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National Art Library auction house sale catalogues

The National Art Library has an extensive collection of sales catalogues from the United Kingdom, Europe and, to a lesser extent, the United States. The Library aims to collect catalogues from the world's major auction houses and dealers. It also acquires catalogues from other sources that describe the contents of outstanding sales or discrete collections of interest for the history of art, craft and design or which include material of interest to Victoria and Albert Museum collections. The strength of the National Art Library's sales catalogues collection lies in its coverage of the major pre-20th century sales throughout Europe, rather than in runs from particular houses. Subjects covered by the catalogues are in line with the Library's general collecting policy.

Major British auction house runs in the National Art Library

The Library holds the following sales catalogues, among others, including priced and unpriced runs from Christie's and Sotheby's. The inclusive dates given below indicate the start and end date of the Library's holdings. They should not be taken to imply that our holdings between such dates are comprehensive.

Auction House
Bonhams, London   

Christie’s, London
Christie’s, LondonPriced1867-1965
Knight, Frank & Rutley
Phillip's, London

Sotheby's, London

Sotheby's, London

In addition, the National Art Library provides online access to some full text catalogues on the following database:

Art Sales Catalogues Online 1600-1900 (only available on PC workstations in the NAL reading rooms):

This is the online version of vols. 1-3 of Fritz Lugt's Répertoire des Catalogues de Ventes Publiques, (4 vols.) which lists more than 100,000 European and American art auctions from 1600 to 1900. It includes full digital facsimiles of nearly 24,000 catalogues from 1600 to1900; some full text catalogues are also available on microfiche, with printed guide at pressmark REF 707.5 LUG.

The Library also holds microform copies of:

  • Sotheby & Co. catalogues of sales [1734–1900] [microfilm copies of Sotheby's sales catalogues, from the British Museum collection.] Printed guide at pressmark: REF 707.5 SOT.

Priced catalogues

Price lists have routinely been inserted into catalogues since at least the early 1960s.The Library also has collections of historical priced catalogues for Christie, Manson & Woods, Foster, Knight, Frank & Rutley and Sotheby's from various dates (see table above). These were annotated with hammer prices by the auction houses at the time of the sales. The individual catalogues are NOT listed on the Library Catalogue but there is a single collection level record for each auction house. These can be searched for using the Title Browse option of the Basic Search as follows:

  • Christies priced sale catalogues [1867-1965]
  • Fosters priced sale catalogues [bound 1925-1937]
  • Hanover Square Rooms (Knight, Frank & Rutley) priced sale catalogues [1910-1969]
  • Knight, Frank & Rutley (Conduit Street) priced sale catalogues [1896-1910]
  • Sotheby's priced sale catalogues [1926-65]
Priced catalogues which document sales up to 1925 held in the NAL are listed in Art Sales Catalogues Online (1600-1900) and in Lugt's Répertoire pressmark REF 707.5 LUG.

Finding sales catalogues in the NAL

Entries for the older catalogues (excluding the priced catalogues described above), as well as those for current acquisitions, are listed in the Library Catalogue. Select the 'Sales Catalogues' menu option. You can search by: sale date, location, auction house, or words from the title. The Advanced Search option also allows searching by owner name.

Requesting sales catalogues in the NAL

For information on requesting sales catalogues see Requesting Material in the National Art Library. To order a priced catalogue, fill in a requisition form with the name of the auction house, title of sale and exact date of sale. In the pressmark box write (for example) 'Christies' Priced'. Please note that a substantial proportion of the catalogues in the discrete priced Sotheby and Christies' sequences will be duplicated in our main runs for these auction houses.

Further information

See Finding Information on Art Auction Sales, Sales Catalogues and Price Guides for a list of sources for researching auction and sale information.

National Art Library opening times

The National Art Library opening times are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday: 10.00 – 17.30 and Friday: 10.00 – 18.30.  It is closed on Mondays and Sundays.

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