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Catherine Payling, MBE, named director of Waverly Rare Books
Catherine Payling, MBE, newly appointed director of Waverly Rare Books, a Quinn’s Auction Galleries company. Image provided by Quinn’s.


FALLS CHURCH, VA.- Quinn’s Auction Galleries Executive Vice President Matthew Quinn today announced the appointment of Catherine Payling, MBE, to the position of director of Waverly Rare Books, a Quinn’s subsidiary. Payling’s 25-year career in creative and nonprofit industries includes 15 years as curator/director of Keats House Museum in Rome and two years as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

A native of Newcastle upon Tyne, England, Payling earned both an undergraduate and master’s degree from Oxford University, with a major in English literature and language. Her post-university association with the arts began with a two-year stint as curator of printed books and manuscripts with the National Maritime Museum in London.

Also a chartered accountant with British and international credentials, Payling worked from 1988 to 1992 as an auditor with Ernst and Young in London. This was followed by two years as financial controller of London’s Royal Opera House.

Payling’s next major management position was as chief operating officer of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London. In that capacity, Payling oversaw all top-level business matters, including contracts, finance and personnel.

In 1997, Payling began a 15-year tenure as curator/director of the Keats House Museum in Rome, one of Europe’s largest and most important research libraries devoted to British and European Romanticism. Payling’s responsibilities included managing the museum’s extensive collection of paintings, sculpture and other artworks, both for the benefit of the general public and specialized researchers. While in Rome, Payling discovered, authenticated and arranged for the publication of a Mary Shelley manuscript novella that had been lost for nearly two centuries.

Working with museums, auction houses, scholars and collectors while curator/director of the Keats House Museum, Payling became an acknowledged expert in the authentication, conservation and preservation of manuscripts and other documents. She curated exhibitions with the American Academy in Rome and published numerous papers on Italy’s Anglo-American communities between 1790 and present day.

In 2003, His Royal Highness Prince Charles honored Catherine Payling with an MBE Award for her service to Anglo-Italian relations.

After relocating to the United States, Payling accepted a position as adjunct professor at Georgetown University, where she taught marketing and fundraising. Since 2014, Payling’s broad expertise has benefited private design clients and several Washington-area nonprofits, including Georgetown Ministry Center and Grace Episcopal Church.

Payling is married to Duncan Wu, who is the Raymond Wagner Professor of Literary Studies at Georgetown University. Both have been lifelong collectors of fine and decorative art and previously attended Quinn’s sales, where Catherine, in particular, became acquainted with the company’s management and staff.

“Catherine used to attend our auctions and treasure-hunt. She loves the auction business,” Matthew Quinn said. “When the director’s position in our rare book division became available, there were several strong candidates. Before Catherine and I sat down to talk, I had no idea how impressive her background was, but it quickly became evident that she is an exceptional talent with an incredible work history. We’re very excited that she has joined us.”

Payling commented: “I am a long-time enthusiast for everything the Quinns do, and for the spirit and family values that drive the company forward. I am so lucky to have a position that allows me to sell books, work with all sorts of people, and anticipate new surprises coming through the gallery’s doors every single day of the week.”

The first Waverly Rare Books catalog sale supervised by Catherine Payling will be held on Thursday, June 1.






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