Birmingham & Black Country

Birmingham City University's rare Russian book makes £39,000

One of the plates Image copyright DOMINIC WINTER
Image caption The book was published by order of an emperor

A library book complete with stamps has been sold at auction for £39,000.

The Antiquities of the Russian Empire was published in Moscow by order of Emperor Nicholas I between 1849 and 1853.

The book, binding four volumes, had been owned by Birmingham City University which decided it was no longer relevant to research.

It contains 508 plates of Russian artefacts including crowns, costume, weapons and jewellery.

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Image copyright DOMINIC WINTER
Image caption The book, which fetched £39,000, has visible library stamps

Chris Albury, senior valuer for Dominic Winter, which handled the sale, said: "In book terms, it's quite a lot of money to pay."

He said it "probably would have sold better if it was privately owned" as the ex-library copy was very much a working one, with "a few library stamps and not the prettiest binding".

Only 600 sets were made and according to Mr Albury, the one formerly owned by the university could be unique because of its English title and contents pages.

He said: "We haven't been able to find another copy with these pages anywhere else in the world."

Image copyright DOMINIC WINTER
Image caption The book is no longer deemed relevant to university research

The book was the sole one in its lot.

Another 199 books in a collection put up for auction by the university were divided into a further 29 lots.

On Wednesday, one of these fetched £1,050, with more to go under the hammer on Thursday.

The collection was built up from the mid-19th Century during the university's days as Birmingham College of Art, but the books are deemed no longer relevant to current teaching or research.

Steve Rose, deputy director of library and learning resources, said it was a "stunning collection" and he was "sad to see the books leave".

The proceeds are due to be reinvested.

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