Samuel Leigh Sotheby (1805-1861)
The third and final generation of the Sotheby family to be involved with the famous auction house.
Samuel Leigh was the grandson of bookseller and auctioneer John Sotheby, who helped establish the celebrated auction house that still bears the family’s name.
John’s son Samuel expanded and rebranded the family business, then Samuel took on his own son, Samuel Leigh. Father and son worked well together. Samuel Leigh proved to be a good businessman, and was responsible for many of their finest catalogues. However, the company got into difficulties in 1825 and was declared bankrupt.
Samuel Leigh changed the company name to S L Sotheby in 1837 and, when his father died five years later, took on his accountant John Wilkinson as a partner. John was a great salesman, and Samuel produced beautiful auction catalogues. Between them, they rebuilt the business into the premier auction house for antiquarian books.
Samuel Leigh also edited and completed books begun by his father, and wrote and published his own work, including a volume on John Milton’s autographs. He was a great collector too, particularly of auction house and library catalogues, and the works of English artists.
Samuel Leigh died tragically and unexpectedly in June 1861. He was walking near Buckfast Abbey in Devon, when he fell into the River Dart and drowned.