Antique Manuscripts

Many collectors relive history by assembling a collection of antique manuscripts. To qualify as an antique, the item needs to be at least 100 years old while anything younger qualifies as a vintage or collectible piece. Interest in history, religion, or the written word from past generations is fun to enrich through handwritten diaries, letters by famous people, hemispherical world maps, or religious texts. Look for drawings, prints, and etchings or scientific journals documenting a historical event. You'll find historical antique manuscripts available beginning from the 9th through the 19th and early 20th centuries. Examples, available on eBay, may include a signed copy of a first edition original antique manuscript or a rare Persian manuscript dating 1019. The majority of these are religious texts.

Other Than Age, What Are Other Considerations?

When an item is trending, its value tends to go up, as market trends change quickly depending on what buyers purchase. Rarity is also a consideration. For example, a handwritten letter by Abraham Lincoln should hold more value than one by a current-day president. Inferior quality, representative of fading signatures and holes in manuscript papers also drops the value. An appraisal by a reputable and experienced antique dealer, such as Christie's, helps substantiate the value of fine antiques like manuscripts.

What Types of Paper Were Used?

Most antique documents were predominantly handwritten on the following types of paper:

  • Papyrus: You'll find intricately detailed and hand painted calligraphy from Africa and the Middle East on this paper.
  • Parchment: Land leases and deeds, degrees by French kings, and property transfers appear on parchment paper. Most contain original signatures and may have remnants of the original wax seal.
  • Vellum:  A 19th century antique psalter or a medieval illuminated manuscript leaf were commonly written on vellum paper from the 14th to 19th centuries.

How Should You Preserve Antique Manuscripts?

  • Archival Sleeves and Folders: An acid and lignin-free folder goes a long way to preserve your treasured items and provides support when handling each item.
  • Hand Washing: When documents aren't in protective folders, oil from your hands can damage manuscripts so limited or no handling is best. Always wash your hands first if you touch the documents.
  • Other Storage Suggestions: A hot attic or a moist basement damages your valuable manuscripts. A controlled environment that does not fluctuate in temperature and humidity is your best choice. Furthermore, exposure to dust, pests, and natural light can ruin documents over time.