Page last updated at 13:40 GMT, Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Rare manuscripts to be auctioned

A woman holds A Book of Hours, opulently illuminated for King Francois I
A prayerbook which belonged to King Francois I of France is among the sale highlights

A collection of manuscripts previously owned by kings, bishops and members of the aristocracy is expected to fetch up to £16m when it is sold at auction.

Prayerbooks belonging to King Francois I of France and Elizabeth de Bohun, great-grandmother of King Henry V, are part of the collection.

The Arcana Collection: Exceptional Illuminated Manuscripts And Incunabula, will be sold at Christie's in July.

Head of books and manuscripts Margaret Ford said: "They are masterpieces."

The manuscripts are owned by an anonymous collector in the US.

Christie's said the businessman had spent three decades amassing the handwritten books, which feature illustrations and decorations painted in brilliant colours and gold.

Leading artists

The Arcana Collection: Exceptional Illuminated Manuscripts And Incunabula is thought to be the most valuable of its kind ever to be offered at auction.

Highlights include A Book Of Hours - a prayerbook intended for the private use of King Francois I of France, which is expected to fetch up to £500,000, and a 13th Century manuscript Bible produced in Italy, which has a pre-sale estimate of £2.5m - £3.5m.

 woman holds a manuscript Bible produced in Italy in the middle of the 13th century
A 13th Century Bible is expected to fetch up to 3.5m

Ms Ford said: "This is a truly exceptional collection... They are masterpieces of medieval and Renaissance art, many commissioned by important patrons.

"Books Of Hours are among the most personal artworks. Used for private devotion, they were also intended to reflect the wealth and status of the owner and leading artists and craftsmen were engaged in their creation.

"The Arcana collection offers the best examples of their type, ranging from Books Of Hours to works of literature and on the natural world.

"The beauty of the page is often complemented by the importance of the text, exceptional, original condition, and interesting, even highly distinguished, subsequent ownership."

The manuscripts will go on public display from 3-7 July, alongside Christie's auction of Old Masters and 19th Century Art.

The collection of 48 lots will go under the hammer on 7 July.

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