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Lewis Walpole Library Sales and Auction Catalog Collection

 Collection
Call Number: 125 L979

Scope and Contents

The Lewis Walpole Library Sales and Auction Catalog Collection—comprised of catalogs, lists, and pamphlets issued by a wide range of booksellers, art dealers, and major and minor auction houses—was largely assembled by author, editor, and collector Wilmarth S. Lewis (1895-1979). The collection spans the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and reflects Lewis’s various scholarly interests, which were primarily centered on the life and work of English author and antiquarian Horace Walpole and his circle. In pursuit of his collecting goals, Lewis acquired print, manuscript, and graphic materials throughout his lifetime.

The materials here provide rich documentation of how Lewis acquired and built the collection that would become the foundation of Yale University’s Lewis Walpole Library. They include catalogs advertising items that Lewis purchased as well as documenting his unsuccessful acquisition attempts. Also represented are catalogs that Lewis kept simply because they contain significant items of Walpoliana or general eighteenth-century interest. Lewis obtained the catalogs in a variety of ways: He received many by subscription directly from dealers and auction houses and purchased others on the second-hand market. Catalogs also came in as gifts or bequests from colleagues such as his friend and fellow collector Elizabeth Hudson (1885-1973).

Beyond the immediate relevance to the history of the Lewis Walpole Library, this collection also provides a glimpse into the history of auctions and the book trade in the twentieth century. Publications are present from over 300 booksellers, galleries, and auction houses, the majority of whom were based in the United States and England; they are supplemented by listings from a few Canadian and European dealers. Sotheby’s represents the largest single portion of the collection with over 800 volumes, while Christie’s has over 300 entries. Beyond the major auction houses, Lewis’s collection reads like a “who’s-who” of the twentieth-century rare book trade. Notable dealers include the firms of Bernard Quaritch, Brentano’s, Charles B. Wood III, Inc., Goodspeed’s Book Shop, H.P. Kraus, Maggs Bros., Marlborough Rare Books, McLeish & Sons, Pickering & Chatto, and the Rosenbach Company, as well as the famed women book dealers Leona Rostenberg, Madeleine B. Stern and Kit Currie. Featured art dealers and smaller auction houses include the American Art Association, Anderson Galleries, Bloomsbury Book Auctions, Parke-Bernet Galleries, and P. & D. Colnaghi & Co. Many of the catalogs were extensively annotated by Lewis or by previous owners. Lewis added his own notes and research, and often laid in correspondence and notes from dealers, providing further insight into his relationships with the trade. Catalogs after 1979 are often annotated by library staff.

This collection is particularly strong in catalogs dated 1900-1979, with most concentrated between 1950-1979. Catalogs pre-dating 1900 are cataloged individually in Orbis, Yale University Library’s online catalog, and can be searched by dealer or auction house. A smaller portion of the collection reflects acquisitions made by the Lewis Walpole Library between Lewis’s death in 1979 and the early 2000s. The collection is not closed; the library will add catalogs if they offered material that was purchased for the library’s book, print, or manuscript collections, though some twentieth-century catalogs with significant scholarly content have been cataloged individually in Orbis.

Dates

  • 1900 - 2018
  • Majority of material found within 1950 - 1979

Creator

Language of Materials

In English and French.

Conditions Governing Use

The Lewis Walpole Library Sales and Auction Catalog Collection is the physical property of the Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the W. S. Lewis Librarian/Executive Director.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Bequest of Wilmarth Sheldon Lewis (Yale 1918), 1979.

Arrangement

Organized into three series: I. Christie, Manson & Wood, 1901-2007. II. Sotheby’s, 1901-2008. III. Other Catalogs, 1900-2018.

Extent

111 Linear Feet (276 boxes)

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL

http://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/lwl.125L979

Overview

The Lewis Walpole Library Sales and Auction Catalog Collection—comprised of catalogs, lists, and pamphlets issued by a wide range of booksellers, art dealers, and major and minor auction houses—was largely assembled by author, editor, and collector Wilmarth S. Lewis (1895-1979). The collection spans the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and reflects Lewis’s various scholarly interests, which were primarily centered on the life and work of English author and antiquarian Horace Walpole and his circle. In pursuit of his collecting goals, Lewis acquired print, manuscript, and graphic materials throughout his lifetime. The materials here provide rich documentation of how Lewis acquired and built the collection that would become the foundation of Yale University’s Lewis Walpole Library.

Processing Information

Firm corporate headings were based on authorized Library of Congress name authority headings. For those firms without an authorized form, the heading was based on dealer names found in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library’s collection of antiquarian bookseller catalogs (X346). For those headings in neither location, the names of individual dealers were inverted unless it was clear from the material that the individual operated as a corporate entity. Headings with two or more individuals were formatted in natural order as a corporate entity.

Within the box and folder list notes, Wilmarth Sheldon Lewis is abbreviated to “WSL.” Manuscript is abbreviated to “ms.” and refers to handwritten notes and annotations, regardless of who made the annotations.

Dates that display as “Dated” reflect a date that was written or stamped on the item itself because it doesn’t bear a printed publication date. Dates noted as “Received” mean that a catalog was specifically marked with the date it arrived in Farmington. These dates were presumably added by either by Lewis or by library staff and serve as an approximation of publication date. A date given as “circa” indicates that dating was assigned when the collection was processed and is based on other related factors.
Title
Guide to the Lewis Walpole Library Sales and Auction Catalog Collection
Author
by Eileen A. Horansky
Date
2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the The Lewis Walpole Library Repository

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