• <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Leaves from<br>George Washington's Own Draft <br>of His first Inaugural Address. An Extraordinary Rarity!
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Declaration of Independence: Benjamin Tyler 1818 - First Print with Facsimile Signatures.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Thomas Jefferson Signed Act of Contress Authorizing Alexander Hamilton to Complete Famous Portland Maine Lighthouse.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Emanuel Leutze. Silk Flag Banner designed by Leutze, created by Tiffany & Co., and presented to Gen. John A. Dix, 1864.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> The "greatest of early American maps … a masterpiece" (Corcoran). Thomas Holme.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Albert Einstein. Autograph Letter Signed. Einstein Counsels His Son ... Meaning of Life.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Frederick Douglass. Autograph Letter Signed to unknown correspondent. Washington, D.C.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Harry Truman. Autograph Manuscript Notebook for Kansas City Law School Night Class.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Robert E. Lee. Autograph Letter Signed, June 11, 1863. Hours after the Battle of Culpeper Court House, Lee Escapes Again.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> George Washington. Letter Signed, as Commander-in-Chief, Continental Army, to Elias Dayton, Headquarters, [Newburgh, N.Y.], June 11, 1782.
  • <b>Bloomsbury Auctions: Edward S. Curtis' The North American Indian. December 15, 2016</b>
    <b>Bloomsbury Dec. 15: </b> Lot 200.<br>The North American Indian, vol.I-XIII. £60,000-80,000
    <b>Bloomsbury Dec. 15: </b> Lot 200.<br>The North American Indian, vol.I-XIII. £60,000-80,000
    <b>Bloomsbury Dec. 15: </b> Lot 200.<br>The North American Indian, vol.I-XIII. £60,000-80,000
    <b>Bloomsbury Auctions: Edward S. Curtis' The North American Indian. December 15, 2016</b>
    <b>Bloomsbury Dec. 15: </b> Lot 200.<br>The North American Indian, vol.I-XIII. £60,000-80,000
    <b>Bloomsbury Dec. 15: </b> Lot 200.<br>The North American Indian, vol.I-XIII. £60,000-80,000
    <b>Bloomsbury Dec. 15: </b> Lot 200.<br>The North American Indian, vol.I-XIII. £60,000-80,000
    <b>Bloomsbury Auctions: Edward S. Curtis' The North American Indian. December 15, 2016</b>
    <b>Bloomsbury Dec. 15: </b> Lot 202. Geronimo - Apache. £600-800
    <b>Bloomsbury Dec. 15: </b> Lot 225.<br>A Chief of the Desert - Navaho. £1000-1500
    <b>Bloomsbury Dec. 15: </b> Lot 267.<br>An Oasis in the Bad Lands. £600-800
    <b>Bloomsbury Auctions: Edward S. Curtis' The North American Indian. December 15, 2016</b>
    <b>Bloomsbury Dec. 15: </b> Lot 303.<br>The Scout in Winter - Apsaroke. £800-1200
    <b>Bloomsbury Dec. 15: </b> Lot 320.<br>Sitting Bear - Arikara. £500-700
    <b>Bloomsbury Dec. 15: </b> Lot 475. <br>A Nakoaktok Chief's Daughter. <br>£600-800
  • <b>Dorothy Sloan Rare Books:<br>La Invasíon Norteamericana and the Mexican-American War.<br>December 15 & 16, 2016</b>
    <b>Dorothy Sloan Books Dec. 15 & 16:</b> [ARTILLERY]. KITCHEN, D.C. <i>Record of the Wyoming Artillerists.</I> Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania: Alvin Day Printer, 1874. $2,000-4,000
    <b>Dorothy Sloan Books Dec. 15 & 16:</b> UNITED STATES AND MEXICAN BOUNDARY COMMISSION. EMORY, William Hemsley. <i>Report of the United States and Mexican Boundary Survey, Made under the Direction of the Secretary of the Interior…</i><br>$3,000-6,000
    <b>Dorothy Sloan Books Dec. 15 & 16:</b> RICHARDSON, William H. <i>Journal of William H. Richardson, a Private Soldier in the Campaign of New and Old Mexico…</i>. Baltimore: John H. Woods, 1848. $3,000-6,000
    <b>Dorothy Sloan Rare Books:<br>La Invasíon Norteamericana and the Mexican-American War.<br>December 15 & 16, 2016</b>
    <b>Dorothy Sloan Books Dec. 15 & 16:</b> GARCÍA CONDE, Pedro. <i>Carta geografica general de la Republica Mexicana…</i> $30,000-60,000
    <b>Dorothy Sloan Books Dec. 15 & 16:</b> EMORY, William Hemsley. <i>Map of Texas and the Countries Adjacent: Compiled in the Bureau of the Corps of Topographical Engineers; From the Best Authorities…</i> [Washington, 1844]. $7,500-15,000
    <b>Dorothy Sloan Books Dec. 15 & 16:</b> THORPE, Thomas Bangs. <i>Our Army at Monterey. Being a Correct Account of the Proceedings and Events which Occurred to the “Army of Occupation”…</i> Philadelphia, 1847. $400-800
    <b>Dorothy Sloan Rare Books:<br>La Invasíon Norteamericana and the Mexican-American War.<br>December 15 & 16, 2016</b>
    <b>Dorothy Sloan Books Dec. 15 & 16:</b> <i>The Rough and Ready Songster: Embellished with Twenty-Five Splendid Engravings, Illustrative of the American Victories in Mexico…</i> New York; St. Louis, Mo [ca. 1848].<br>$500-1,000
    <b>Dorothy Sloan Books Dec. 15 & 16:</b> CURRIER, Nathaniel (publisher). <i>The Brilliant Charge of Capt. May At the Battle of Resaca de la Palma (Palm Ravine) 9th of May…</i> $150-300 
    <b>Dorothy Sloan Books Dec. 15 & 16:</b> [RINGGOLD, SAMUEL]. WYNNE, James. <i>Memoir of Major Samuel Ringgold, United States Army: Read Before the Maryland Historical Society, April 1st, 1847.</i> Baltimore, 1847. $500-1,000
    <b>Dorothy Sloan Rare Books:<br>La Invasíon Norteamericana and the Mexican-American War.<br>December 15 & 16, 2016</b>
    <b>Dorothy Sloan Books Dec. 15 & 16:</b> [TAYLOR, ZACHARY]. <i>Life of General Taylor from the Best Authorities.</i> New York: Nafis and Cornish; St. Louis, Mo.: Nafis, Cornish & Co., 1847.<br>$500-1,000
    <b>Dorothy Sloan Books Dec. 15 & 16:</b> TILDEN, Bryant Parrott, Jr. <i>Notes on the Upper Rio Grande, Explored in the Months of October and November, 1846, on Board the U.S. Steamer Major Brown…</i> Philadelphia, 1847.<br>$5,000-10,000
    <b>Dorothy Sloan Books Dec. 15 & 16:</b> [WORTH, WILLIAM J.]. <i>Life of General Worth; To Which is Added a Sketch of the Life of Brigadier-General Wool.</i> New York: Nafis & Cornish; St. Louis, Mo.: Nafis, Cornish & Co., 1847.<br>$200-400
  • <b>19th Century Shop.</b> CURTIS, EDWARD. <i>Original glass plate photograph, Honovi – Walpi Snake Priest, prepared by Curtis for the printing of The North American Indian</i>, c.1910
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> (AMERICAN WEST.), Watkins, Taber, Savage, and others. <i>Magnificent Album of Mammoth Photographs of the American West, with other subjects various</i>, ca. 1865-1880s
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> DARWIN, CHARLES. <i>Darwin Family Photograph Album</i>. Down, Kent, 1871-1879
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> (SECRET SERVICE). <i>The photographic archive, papers, and relics of William Kennoch, Secret Service Agent</i>. Various places, 1870s and 1880s
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> (AMERICAN REVOLUTION). <i>Daguerreotype Portrait of Baltus Stone, the earliest photo of a Revolution veteran,</i> 1846

