Ball-bearing magnate's book collection for sale

SOTHEBY'S is to disperse one of the finest libraries in Europe, the book collection formed by Dr Otto Schafer of Schweinfurt, Germany, Geraldine Norman writes.

Dr Schafer, now 82, who made a fortune from the manufacture of ball bearings, has been Europe's biggest book buyer since the 1950s. His central interest is in illustrated books and fine bindings, ranging from early books printed before 1500 to the French livres d'artistes of the 20th century.

His complete library is valued at pounds 40m. Sotheby's has only been commissioned to sell his non-German books, valued between pounds 10m and pounds 15m. He has recently transferred ownership of his German books to a foundation, the Dr Otto Schafer Stiftung, which will take over the library he built in Schweinfurt and open it to the public. The proceeds of the sale will go to the foundation.

There will be a series of sales from the library in London and New York. The first will be devoted to Italian books and will be held in New York on 8 December.