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Art and Architecture: Auctions & Sales (New site)

The Art, Archaeology and Ancient World Library is the premier research library for the study of art, architecture and archaeology at Oxford. It incorporates multiple libraries previously housed in separate locations around the University.


Guide by Sara Wallace (formerly Senior Library Assistant, Art, Archaeology and Ancient World Library, Bodleian Libraries), with contributions from Colin Harrison (Western Art Department, Ashmolean Museum), Clare Hills-Nova (formerly Art & Architecture Librarian, Bodleian Libraries) and Alasdair MacDonald (formerly Bodleian Libraries).

This guide is formed of 6 pages: Auction & sales guide overview; Electronic resources; Bodleian Library holdings; Art, Archaeology and Ancient World Library holdings: auction catalogues; Art, Archaeology and Ancient World Library holdings: art dealers' catalogues; and the History of Collecting.  These pages can be accessed by clicking on the hyperlinks or via the drop down option on the Auctions & sales tab.

Please note that this guide details information concerning art auctions and art dealers only.  It does not attempt to provide information about all auction and dealer catalogues (book auctions etc.) held by the Bodleian Libraries.

Oxford Collections

Bodleian Libraries collections

Within the Bodleian Libraries' holdings of approaching 11 million volumes, thousands of auction and dealer catalogues are to be found. These have arrived through various routes: via the Copyright Receipt Office (legal deposit), by direct purchase, or through donation. Holdings are primarily divided among the Bodleian Library, the Art, Archaeology and Ancient World Library and the Bodleian Libraries' offsite facility ("Closed Stack").

Finding catalogues

It is a well-known fact that identifying and then locating auction and dealer catalogues can be difficult, if only because many libraries did not (and some still do not) necessarily provide catalogue records for them. The Bodleian Libraries is no exception to this tradition. 
As the Libraries move towards providing catalogue records for all individual items, the current situation remains something of a hybrid: Some items are fully catalogued; some receive brief cataloguing; some are catalogued as a specific group (by country, by city and/or by auction house / dealer); and some are not catalogued at all. This guide is an attempt to assist researchers work their way through these various complexities. 

Key Resources

Use keyword searching (auction house or dealer name, word/s in catalogue title) plus year.
Example: christie paintings 1996

Can't find what you are looking for? 

Some pre-1900 Western art auction catalogues are itemised in handlists only.
Some post-1900 Western art auction and dealers' catalogues are group-catalogued only & held offsite.

What is group-cataloguing?

A group-catalogued record is a very minimal level bibliographic record.  Group-cataloguing allows for boxes or runs of previously uncatalogued material to be recorded in SOLO.  The items in the boxes are not listed individually on SOLO, rather a group-catalogued record provides a title based entry which briefly describes the contents of each box.

Further information

Please see the subpages: Bodleian Library holdings; Art, Archaeology and Ancient World Library holdings - auction catalogues; and Art, Archaeology and Ancient World Library holdings - art dealers' catalogues for more information about group-catalogued records and handlists.

Pre-1900 Auction Catalogues at the Bodleian & Art, Archaeology and Ancient World Libraries

Not all early imprints are on SOLO. You will need to use a variety of hard copy lists & indexes describing Bodleian & Art, Archaeology and Ancient World holdings to locate them. Please see the subpages on Bodleian Library holdings and Art, Archaeology and Ancient World Library holdings: auction catalogues for more details on the handlists available.

Auction Houses

With the emergence of online auction house catalogues, the arrival of hard copy versions at the Bodleian Libraries has greatly diminished. For more recent years, therefore (from c.2009 on), researchers may prefer to consult online resources first (see below).


Bodleian Libraries staff do not appraise works of art.

They are able to help researchers find information on a specific art work and its possible creator.

At the Ashmolean Museum, some departments hold viewing days, when staff may be able to help identify the authorship (but not the value) of an art work. Please contact the relevant department/s direct.

Artists' Signatures

To find more books illustrating artists' signatures select in subject from the drop-down menu and type artists' marks or monograms in the search box.