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Ken Spelman Books
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"A true treasure trove" [The Times]

"One of the 10 best rare bookshops in Britain" [The Independent]

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

70 Micklegate, York YO1 6LF ~ Tel: 07960 350909

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Email or send us a message ~

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.

Rare and Secondhand Books, Manuscripts & Documents, designer cards, and in winter a real coal fire. There is on-street parking right outside our door - a rarity for York!

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: (although we handle all areas)

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

Artist's Manuals of Instruction: A long standing area of expertise, and we have probably the largest unpublished reference database of these books.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 woman botanists, scientists &c.

Gardening: We are preparing a series of five catalogues on gardening design & history.

Manuscripts & Ephemera: Regular catalogues issued.

Country House Guides & Picturesque Travel.

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: tony.fothergill@kenspelman.com

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

We stock original prints by a number of leading modern printmakers, including Andrew Waddington, Neil Bousfield, Angela Harding, Tom Frost, Hannah West, Matte Stephens, Alan Turnbull, Tessa Asquith-Lamb. Also the shop now stocks a superb range of designer cards, and we even offer a free wrapping service for purchases. Also books by Mark Hearld, and his wonderful flying bird cut-outs.

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.

Spelman's Book Voucher: Buy one below and use anytime against a future purchase.
Ken Spelman Book Voucher

Book fairs - I exhibit at the following major ABA & PBFA Fairs each year, Cambridge, London, Chelsea, Oxford, & York. complimentary tickets for all fairs


We are currently open from 1.00 - 4pm Monday - Friday. Please ring first if travelling any distance as I am sometimes away on calls. Our stock is also now on-line, and we are adding new items every day. We are posting out orders daily, or you can collect from the shop by appointment.

If you have books to sell do contact us. We are making calls and books can also be dropped off at the shop.

See our most recent acquisitions

or browse our current stock files

Include description

"Thank you for the great selection of cards that arrived this morning!" N.P.

CARDS & NOTECARDS: Known for stocking one of the best and most innovative selection of blank greetings cards in York, we are now sending out mixed bundles of 5 cards for £10 post free (UK) -  these are from a wide range of independent printmakers, as well as Art Angels, Green Pebble, &c.  Trust us, they are very well chosen by Susie at the shop!  We also have packs of 10 notecards and envelopes. Just click below to order.The images above are just representational and may not be ones that are still available.

Card Bundles & Notecards


We have a large & varied stock of quality publishers' remainders (new books at heavily discounted prices). We are adding titles constantly so do take a look here.


Visit our store on ebay, with thousands of items for sale, the majority not listed elsewhere.

17th century / 18th century / 19th century
manuscripts & documents / ephemera & objects
Theology / Philosophy / Literature & Poetry / Latin & Greek
York & Yorkshire prints and engravings / Yorkshire books
Drawings & Watercolours / Private Press Books / Women

and lots more.... new items are added daily.

Rare Books & Manuscripts ~

I issue regular catalogues - fully illustrated in colour. These books get their very first appearance in the catalogues.

Rare Book Catalogue 109 (Oct 2020)
Polar Travel & Mountaineering

Rare Book Catalogue 108 (Sept 2020)
The River Thames

Rare Book Catalogue 107 (June 2020)
Art & Design

Rare Book Catalogue 106 (Jan 2020)
Manuscripts & Ephemera

Rare Book Catalogue 105 (Nov 2019)
York & Yorkshire
Books from a private library

Rare Book Catalogue 104 (Sept 2019)
17th & 18th century Philosophy & Theology.
The John Stephens Library, Part Two

Manuscripts - archive
Highlight items sold

Monthly Lists ~

I send out 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.

Latest List (October 2020)

Large Stock of quality secondhand books:

copyright: Ken Spelman Books Ltd, 2020 / GDPR