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One great aspect of working with rare books and manuscripts, as well as photographs and maps, is that you are constantly confronted with a whole array of genres and histories which need to be examined. Subjects range from natural history, local topography and early religious works to modern (and early) first editions, great travel books and antique travel photography, to mention just a few. With such diversity, it is difficult to highlight a single ‘best’ object or event: could it be the sale of a first edition by an all-time favourite author, such as Jane Austen’s Emma, in original boards? Or having the opportunity to research and catalogue wonderful interactive works on paper, such as Spooner's Perspective View of the Great Exhibition – a quirky Victorian ‘peepshow’ toy? Or opening a book such as Eleazar Albin’s Natural History of Birds and discovering the painstaking work which has gone into beautifully hand-colouring every single image?
It is very difficult to decide on one thing.
However, what all these experiences do have in common is working with items which are, in many respects, often hidden from view: you have to open a book to see what it is, or open a photograph album to uncover the treasures within. Working with books, maps, manuscripts and photographs means that you never quite know what you are going to find on a bookshelf or in an envelope until you open up the volume or unfold the manuscript. This element of discovery is very exciting.
Cathy Marsden is a specialist in the Rare Books, Manuscripts & Maps department. She also specialises in 19th and 20th century photography. Cathy looks after all aspects of our regular specialist Rare Books, Maps & Manuscripts auctions and is the main point of contact for any queries either about buying and selling at auction.
Cathy joined Lyon & Turnbull in 2012 as a book specialist, following the completion of a postgraduate diploma in Museum Studies and an undergraduate degree in Art History and German from the University of St Andrews. In the past, she has worked with several heritage organisations and museums, including Osterley Park and the Geffrye Museum in London.