welcome to
Ken Spelman Books Ltd
thank you for visiting us on
"A true treasure trove" [The Times]

"One of the best independent retailers in the country" [Royal Society of Literature]

Now on-line, over 70 years of tradition
continues, so do sign up to get first notice
of all the new stock and catalogues, which
do not appear elsewhere on the internet.

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Ken Spelman Books Ltd
PO Box 807
York, YO1 0PF

tel: 07960 350909

All about us: Established in York in 1948, with over 70 years of experience we are always happy to provide professional and confidential advice - whether you are an experienced collector or a first time buyer or seller. The shop has now closed after 73 years, but we are still as active as ever buying and selling.

Rare and Secondhand Books, Manuscripts & Documents.

I joined Spelmans in 1979, becoming a partner in 1984, and since 2012 I've owned the business with my wife Nicki.
I have served on the Council of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association, and was Chairman of the ABA Rare Book Fair London from 2014-2018. I am currently Fair Manager of the PBFA York National Book Fair, the largest fair of its kind in the U.K.


If you are thinking of selling or thinning out your collections - or just have individual books of interest - then contact me - I buy books in all quantities and travel extensively throughout the country. I am also always keen to purchase any manuscripts, diaries, journals, inventories, estate plans &c pre 1850.

Rare Book Specialisms:

Italy & the Grand Tour: I am currently working on a growing collection of over 300 original grand tour books & manuscripts from 1600-1880.

The Drawing Book Project

Artists' Manuals of Instruction: A long standing area of expertise, and we have probably the largest unpublished reference database of these books.

Women & Science: A collection in process, with over 200 books by 18th & 19th century woman botanists, scientists &c.

Gardening: We are preparing a series of five catalogues on 18th & 19th century gardening design & history. Also a separate collection on fern collecting.

Shells & the Seaside: An active collection of virtually every 19th century work on sea-side activities - shells, seaweed, &c.

Bookselling, Libraries & the Book Trade: A growing collection of over 200 items from the 18th century onwards

Manuscripts & Ephemera: Regular catalogues issued.

Country House Guides & Picturesque Travel.

Watercolours and drawings

We now have a small selection of unframed 19th century watercolours and drawings.

All the best of the shop, now on-line

See our most recent acquisitions
or browse our current stock files

Include description

Rare Book Rooms (more coming soon)

~ Art & Design

~ Pre-1800 books

~ Manuscripts

~ Gardening & Botany

~ Yorkshire material

Rare Book & Manuscript Catalogues

New catalogue: Women, Botany & Science - Part I.

Catalogue 118 (June 2023)

Fully illustrated in colour. These books get their very first appearance in the catalogues.

Manuscripts - archive
Highlight items sold

Monthly Lists & Short Lists

A monthly list of 10 interesting recent acquisitions. These have not appeared anywhere else before, and there will only ever be 10 on each list. We also issue short lists on specialised subjects.

Latest Monthly Lists:

No. 103 - May 2023
No. 102 - April 2023
No. 101 - March 2023
No. 100 - February 2023
No. 99 - January 2023
No. 98 - December 2022
No. 97 - November 2022
No. 96 - October 2022
No. 95 - September 2022

Interim Short Lists:

20 - Book History & Bibliography
19b - Private Press Prospectuses Part II -
19a - Private Press Prospectuses Part I
18. - Bookbinding - April 2023
17. - Eugene Sue - April 2023
16. - E.H. New - April 2023
15. - Temple Classic Editions - October 2022
14. - George Jones, master printer - Sept 2022
13. - Photography View Books - Sept 2022
12. - Art & Design - August 2022

BOOK FAIRS. I normally exhibit at the following major ABA & PBFA Fairs each year, Cambridge, London, Chelsea, Oxford, & York.

Book Collecting Prizes

In 2017 I was delighted to announce that I established the York University Book Collecting Prize. It is open to all students at the University of York, and offers the opportunity to win a £500 cash prize, and to progress to the ABA National Book Collecting Prize.

Cataloguing, Consultancy, & Commission

An established part of my business is in cataloguing collections (for both the trade and private customers), offering consultancy advice, valuations for insurance or probate, and successfully handling significant items & specialist collections on a private commission basis:
contact: kenspelmanbooks@gmail.com

For nearly 40 years I have worked with major institutions and collectors in developing their libraries.

copyright: Ken Spelman Books Ltd, 2023 / GDPR