An Amazing Collection of Autographs<br>And Letters from Steven Raab
By Michael Stillman
“There is a moral in an autograph. Man’s earthly life is limited to the span of three score and ten, but all his acts have upon them the stamp of immortality, and even in the insignificant scratch that symbolizes his earthly name, is seen an example of a life that outlives him…” Samuel Morse.
Morse was three score and ten plus one when he inscribed this quote in a child’s autograph album, so questions of mortality and immortality were evidently on his mind. To him, that “insignificant scratch,” an autograph, was a symbol of “endless life,” life “…that survives long after the hand that has written has mouldered to dust.” Steven S. Raab Autographs offers a collection of 68 autographs, mostly signatures on letters or other messages, and all but a handful from great people who exited this world many years ago. And yet, as Morse understood, a signature of one’s name in his own hand provides us with a personal connection to that person across the long distances of time.
We can only cover a few of the remarkable signed documents in Raab’s Catalogue 45, but where better to start than Morse’s insightful depiction of autographs themselves. Morse was the inventor of the telegraph, which had opened the world to instant communications. At this writing in 1862, he had only recently put the famed Pony Express out of business. These words from Morse, and his signature on a leaf from that autograph album, are offered as item 47. Priced at $4,995.
Perhaps the most collectible item of printed Americana is the famed set generally known as “Lewis and Clark.” It covers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s groundbreaking explorations into the great American West from 1804-1806. For those fortunate enough to have this valuable set, here’s a piece you are probably missing: a signed receipt from Meriwether Lewis for $200 of the salary he earned from the United States for undertaking this expedition. Item 41. $79,500.
There is probably no more famed Civil War regiment than the 20th Maine. Their heroism has been retold many times in recent years, including televised documentaries. Defending the Union’s far left flank at Gettysburg with too few men and too little ammunition, they ended up chasing off stronger Confederate forces with a desperate bayonet charge when their ammunition ran out. Many believe their bravery saved the day for the Union at Gettysburg. William Livermore was a color bearer that fateful day, one of two to survive. Livermore kept a diary of his service and this diary is offered as item 12. Entries go right up to the day of the famed battle at Gettysburg, written on the inside back cover of the diary, filling out its 120 pages. $17,900.