Britain. 6 Feb. 821. i. 1. (2.)

Henchman, Humphrey, Bishop of London. Library. P. F. R. Scott,
Little Britain. ' S.-C. 45-5.


GrREENHiLL, William, Rev. Library. With preface. Partly priced.
Zacharias Bourne, at F. Stable's Coffee-House, Bread-Street. 18 Feb.

821. i. 1. (3.)

Manton, Thomas, D.D. Library. With preface. Priced. W. Cooper,
at Dr. Manton s House, King Street, Covent Garden. 25 March.

821. i. 1. (4.)

WoRSLEY, Benjamin, D.D. Library. With preface. Priced. J. Dunmore
and R. Chisivell, over against the " Hen and Chickens," Paternoster Row.
13 May. 821. i. 1. (5.) & 11906. e. 5.

GoDOLPHiN, John, J. ?7.Z). ; Phillips, Owen, If. yi. Libraries. With
preface. Priced. W. Cooper, Westmorland-Court, St. Bartholomeiv's
Close. 11 Nov. 821. i. 1. (6.)

VoETius, Gisbert. Part of Library. (Catalogus variorum librorum
instructissimiie bibliothecoe prsestantissimi doctissimiq; viri in Anglia
defuncti, etc.) With preface. Priced. Moses Pitt, the White Hart,
St. Bartholomew's Close. 25 Nov. 821. i. I. (7.)

[Greville, Kobert, ith Baron Brooke, of Beauchamps Cotirt.] Catalogus
librorum ex Bibliotheca uobilis cujusdam Angli, etc. Sangar,
Gabriel, Rev. Library. With preface. Priced. N. Ranew, at
the sign of the Harrow, Warwick Lane. 2 Dec. 821. i. 1. (8.)




Catalo.mis variorum li])rorum apiid tlieatiuin Sheldonianum . . .im-

pressorum: et aliorum . . . propriis sumptibus Mosis Pitt...

excusoruiu, etc. With preface. Priced. M. Pitt, PetHj -Canons -Hall.

24 Feb. 821. i. 1. (9.)

Watkins, Stephen ; Sherley, Thomas, Dr. Libraries. Priced.

ir. Cooper, the Queen's Head Tavern, Paternoster Row. [2 June.]

821. i. 1. (10.)
Bysshe, Sir Edward. Library. With preface. Priced. John Ihmmore,

the WoolsacL Ivy Lane. 15 Nov. 821. i. 1. (11.) & 11906. e. 11.


DiGBY. Sir Kenelm. Library (afterwards in possession of George
William Hervey, 2nd Earl of Bristol). With preface. Priced. At the
Golden Lion, Paternoster Row. 19 April.

821. h. 3. & 11906. e. 13.

Charxock, Stephen, D.D. Library. With preface. At the Sign of the
Lamb, Cornhill. 4 Oct. " S.-C. 923. (2.)

Watson, Thomas, D.D. Librarv. E. MiUington, at the Sign of the
Lamb, Cornhill. 8 Oct. ' • 11906. e. 15.

[Roper, Abel, Bookseller.] A Catalogue of two choice and consider-
able Libraries of Books, Latin and English, etc. At Mr. Bridges's
Coffee-House, Pope's Head Alley, Cornhill. 22 Nov.
-^ S.-C. 1035. (12.)

Stubb, Henry. Dr., of London ; Dillingham, Dr., ofOundle ; Vincent,
Thomas, Dr., of London ; Cawton, Dr., of Westminster ; Dunton,
John. Libraries. With preface. [T. Parlhitrst,] Warivick Lane.
29 Nov. 11906. e. 17.

DuciE, W^illiam, 1st Viscount Downe. Library. P. F. R. Littlebury,
Little Britain.- S.-C. 952.


Palmer, Edward. Library, AVith preface. Priced. [E. MiUington,]
At Mr. Palmer's House, Kirby Street, Hatton Garden. 14 Feb.

11906. e. 18.

Brooke. Samuel, Dr. Librarv. W. Cooper, at the Pelican, Little
Britain. 21 March. " S.-C. 922. (1.)

Lawson, George, of Shrewsbury ; Fawler, George, of London;
Stockdon, Owen, of Colchester ; Brooks, Thomas, of London.
Libraries. With preface. E. MiUington, at the Auction House
in Warwick Lane. 30 May. ^ S.-C. 1036. (9.)

-1683 3

Lloyd, Nicholas, Rev. Library. Bysshe, Sir Edward. Kemaining
part of Manuscripts. Priced. At J. Dunmore's, Ivy-Lane, Pater-
N osier Row. 4 July. 11906. e. 23.

Paget, Nathan, M.D. Library. With preface. W. Cooper, at the

Online LibraryBritish Museum. Dept. of Printed BooksList of catalogues of English book sales, 1676-1900, now in the British museum → online text (page 1 of 50)