Julian Browning Autographs

With over thirty years experience in the antiquarian book and manuscript trade, Julian Browning Ltd specializes in the sale of autograph letters, historical documents and manuscripts dating from about 1450 to 1950. Our regular printed catalogues have now been superseded by our on-line catalogue at www.historicalautographs.co.uk . This has a particular focus on British and European History and Literature We sell historical autograph material in many other fields, such as Science, the Arts, Military and Naval History, Religion and Music. The web site www.historicalautographs.co.uk is updated monthly, featuring a popular New Stock page. A wide range of unusual and hitherto unresearched material comes to us from our U.K. sources. We rescue interesting letters by the obscure and less well known names, as well as more significant letters and documents written or signed by famous historical figures. All our autographs, letters and documents are researched and authenticated with care, described accurately, and priced fairly. We sell to serious collectors, trade buyers and to many university and national libraries. We welcome your enquiries. We are members of the Professional Autograph Dealers Association [PADA].


What is an Autograph?

It is a signature, many might reply. It is not commonly recognised that an autograph is not necesarily a signature and a piece of writing does not need to be signed at all to be an autograph. The word comes from two Greek words meaning auto and graphos: self-writing, i.e. Anything self-written. Therefore it follows that whilst my signature is certainly a form of my autograph, even if I write down the word 'no' then that is also my autograph, i.e. in my own handwriting. So the collecting of autographs of famous people means, quite simply, the collecting of their handwriting in a form which appeals to the particular collector. This may take the form of signatures, signed photographs, documents signed by them, complete letters in their own hands, either signed or unsigned, or in somebody else's hand or typewritten and only signed by them, or even only notes or portions of letters, etc., in their own handwriting. As long as there is a single word, or even a single letter, in the handwriting of the person concerned it constitutes his autograph. The two most perfect examples of minimal autographs which come to mind are both French: the single letter 'N' signed so frequently by Napoleon on documents and the simple unsigned word 'bon' often found on a petition by Louis XV. One other word, 'holograph' is almost as frequently used in autograph collecting. This means something entirely in the hand of the writer.


Adapted from Four Hundred Years of British Autographs. A Collector's Guide, by Ray Rawlins (published 1970), one of the reference books of which we usually have copies for sale.

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