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Trust in Competence and Tradition
Our book and art auction house has a long tradition and is one of Hamburg‘s oldest commercial enterprises. The company was founded by the printer Hermann Nestler on July 10, 1795. Initially only a publishing house, Nestler expanded the range by an “Antiquarian Establishment“ in 1812, which would soon become one of the most distinguished antiquarian bookshops in Hamburg and its surrounding region, the Name Nestler appears in many bibliographies and catalogs that date back to these days.

In 1862 Franz Conrad Dörling, who would develop the company‘s business relations, took over. He did not only focus on the German market but extended the scope to an international level, earning the company a widely recognized name. Active trading with Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia and Denmark was the consequence, above all, he was in contact with acclaimed institutions overseas, so the antiquarian bookshop - since 1863 operating under the name of F. Dörling - soon became one of the most important European suppliers for the university libraries at Harvard and Yale.


Book and Art at Ketterer

n 1988 Wolfgang Ketterer, founder of the auction house Ketterer Kunst in Munich, acquired the traditional Hamburg auction house. While paintings and prints from the 19th, 20th and 21st Century are sold in ca. 10 auctions per year in Munich, the Hamburg branch is specialized in Rare Books and Manuscripts which are auctioned twice a year in May and November.


New Perspectives

Over the following ten years numerous innovations affecting the auction process and the catalog presentation were introduced. One of them was a stronger focus on the internet: Parallel to the catalog, the entire range of offers including images can be accessed only well before the auction. Clients may not only leave commissions or bid by phone, as online bidding is likewise possible.

The introduction of the evening auction in November 2006 was another big innovation push. Ever since then a representative selection of around hundred choice books - all displayed in a lavishly made extra catalog - is offered in the special sale. This part of our auction is met with great popularity by both consignors and buyers, as sales rates of 80 to 90% and hammer prices in five- and six-digit ranges are not seldom realized. One of the highlights in the history of the evening auction was the sale of the one-of-a-kind De Gros-Carondelet Book of Hours in May 2012 - the late 15th Century gem realized a hammer price of 360,000 euro. The sale of a copy of the famous Nuremberg Chronicle in old coloring in November 2010 was likewise impressive, since it was called up at 40,000 euro while the gavel went down at 220,000 euro. Another moment to remember happened in the very same auction when a copy of Hugo Grotius‘ epochal writing on the law of nations, of which just two copies are known world-wide, was called up. It eventually realized an excellent price of 105,000 euro.

After more than 40 years on the boulevard Neuer Wall and at the heritage site Meßberghof, Ketterer Kunst GmbH relocated to its current premises at Holstenwall 5 in immediate vicinity of the Laeisz Concert Hall and the park Planten un Blomen, one of Hamburg‘s finest public parks, in June 2011.

Today the Hamburg branch realizes auction proceeds in the millions. Thousands of catalogs are shipped to clients on all five continents. Among them renowned libraries, museums, institutions, collectors and traders. The auctions comprise a wide range of high-quality objects that are displayed in richly illustrated catalogs and come with descriptions that meet highest scientific standards. Next to the relevant bibliographies and reference works, the house‘s library has a rich inventory of special literature that allows the experts to treat every single object with the given scientific diligence. Currently the reference library has more than 15,000 books on 600 shelf meters.


Your Values in Best Hands

The internationally achieved top results show that auctions offer the perfect opportunity to sell rare books, manuscripts and autographs. Our long-standing tradition as one of the oldest auction houses in Europe and our very good international connections make us a reliable partner for private collectors, libraries and galleries. Our biannually published catalogs are acknowledged around the globe for their elaborate make and their large number of top-quality illustrations. A vast reference library helps us to provide accurate and comprehensive descriptions for every consigned object, so that the interested book lover gets the best picture possible.