Christie’s Books and Manuscripts Department offers for sale the best of the world’s printed books, maps, medieval manuscripts, autograph letters and archives. With an international team of 15 renowned specialists and live auctions held throughout the year in London, Paris and New York, we are the market leaders in this category. We are also at the forefront of digital sales, presenting themed series of online-only auctions (On the Shoulders of Giants, from 2018‒2020; Einstein letters, from 2017‒2018; Quentin Blake drawings, from 2018‒2019; Write Me and Tell Me Your Heart: Leonard Cohen’s Letters to Marianne, 2019).
Christie’s has achieved record results for works by significant contributors to the printed word: from Shakespeare to Dickens, Petrarch to Baudelaire, Tolstoy to Faulkner, as well as Newton, Darwin, Einstein and George Washington. We boast an unparalleled depth of knowledge in the many sub-categories that comprise this field: incunabula; science and medicine; natural history; travel and cartography; Judaica; art, architecture and photography; Americana (which we sell in New York); Livres d’Artiste (which we sell in Paris); Russian books; and illustration and comic art. In addition to our richly varied general sales that are held twice a year at each sale site, notable private collections in recent years have included the Bibliothèque Paul Destribats (2019); Important Books, Atlases, Globes from the Collection of Nico and Nanni Israel (2019); Important Scientific Books from the Collection of Peter and Margarethe Braune (2019); Bibliothèque Marc Litzler (2019); Russian America & Polar Exploration: Highlights from the Martin Greene Library (2017).
Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts
Christie’s is the only major international auction house with a dedicated team of medieval and Renaissance manuscript specialists and with regular sales in this category. We hold the auction record for a manuscript (Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Hammer for $30.1 million) and for an illuminated manuscript (the Rothschild Prayerbook, which we have sold twice: in 1999 for £7.5m and in 2014 for $13.6m) and have held some of the most notable collection sales (most recently The History of Western Script: Important Antiquities and Manuscripts from the Schøyen Collection). We regularly negotiate private sales of early Western manuscripts to clients in Europe, Britain, Asia and the USA: most significantly Bodmer Papyrus XIV‒XV, the 2nd-century copy of the Gospels of Luke and John (now in the Vatican Library); the St Cuthbert Gospel (now in The British Library); the Breviary of Saint-Louis de Poissy (now in the Bibliothèque nationale de France); and the Clumber Park Chartier (now at the Beinecke Library).
Autograph Letters and Archives
Christie’s offers a wide array of manuscripts within this field: from medieval papal bulls, charters and royal documents to autograph letters by Nelson, Austen, Goethe and Einstein; music manuscripts by Bach and Beethoven and association objects such as T.E. Lawrence’s dagger, Nelson’s quill pen and Lucian Freud’s paintbrushes. Christie’s is also the world’s leading auction house in the valuation and sale of archives, with major sales including papers of poets and prime ministers; industrialists and opera singers. Christie’s has negotiated more archive sales through the UK’s Acceptance in Lieu scheme than any other agent, including recently the manuscripts of Gerard Manley Hopkins, the designs for the National Theatre, the papers of the founder of the Royal Air Force and many archives of the great British noble and landed families. Our specialists work to place archives within leading libraries and institutions in the UK, North America, continental Europe, and elsewhere.
Christie's has managed some of the most important examples of Americana that have come to market. Works range from fine copies of John James Audubon's Birds of America (most recently selling in 2018 for $9.7 million) to George Washington’s annotated personal copy of the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights (2012, $9.8 million) and Abraham Lincoln's autograph manuscript of his 1864 election victory speech (2009, $3.4 million). Also included in this category are rare and important maps, most notably Abel Buell’s A New and Correct Map of the United States of North America (2010, $2 million), the first map of the United States published in America and the first map printed in America to show the flag of the United States.
Science & Natural History
Comic Strips (Bande Dessinée) & Illustrations
Prints & Multiples
Old Master Paintings