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Auction sales catalogs: find them, find what is contained in them: Union catalogs: locate specific auction catalogs

Annotated bibliography of databases and print sources for finding information on works sold at auction, and for finding auction catalogs.

Search the Clark library online catalog


Locate auction sales catalogs in the Clark library catalog (set here to search the Auctions scope) in several ways:

Use a DATE OF SALE search to find catalogs for specific sale dates or a range of dates: 
YYYYMMDD to find a specific date
YYYYMM to find catalogs for a given month
YYYY to find catalogs in a given year

Use a NAME search to find catalogs for a given auction house:
George Petit

Use a KEYWORD search to look for a seller or type of material being sold:
Elton John
Hirschhorn Museum

Identifying and locating auction catalogs

American Art Auction Catalogs, 1785-1942: a Union List.  Harold Lancour, comp.  NY:  New York Public Library, 1943-44.

A union checklist of 7,000+ catalogs of auction sales of art objects, held in the U.S. from 1785 through 1942.  Art objects include paintings, drawings, statuary, decorative objects, furniture and furnishings, jewelry, textiles, tapestries, rugs, carpets, mineral carvings, musical instruments, and curios.  Does not include sales of books, maps, stamps, and coins.  Each entry includes the date of sale, owner’s name, brief title, auction firm, simple collation, number of lots, location of copies.  List of American auction houses, p. 11-28.  List of catalogs, p. 29-319.  Index of owners, p. 321-77.

Reference  N8650 L35


Art Sales Catalogues Online

Full-text database of art sales catalogues for major American and European auction houses, published from 1600 to 1900, based on Lugt (see Répertoire des Catalogues de Ventes Publiques…, below).  Catalogues can be searched by Lugt number, date, place of sale, provenance, content, auction house, and existing copies. The libraries database allows you to find libraries with holdings of art sales catalogues.  Note that this database is fully searchable.  It can be used to find specific art sales catalogs, and in addition it can be used to search for specific artists, works of art, and decorative art objects.

Clark/Williams electronic resource


Art Discovery Group Catalogue 

Not all libraries are represented in WorldCat and relatively few are represented in Scipio.  If you are looking for a catalog from a smaller overseas auction house a good strategy is to look in a library, if possible the national library, from the same country as the auction house.  Art Discovery Group is a portal to resources from about 50 of the most important art libraries around the world. 

Internet resource

Lugt, Frits.  Répertoire des Catalogues de Ventes Publiques, Intéressant d’Art ou la Curiosité: Tablieax, dessins, estampes, miniatures, sculptures, bronzes, émaux, vitraux, tapisseries, céramiques, objets d’art, meubles, antiquités, monnaies, médailles, camées, intailles, armes, instruments, curiosités naturelles, etc.  La Haye: Nijhoff, 1938-64.

This time-honored reference work, usually referred to simply as "Lugt,"  is a chronological listing and union catalog of auction sales catalogs from many European auction houses.   Vol. 1 lists catalogs published 1600-1825, vol. 2 covers 1826-60, vol. 3 covers 1861-1900, and vol. 4 covers 1901-1925.  Information reported for each entry: catalog number; date; location of sale; name of collector, artist, merchant, or proprietor; contents; number of lots; auctioneers; number of pages in catalog; libraries in which catalog may be found and whether it is priced.    Each catalog is identified by a number and these "Lugt numbers" are important identifiers in the world of auction catalog research.  May be used with the microfiche Art Sales Catalogues 1600-1881 and 1826-1860 and with Art Sales Catalogues Online (see under Digital and Microfilm Collections).   Scipio (see below) is a more up to date and comprehensive source that can be used to locate auction catalogs in library holdings.

Reference  N8650 L8  (4 vols.)



SCIPIO is an online bibliographic database of over 300,000 auction catalog records of sales covering art objects and rare books from the late 16th century to present, mostly from North American and European houses. Twenty-five art organizations, including the Met, contribute auction catalog records to the database.  SCIPIO has been incorporated into WorldCat, a union catalog that allows you to search across the collections of 69,000 libraries, but remains searchable as its own database.  Similar to Lugt’s (see Répertoire des Catalogues de Ventes Publiques…, above).  Scipio does not index individual objects.
Coverage: 1600 to the present.

Clark electronic resource


WorldCat (Clark database) (Internet resource)

WorldCat is a union catalog of the combined holdings of all libraries that are members of OCLC, which includes every major academic, public, and research library in North America plus many in Europe and the United Kingdom.  Scipio (above) is a database within WorldCat that requires a subscription to search.  Because WorldCat does not allow searching by date of sale, and because auction catalog records outside of Scipio are not standardized, finding auction catalogs in WorldCat is very tricky and requires creative, patient searching.  However, because many libraries not represented in Scipio have auction catalogs in their collections, WorldCat can be an advantageous database to search.  If you are searching from the Clark campus choose the Clark database, which has a vastly more sophisticated search engine; if you are outside the Clark campus choose the free internet database.