Ludwig van Beethoven Sketch Leaf Manuscript Up for Auction


Amherst, N.H.—An extraordinarily rare sketch leaf manuscript by the German composer Ludwig van Beethoven will be auctioned later this month by the New Hampshire-based RR Auction.

The historically important one-page autographed sketch leaf for Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis is believed to be circa 1820-21. In ink and pencil, Beethoven pens his ideas for the Sanctus, Benedictus, and Gloria sections of the Missa Solemnis.

The earliest material, written on both sides in ink, is for the Sanctus and consists of modulatory material in D major in 3/4 time—a notable difference from the finished work, which is in 2/4. Beethoven added the pencil portions of the manuscript later—likely after he began carrying this page as a pocket leaf, as evidenced by the central fold—with the passages on staves three through six on the front being part of the Gloria, and a section of the Benedictus on the lower half of the reverse, identified in Beethoven's own hand as "2te Theil Benedict."

Unknown until 1996, this manuscript was discovered among the papers of Anton Schindler, Beethoven's private secretary and earliest biographer. Schindler added a few ink and pencil marginal notations, labeling the piece along the bottom of the front (translated): "Sketch for the Sanctus of the Second Mass in 3/4 meter." He also identifies the sketches on the reverse in the left border (translated): "Idea for the Benedictus of the Second Mass."

Respected musicologist and Beethoven scholar William Kinderman describes this sketchleaf as 'a noteworthy source that documents the genesis of the Sanctus as well as aspects of the genesis of the Benedictus and the Gloria.'

This manuscript represents a stage in the development of the Missa Solemnis where the opening section and tonal balance begin to resemble the completed composition, despite the disparity in meter.

Variations in his entries reflect the range of his musical moods and offer clues about the circumstances of composition. His notes and shorthand can illuminate the ways he expanded and refined ideas, clarify biographical or musical mysteries, or call attention to deliberate links between compositions.

“Beethoven's sketchbooks were his workshop,” says William Kinderman," capturing the methods he used to craft his ideas into art, revealing his complex creativity and offering rich material for examining his revision process.”

“Rarely does an item arise that offers such great insight into the creative process of genius—essentially unmatched in magnificence, this Beethoven manuscript is a true historical treasure,” says Bobby Livingston, VP at RR Auction. “The manuscript previously sold for $110,000, in 1996 — we expect it to at more than double that figure.”

Among the other museum quality items in the auction:

  • Virtually unobtainable autograph musical manuscripts by both Wolfgang Amadeus and Maria Anna Mozart.
  • Incredibly rare U.K. Parlophone Records first issue mono Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, beautifully signed on the full-color gatefold in dark ballpoint by Paul McCartney, John Lennon, and Ringo Starr, and in black felt tip by George Harrison.

The auction, which contains more than 1,800 items, began on Thursday December 18 and will end on the evening of Wednesday, January 15. More details can be found online at

Image courtesy RR Auction.

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