The Martin Schoyen Collection of western manuscripts


The Martin Schoyen Collection of rare western manuscripts is to star in a dedicated sale from Sotheby's on July 10.

The Schoyen collection of rare manuscripts sotheby's auction essex nuns
The sale's top lot warns nuns not to "nourish the fires of sexual anticipation"

The collection comprises 13,500 manuscripts which span more than 5,000 years of human civilisation, though Sotheby's will feature just 60 of the collection's key works. The vast selection was compiled by Martin Schoyen, a Norwegian businessman, after his father began the collection in 1920.

The decision to sell stems from the unfavourable tax regime in Norway, Schoyen explained. "People are taxed yearly according to the value of their assets, regardless of income, which puts private collectors, even those who provide a well attested scholarly and educational service, at a disadvantage," he said. "This inevitably means that collectors are forced, from time to time, to sell parts of their collections and break them up."

Featuring an ancient manuscript of Homer's Iliad through to strange texts from the Dark Ages and early medieval Europe, the auction stands as one of the most important of its kind in recent times. The top lot of the sale is expected from the De Laude Virginitatis, an AD 800 reminder to Essex nuns to avoid wearing revealing clothing, which is estimated at £300,000-500,000.

Another highlight will be provided by the Wyman Fragment - a leaf taken from a late third century bible - which stands as the earliest example of Paul's epistle to the Romans and is considered one of the most important texts of the New Testament. First discovered in 1952, the fragment is now expected to sell for £150,000-200,000.

"I want to leave a legacy that illustrates the history of western script. Some examples of scripts are so rare and exist only in fragments. Putting those together in a narrative with more complete, albeit still rare, manuscripts is the thematic focus of this particular sale," Schoyen added.

You can see more of our coverage of the auction here.

Paul Fraser Collectibles has a magnificent selection of rare manuscripts on offer, all of which are in superb condition. The highlight of our own collection is this letter, which Henry VIII wrote in 1529. It represents the beginning of one of the most significant events in history.

Be sure to check back regularly with Paul Fraser Collectibles to see the results from this exciting sale.


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