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2013 Issue

A Handwritten Letter Sells for a Record $6 Million-Plus

Fcrickletter

Francis Crick's “Secret of Life” letter to his son.

On April 10, the highest price ever paid for a letter at auction was achieved at Christie's in New York. If there was any doubt about the growing interest in more ephemeral sorts of works on paper, this should help put it to rest. At over $6 million, or 3 to 6 times the estimate range, there was no shortage of serious interest.

The letter itself is something of a surprise. It was not from one of the great world leaders, a Lincoln, Churchill, or Napoleon. It was not from the most famous of scientists, a Galileo, Kepler, or Newton. It was not even very old, written just sixty years ago. The writer only died in the last decade, his partner and the recipient are still living (and attended the auction). While his name is well-recognized in the scientific community, if you interviewed people on the street and asked who Francis Crick is, most would probably respond with blank stares. What we now know about him is that, along with being a great scientist, he wrote a letter worth $6 million. Obviously, he is more important than the typical man on the street realizes.

For those who have forgotten, Francis Crick, along with his partner, James Watson, discovered the nature of the DNA molecule. To put it more bluntly, they discovered how physical characteristics, and life itself, is transmitted from one individual to another. They were first to understand how the DNA molecule could copy itself, and thereby transmit life to another. Crick and Watson had been working on models of the DNA molecule, trying to break the code. On the last day of February, 1953, they had their voilà moment. They suddenly realized how everything must fit together within the molecule for it all to work.

