Auction catalogs represent an important source for various types of information on works of art and artists. They can provide provenance information or a "genealogy" of a work of art. Detailed illustrations and descriptions of a work of art are usually available. They can also help to identify a particular object sold at auction. As a group they can help to trace trends and taste of a particular time period or collector.
This guide was designed to assist researchers in identifying and locating auction catalogs at the Library of Congress. The first section gives call numbers and brief holdings information for the major art auction catalogs held by the Library of Congress, including Christie's and Sotheby's; the second section lists reference books which identify particular sales. Researchers should always check the online and card catalogs for auction houses that are not listed here. This guide does not attempt to list all of the various price guides, both current and retrospective, which are also available at the Library. The Library of Congress collects art auction catalogs primarily from major auction houses, especially those that offer materials that the Library might consider adding to its collections (e.g. rare books, prints). Because of this use for collection development, there is often a lag time of over a year before the catalogs actually are available to readers for research purposes.