Correspondence and other papers of A.B. Railton concerning negotiations relating to the purchase of a number of significant collections of books and manuscripts in the 1890s and early 1900s. These collections include the Althorp Library and Crawford Manuscript Collection, sold to Mrs E.A. Rylands in 1892 and 1901 respectively. Other important sales represented are the Bennett Collection of manuscripts and early printed books and a collection of Byron manuscripts sold to J. Pierpont Morgan in 1902 and 1900 respectively, the Lucien Bonaparte philological library sold to the Newberry Library in 1901 and the Warwick Castle Shakespeare Collection sold to H.C. Folger in 1897.
The papers generally comprise letters and cuttings etc. pasted onto paper, as if intended for a scrapbook. In most instances, there is a summary of the sale proceedings. There are letters and telegrams sent to Railton and H. Sotheran & Co., by prospective purchasers, booksellers, valuers and vendors etc., along with copy letters out. These letters cover many aspects of the sales, in particular valuation, authenticity, payment, and the administration of large transfers of books. There are also collection lists along with notes and supporting information relating to the collections. In the case of the purchase of the Althorp Library there are also many press cuttings.
These papers are small in volume, but great in research value. They relate to sales of extremely important collections of books and manuscripts, some of which formed the basis of world famous libraries, including the John Rylands Library and the Morgan Library. As such, the papers provide useful information about the individual collections, but perhaps more significantly, provide insights into the foundation of major research libraries in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The ongoing debate about the sale of rare books and manuscripts to institutions in America is also well documented in the papers.