Crick was not shy in recognizing its importance. He announced to others, only “half-jokingly” as Watson would later write, that they had found “the secret of life.” The two spent March busily constructing models to get it down right, and began to prepare a paper they would submit to Nature magazine on April 2 announcing their discovery. It was during this period that Crick would write his $6 million letter. It was not directed to a fellow scientist or researcher. Instead, it was sent to a 12-year-old boy. That boy was Michael Crick, Francis's son, off at boarding school. Crick regularly explained such things to his son, who was interested in secret codes, so this clearly would have fascinated him. In his letter, Crick explains as clearly as possible what has been discovered. This is the first known written explanation of the discovery, and probably the only first account of such a major scientific discovery to conclude with the line, “Lots of love, Daddy.”

Francis Crick begins his letter modestly with, “Jim Watson and I have probably made a most important discovery. We have built a model for the structure of des-oxy-ribose-nucleic-acid (read it carefully) called D.N.A. You may remember that the genes of the chromosomes - which carry the hereditary factors - are made up of protein and D.N.A. Our structure is very beautiful.” He goes on to say, “...we think we have found the basic copying mechanism by which life comes from life.” He also explains in more detail how its reproduction works, and even provides a crude drawing of their double helix model. Crick promises to show the model to his 12-year-old son when he comes home.

The importance of the discovery and the significance of this letter was well understood by Christie's. Its existence has long been known, it carrying the sobriquet of the “Secret of Life” letter. They slapped an estimate of $1 - $2 million on it. Not even they were prepared for what happened. By the time the bidding stopped, the price had crossed the $6 million mark (including commissions). The final price was $6,059,750. The letter was purchased by an unnamed buyer who placed a bid by telephone.

The auction included only two other items, both relating to Crick, and both easily surpassing estimates. An early 1950s four-page manuscript notebook, estimated at $4,000-$6,000, sold for $21,250. A pencil drawing of Crick by his wife, Odile, estimated at $8,000 - $12,000, went for $17,500. Odile Crick was an artist, though she is best known for her drawing of the double helix used by her husband and Watson.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 1:</b> Friedrich Nietzsche, <i>Also Sprach Zarathustra</i>, Leipzig, 1908. Sold for $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 1:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk</i>, Vienna & Leipzig, 1918. Sold for $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 17:</b> Arthur Middleton, manuscript notes from Congress, Philadelphia, 1782. Sold for $55,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 17:</b> Joseph Smith, <i>The Book of Mormon</i>, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. Sold for $67,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 10:</b><br>L. Frank Baum, <i>The Wonderful Wizard of Oz</i>, first edition & issue, Chicago & New York, 1900. Sold for $23,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 10:</b> Mark Twain, <i>The Adventures of Tom Sawyer</i>, first American edition, Hartford, 1876. Sold for $13,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 1:</b> George Washington, Partly-printed Document Signed as Commander-in-Chief, 1783. Sold for $13,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 1:</b> Album with more than 130 Civil War-era signatures, including 18 presidents, 1864-2010. Sold for $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18:</b><br>Sir Isaac Newton, <i>Opticks</i>, first edition & issue, London, 1704. Sold for $87,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18:</b> Euclid, <i>Elementa geometriae</i>, first edition, Venice, 1482. Sold for $62,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18:</b> William Shakespeare, <i>The Winters Tale</i>, first edition, London, 1623. Sold for $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 25:</b> Edward Ruscha, set of 14 first editions, 1963-78. Sold for $45,000.
  • <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Books, Literature, Manuscripts, Maps & Works of Art. December 13, 2016</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Dec. 13:</b> Excessively Rare Benjamin Franklin Imprint. Estaugh (John). <i>A Call to the Unfaithful Professors of Truth</i>, Philadelphia: Printed by B. Franklin, 1744. €7,000 – 10,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Dec. 13:</b> Original Signed Volume from the Dean Swift's Library. [Swift (Dr. Jonathan)] Grotius (Hugo). <i>De Jure Belli ac Pacis Libri Tres</i>, Amsterdam: (J. Blaeu) 1670. €10,000 – 15,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Dec. 13:</b> Cresswell (Samuel Gurney). <i>A Series of Eight Sketches in Colour; together with a Coloured Map of the Route</i>, London: (Day & Son) July 25, 1854.<br>€15,000 – 20,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Books, Literature, Manuscripts, Maps & Works of Art. December 13, 2016</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Dec. 13:</b> Of Legendary Rarity - First Printing of Shakespeare Outside England. Shakespeare (Wm.). <i>The Works of Shakespeare</i> In Eight Volumes. Dublin: 1726.<br>€7,000 – 10,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Dec. 13:</b> Lewin (W.). <i>The Birds of Great Britain</i>, 8 vols in 4, with 335 hand-coloured plates, 1795 – 1801. €1,500 – 2,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Dec. 13:</b> 18th Century Manuscript Relating to Massachusetts Bay, c. 1750.<br>€350 – 500
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Books, