The oldest and largest firm of art auctioneers in the world. It was founded by the London bookseller Samuel Baker; whose first recorded auction was in 1744. On his death in 1778, his estate was divided between his partner George Leigh and his nephew John Sotheby. The last of the Sotheby family to be involved in the firm died in 1861. Although Sotheby's extended its range to take in prints, coins, medals, and antiquities of various kinds, books long remained the primary concern of the company, and it was not until after the First World War that paintings and other works of art became a major part of its business (before this time most important picture sales were held by Christie's).


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