Conditions of sale in the auction catalogue of Seaman

Conditions of sale in the auction catalogue of Seaman's library.

Detail map of London, England, United Kingdom Overview map of London, England, United Kingdom

A: London, England, United Kingdom

The Library of Lazarus Seaman, the First Book Auction in England


The first auction sale of a library in England was the library of clergyman Lazarus Seaman sold on October 31, 1676. Bookseller William Cooper published a catalogue of the sale, which took place at Seaman's house:

Catalogus variorum & insignium librorum instructissimæ bibliothecæ clarissimi doctissimiq[ue] viri Lazari Seaman, S.T.D. Quorum auctio habebitur Londini in ædibus defuncti in area & viculo Warwicensi, Octobris ultimo. Cura Gulielmi Cooper bibliopolæ.

Though the main body of the catalogue was in Latin, Cooper took care to publish his conditions of sale in English. In his Foreword to Munby & Coral, British Book Sale Catalogues 1676-1800: A Union List (1977) Anthony Hobson reproduced the Address to the Reader published in the Seaman catalogue as "the ancestor of all subsequent 'Conditions of Sale' ":

"To the Reader.


"It has not been usual here in England to make Sales of BOOKS by way of Auction, or who will give most for them: But it having been practised in other Countreys to the Advantage both of Buyers and Sellers; It was therefore conceived (for the Encouragement of Learning) to publish the Sale of these Books in this manner of way; and it is hoped that this will not be unacceptable to Schollers; and therefore we thought it convenient to give an Advertisement concerning the manner of proceeding therein.

"First, That having this Catalogue of the Books, and their Editions under their several Heads and Numbers, it will be more easie for any Personal of Quality, Gentlemen, or others, to Depute any one to Buy such Books for them as they shall desire, if their occasions will not permit them to be present at the Auction themselves.

"Secondly, That those which bid most are the Buyers; and if any manifest Differences should arise, that then the same Book or Books shalle forthwith exposed again to Sale, and highest bidder to have the same.

"Thirdly, That all the Books according to the Catalogue are (for so much as know) perfect, and sold as such; But if any of them appear to be otherwise before they be taken away, the Buyer shall have his choice of taking or leaving the same.

"Fourthly, That the Mony for the Books bought, be paid at the Delivery of them, within one Month's time after the Auction is ended.

"Fifthly, That the Auction will begin the 31st of October at the Deceased Dr's House in Warwick Court in Warwick lane punctually at Nine of the Clock in the Morning, and Two in the Afternoon, and this to continue daily until all the Books be Sold. Wherefore it is desired, that the Gentlemen, or those Deputed by them, may be there precisely at the Hours appointed, lest they should miss the opportunity of Buying those Books, which either themselves or their Friends desire" (Hobson, op cit. x-xi).;

ESTC System No. 006092171; ESTC Citation No. R25610. 

Timeline Themes