Birmingham & Black Country

Birmingham Assay Office sells off Matthew Boulton bible

Matthew Boulton Image copyright Birmingham Museums Trust
Image caption Matthew Boulton is credited with changing the way coins were minted around the world

Birmingham Assay Office has announced plans to sell part of its archive collection, including the family bible of one of its founders.

The office was set up in 1773 to test and hallmark precious metal items in the city's Jewellery Quarter.

Its CEO and Assay Master Doug Henry said the office was "unable to store and preserve such a volume of books".

More than 450 items from its library will be auctioned in London on 26 March.

Image copyright Forum Auctions
Image caption Included in the Bible lot is a list of Matthew Boulton's children's illnesses and vaccinations

Rupert Powell, from Forum Auctions, acknowledged "some will regret the sale of these books".

However, "it is also sad to see collections simply kept in storage and rarely, if ever, consulted," he added.

Mr Henry said Matthew Boulton's family bible had "rarely been seen" since the assay office bought it in 1986.

Boulton is one of Birmingham's most famous industrialists. He created a company that made everything from tableware and copper coinage to steam engines.

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Media captionMatthew Boulton is known as one of Birmingham's 'Golden Boys'

He was also fundamental in founding the assay, having been concerned by the expense, delay and risk of sending silver to Chester for hallmarking.

The bible was printed by another celebrated Birmingham businessman, John Baskerville, in 1763 and is expected to fetch up to £6,000.

Image copyright Google
Image caption Birmingham Assay Office was on Newhall Street from 1877 until a recent move in 2015

Mr Henry said it would be "tremendous" for the book to be retained in Birmingham and the assay office had pledged £1,000 in a bid to keep it in the city on public display.

Other lots include a 1896 edition of the works of Chaucer, featuring illustrations designed by Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones, which is expected to fetch up to £30,000.

Also being sold are three books by John Harrison, who played a pivotal role in calculating longitude.

Image copyright Forum Auctions
Image caption The collection's works of Chaucer, illustrated by Edward Burne-Jones, is estimated to be worth up to £30,000

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