Frank Herrmann, publisher, author and history of collecting scholar: papers

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 1807 HERR
  • Dates of Creation
      1917 - 2014
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      English German
  • Physical Description
      21 boxes

Scope and Content

Papers relating to the writing and publishing of Herrmann’s works ‘The English as Collectors: a Documentary Chrestomathy’ and ‘Sotheby’s: Portrait of an Auction House’, including correspondence, research materials, press cuttings relating to the art market and book reviews. Also includes research material and correspondence relating to five articles Herrmann wrote for ‘The Connoisseur’ on the collector Edward Solly.

Administrative / Biographical History

Frank Herrmann (1927 - ) was born in Germany. In 1937 his family emigrated to England to escape Nazi persecution, settling in Hampstead, London. He was educated at Leas House prep school before attending Westminster School between 1940-1945 which was evacuated to Herefordshire for most of the war. On leaving school he entered Magdalen College, Oxford in the Autumn of 1945 as an unwilling scientist, before leaving to pursue a career in publishing. Shortly after leaving Oxford Herrmann took a three year diploma course at the London University, studying English Literature.

In 1947 he gained employment with Faber & Faber as a trainee typographer. In his time there he gained experience in book design and typography before moving to Methuen in 1956 where he was responsible for the design and production of books published by several small publishers on a large scale. A year after joining Methuen's he was made a director. During his time at Methuen’s he wrote a series of children’s books the first of which was titled ‘The Giant Alexander’ and was published in 1964, these stories originally entertained Hermann’s four children and went on to entertain hundreds of thousands more – the series selling a total of 600,000 copies worldwide.

Later Herrmann was employed at managerial level at one of the largest publishing conglomerates, Associated Book Publishers, spending 15 years there. After leaving the publishing world he continued to advise several smaller publishers and bought into a bookselling firm.

In 1972 Herrmann had published ‘The English as Collectors: a Documentary Chrestomathy’ which focussed on the history of art collecting in England and which had developed from his intrigue of the auction and collecting world. The book had a very positive reception, receiving over 40 book reviews in the weeks following its publication; revised editions were published in 1999 and 2000. The success of ‘The English as Collectors’ led to Herrmann being commissioned to write the official history of Sotheby’s – along with writing the book he also had to gather historic material about Sotheby’s from across the globe as Sotheby’s archive had been destroyed by fire in 1865. ‘Sotheby’s: portrait of an auction house’ was published in 1980. Writing the history of Sotheby's led to other work with the auction house, culminating in him being appointed one of Sotheby's directors. In 2002 Herrmann’s autobiography ‘Low Profile: A Life in the World of Books’ was published by his American publisher Oak Knoll.

In 1955 Herrmann married Patricia; together they collect English Delftware and Regency porcelain. Herrmann is a long standing and active member of the Travellers Club and increased the reputation of the Club’s Library whilst serving as Library Chairman. He also instigated the publication of member’s personal recollections ‘Travellers Tales’ in 1999. Herrmann has also served as a Trustee of the Plume Library in Maldon, Essex, being instrumental in reorganising its constitution and finding funds for it to continue. From 1966 Herrmann has been responsible for managing the German properties which still belong to his family, one of them Schloss Pretzfeld is a large 17th century castle, part of which is now a museum of paintings by his Grandfather, the neo-Impressionist painter, Curt Herrmann.

Access Information

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Conditions Governing Use

Readers are permitted to use cameras on the purchase of a reprographics permit. The charges are £2 for a daily or £5 for a weekly permit.


Additional material possible.

Related Material

The following institutions also hold archive material of Frank Herrmann:

  • Cambridge University Library, papers collected during research for 'The History of Sotheby's'.
  • Essex Record Office, articles written for Woodham Parish Magazine, plus correspondence and other records.
  • The Paul Mellon Centre, papers relating to the writing of 'The English as Collector's: a Documentary Chrestomathy'.
  • University of Reading: Special Collections, proofs and research notes for 'Low Profile: A Life in the World of Books' and business records for Plume Press.
  • Seven Stories, the Centre for Children's Books, papers relating to 'The Giant Alexander' series.

Personal Names