Books and manuscripts market: 2012 auction review

While the rare books market enjoyed a solid year, it was the manuscripts sector that saw the real fireworks, led by two famous presidents.

Top sale

George Washington Acts of Congress
Washington's personal Acts of Congress

  • George Washington's personal copy of the Acts of Congress, featuring his own annotations on the US constitution, became the most valuable American book or historic document ever sold at auction, on June 22. It sold for $9.8m, achieving a 226.6% increase on the book's $3m high valuation.

2012's leading results

The Third Folio of William Shakespeare's plays
The Third Folio of William Shakespeare's plays

It was a breakout year for…

  • TE Lawrence. One of 170 privately produced copies of The Seven Pillars of Wisdom from 1926, signed by the writer, sold for £50,450 ($81,500) in March, beating its £30,000 high estimate by 68.1%. Another of the 170, also signed by Lawrence, sold for £33,000 at a UK auction in May 2010. That represents a rise in value of 26.05% pa.

A year to forget for…

  • Jane Austen's Emma. What is thought to be to be the last surviving first edition from a 12-strong print run failed to meet its reserve at Sotheby's in December, a considerable disappointment after the original draft of her unfinished novel, The Watsons, made £1m ($1.6m) last year.

One you may have missed

Salem witch trials
Margaret Scott was hung five days after
this indictment

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