Paying Tribute to an Honorable Legacy: A Visit to the Firm of H.P. Kraus, Inc.


Item 50 in Catalogue 185, Alexander VI, Bull, [first half 16th cent.]

MAF: Well, we have so many things. But one thing that comes to mind immediately that was acquired after my father’s book was published was the remains of Sir Thomas Phillipps’s collection.
In 1944, it became known that the remaining portion of Sir Thomas Phillipps’ library was for sale in its entirety.

Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872) ranks without a question among the world’s greatest book collectors. Beginning when he was a teenager, he amassed about 100,000 volumes of manuscripts and printed books, many of great beauty and rarity, and a far greater number of autographs and documents. ….

The dispersal of this collection, begun not long after Phillipps’ death, continues to the present day [circa 1977]….[Kraus goes on to describe, at length, his frustrating attempt in vain to purchase the initial offerings of the Phillipps collection in the 1940s.]

….As I read the galley proofs of this book in November 1977, I can add, with pride, that we have just returned from London, where I succeeded in acquiring from the trust created by Lionel and Philip Robinson of all the remaining Phillipps manuscripts. It is hard to believe that, after the many auctions, about 2,000 volumes of manuscripts and over 130,000 letters and documents remain. It will take time to catalogue this huge mass of material, much of it unknown to scholars, and I am confident that many discoveries will reward my venture. (pp. 223-226).
AT: I believe that this was referred to in your father’s book, but that you had just acquired this collection at this time and he wasn’t sure as to exactly what it consisted of. There is a passage to that effect.

MAF: Yes.

AT: So what sorts of things were found to exist in the Phillipps collection that you acquired in the 1970s? Did your father’s suspicions prove correct?

MAF: Yes. The Phillipps collection has yielded many treasures for us.

AT: Such as?

MAF: There were about one hundred and fifty illuminated and early text manuscripts, as well as boxes and boxes and boxes of letters and autographs. There were lots of things in there, some bound, some loose in boxes, some Vatican papers, missives to and from Vatican representatives, diplomatic archives.