Sotheby, Samuel Leigh (DNB00)

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SOTHEBY, SAMUEL LEIGH (1805–1861), auctioneer and antiquary, younger son of Samuel Sotheby [q. v.], was born on 31 Aug. 1805, and entered the auctioneering business at an early age. In 1836 he compiled the ‘Exhibition Catalogue of Giovanni d'Athanasi's Collection of Egyptian Antiquities, Exeter Hall, Strand,’ 4to. The famous library of Dr. Kloss of Hamburg had been sent for sale in 1835, and Sotheby, who catalogued the collection, claimed that it included Melanchthon's own library. He published in 1840 a handsome quarto, describing his discoveries, and including the result of his researches in public and private libraries, entitled ‘Unpublished Documents, Marginal Notes, and Memoranda in the Autograph of Philip Melanchthon and of Martin Luther, with numerous facsimiles, accompanied with Observations upon the varieties of style in the Handwriting of those Illustrious Reformers.’

About a year after his father's death, in 1842, he took into partnership his chief accountant, John Wilkinson (1803–1894), who, after 1863, was the senior partner in the firm, now known as Messrs. Sotheby, Wilkinson, & Hodge, of 13 Wellington Street, Strand (Athenæum, 27 Jan. 1894, p. 115; Bookseller, 7 Feb. 1894, p. 123). Wilkinson became the salesman, while Sotheby superintended the cataloguing.

His chief literary work was to edit the materials collected by his father, which he supplemented and published as ‘The Typography of the Fifteenth Century: being Specimens of the Productions of the early Continental Printers, exemplified in a collection of Facsimiles from one hundred Works, together with their Water-marks,’ London, 1845, fol., and ‘Principia Typographica: the Block Books, or Xylographic Delineations of Scripture History issued in Holland, Flanders, and Germany during the Fifteenth Century, exemplified and considered in connection with the Origin of Printing, to which is added an attempt to elucidate the character of the Paper Marks of the period,’ London, 1858, 3 vols. 4to, 120 plates, of which 220 copies were sold by auction on 5 May 1858. A supplement was printed in 1859, not for sale, as ‘Memoranda relating to Block Books preserved in the Bibliothèque Impériale, Paris, made October 1858,’ 4to. The whole of the collections for these works, with many tracings, are bound up in 36 vols. folio, and are now in the British Museum.

Sotheby had a house, Woodlands, Norwood, where he possessed a gallery of cabinet paintings, and took a great interest in the management of the Crystal Palace, displayed in a couple of pamphlets, ‘A few Words by way of a Letter addressed to the Directors,’ 1855, and ‘A Postscript to the Letter,’ 1855. His last publication was ‘Ramblings in the Elucidation of the Autograph of Milton,’ London, 1861, 4to, with facsimiles and portraits.

He died at Buckfastleigh Abbey, Devonshire, on 19 June 1861, aged 55. He married, in 1842, Julia Emma, youngest daughter of Henry Jones Pitcher, by whom he had two daughters and one son.

[Gent. Mag. 1861, ii. 446–7; Allibone's Dictionary, ii. 2178.]

H. R. T.