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Sale Catalogues

A collection of 19th and 20th century booksellers’ catalogues and auction catalogues, includes sales of private library collections.

The Royal Irish Academy Library collections include numerous book sale catalogues from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Over the years, the libraries of many private collectors in Great Britain and Ireland were sold at auction, and the auction catalogues provide invaluable information on the collecting habits and intellectual interests of their owners.

Charles Sharpe
Charles Sharpe set up in business as an auctioneer in Dublin in 1819, and from 1821 worked from 33 Anglesea Street in Dublin. Charles Sharpe’s own collection of book auction catalogues and broadsheets announcing details of the sales he organised in the years 1820-1851 are now held by the Royal Irish Academy. Although dealing mainly in books and libraries, Sharpe also sold paintings, prints, household furniture and occasionally land and other property. The Academy holds the most substantial collection of Sharpe auction catalogues known to survive. The fold out sheets advertising the sales are particularly rare, and have survived in the Academy collection because they were bound into annual volumes. The collection has recently been expertly rebound and conserved by Nick Abrahms, with generous sponsorship from Mealy’s Auctioneers of Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny, and with the kind support of Pádraic Ó Táilliúr.

Other book sale catalogues
The Academy library also holds a range of other auction catalogues. These include a selection of catalogues from Sotheby’s and many other English auction houses from the mid-nineteenth to the twentieth century, together with catalogues from some Irish auction houses and antiquarian dealers. Of particular interest are the auction catalogue of the Stowe manuscripts sold by Sotheby’s in May 1849; a priced copy of the catalogue of books, manuscripts, coins and medals of James Caulfeild, 1 st earl of Charlemont, sold by Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge in 1865; the catalogue of books from the library of Thomas Moore, sold at auction in April 1874 after the death of his wife; the antiquarian artefacts collected by Robert Day, MRIA (1745-1841) and sold in 1913; the manuscript collections of Thomas Phillips auctioned in 1946, and the contents of the library at Malahide castle auctioned in 1976.

Online catalogue records for all our Sale Catalogues are available on the Main Catalogue

Select Bibliography

Máire Kennedy. 'Book mad: the sale of books by auction in eighteenth-century Dublin'. Dublin Historical Record, 53 (2001), 48-71; 54 (2001), 48-71.

Máire Kennedy. ‘Rare, valuable and extensive libraries’: the book auction catalogues of Charles Sharpe at the Royal Irish Academy Library (unpublished typescript, 2001) (Shelfmark: AP 2000/39)

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