High-flier forges career selling rare manuscripts

January 8, 1999

(Photograph) - SIMON Finch (right)has ridden the crest of a wave that has propelled antiquarian book sales into the first division of art and antiques dealing, writes Alan Thomson.

Mr Finch, and his company SimonFinch Rare Books, has chalked up some impressive sales and purchases recently. Top among them is the Pounds 1.3 million paid last year for a 10th-century copy of an Archimedes maths manuscript.

Scientific manuscripts are of particular interest to Mr Finch, although his professional tastes are eclectic. Last year he was noted for buying a first-edition copy of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, printed by William Caxton in 1477. It is understood thathe was given a seven-figure sum with which to bid for the book, a bid believed to be on behalf of Sir John Paul Getty.

While the antiquarian books market took off in the mid-1990s demand for scientific works was particularly strong, according to Mr Finch. In The Times last June, he was reported as saying that firsteditions of works by Copernicus, Galileoand Newton were of special interest.

Other rare items tobe offered for sale by Mr Finch include an audio recording made in 1924 of James Joyce reading from his novel Ulysses (Pounds 20,000), a complete set of six first edition Jane Austen novels (Pounds 37,000) and Shakespeare folios from 1685 (Pounds 25,000).

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