Printed Books, Maps & Manuscripts Auctions

Specialists in First Edition, Incunabula and Rare Books & Bindings

Bellmans' Department of Printed Books, Manuscripts and Maps in Sussex cover a diverse array of material from all periods, from incunabula (books printed before 1501; literally, from the ‘cradle’ of printing) to modern first edition books, from Beowulf and Virginia Woolf to Beatrix Potter and Harry Potter. It holds two of these book auctions and valuations in our Sussex salesroom once a year, so keep an eye on our calendar.

Highlights from last year include:

  • BIBLE, in Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum, probably Paris or northern France, 13th-century, 4to (216 x 155mm), c.480 leaves with 86 FINE HISTORIATED INITIALS painted in colours and gold, 19th-century brown morocco, clasps. Sold for £86,000
  • "NUREMBERG CHRONICLE" - Hartmann SCHEDEL (1440-1514). Liber chronicarum, Nuremberg, 1493, large folio, woodcut illustrations, 19th-century morocco. FIRST EDITION OF THE MOST LAVISHLY ILLUSTRATED OF ALL INCUNABLES. Sold for £50,000
  • DOUGLAS, Gawin (1474-1522, translator). The xiii. Bukes of Eneados of the famose Poete Virgili Translated ... into Scottish metir, London, 1553, 4to, FINELY BOUND in later morocco. FIRST EDITION of the first translation of a poem from antiquity into English. RARE. Sold for £24,000
  • JONSON, Ben (1572-1637). The Workes, London, 1616-40. 3 volumes, folio, contemporary calf. FIRST EDITION of the most important collection of dramatic works printed in the 17th-century after the first folio of Shakespeare. (3) Sold for £9,500
  • MAP - L' Europa Geografico-Politica Veduta a Vola d' Oca, [Bologna, c. 1871], coloured lithographed political map, 465 x 665mm., framed and glazed. RARE. Sold for £3,200
  • CHURCHILL, Winston Spencer (1874-1965), Clementine CHURCHILL (1885-1977), Clement ATTLEE (1883-1967), Peter Geoffrey OATES (1919-2007), and others. An important archive of manuscript and printed material. Sold for £6,500
  • BOND, Michael (1926-2017). A Bear Called Paddington, London, 1958, 8vo, original pink cloth, dust-jacket. FIRST EDITION OF THE FIRST "PADDINGTON" NOVEL, PRESENTATION COPY, inscribed on the front free endpaper, "To Nina, with best wishes, Michael Bond." Sold for £4,800

Our specialists from London and Sussex handle everything from individual books to single-owner collections, including books in all the traditional categories: travel and topography, including maps and atlases, natural history, sporting, science, fine bindings, private press, children’s and illustrated books and modern first editions. We also include autographed letters and manuscripts, particularly those of literary interest.

Valuations take place both in our Sussex Saleroom and our London office in Cromwell Place, South Kensington, and 'pop-up' valuation days across the country. Preliminary estimates can also be provided via email, and we are delighted to arrange home visits. Valuations are complimentary and are also conveniently available online.

Just get in touch with your contact details, and our Sussex or London office will reach out to you. You can also schedule an appointment in our London or Sussex auction house for an in-person consultation.


  • Books

Department Specialists

Nicholas Worskett

Printed Books & Manuscripts Specialist

Buy, Sell or Start Your Book Collection With Bellmans Auction & Valuation

A popular and worthwhile endeavour, book collecting is a highly fruitful and accessible way to build public or private collections. As a society, books hold a special place in our hearts, exciting and inspiring generations both past and present and creating some of our most formative experiences of the world. This makes collectors particularly passionate about not just the intellectual content of their books but about the intricate process of tracking them down and acquiring them.

On the most basic level, this enthusiasm is an extension of the hunting and gathering instinct that humankind’s progress is fuelled by. Even seasoned collectors who have been searching for first editions for many years still feel the thrill of discovering one today.

How to start a book collection

If you have a shelf dedicated to books in your home, you could already be defined as a book collector. However, many specialists focus on collecting areas as a more manageable way to gain more detailed knowledge and deepen their collection.

There is a broad range of ways to focus your book collection, including by genre, era or author. Many collectors focus on books of a certain age and quality. Or you might be tempted by your own individual tastes to seek out rare editions or signed copies of your favourite book or author.

First editions

A first edition is the first commercially distributed version of a book. These are particularly desirable because a first edition is the closest that one can get to the original version of the text. Book collectors are generally attracted by authenticity, and besides the original manuscripts, a first edition is the next best thing.

What's the difference between Rare books and Antiquarian books?

Rare and antique books can overlap in many ways; however, some key differences to note.

A rare book is typically defined as a book that is difficult to find but is not necessarily old enough to be considered an antique. An example of a rare book that would not qualify as an antique would be a first or limited edition of a modern classic.

As the name would suggest, the key feature of antique books is their age. Due to their age, they may be scarce, as rare books are; but this is not always the case.

What are incunabula?

Incunabula refer to the earliest printed books, all of which were established before 1501. As they are defined merely by having been printed in the 15th century, you can collect them in myriad ways; by charting the progress, quality, and spread of printing or by focusing on a specific country or city. Although considered both rare and antique, this makes incunabula surprisingly accessible to collect.

If you’re looking to sell or evaluate a piece, you can contact our Sussex or London auction house for more details.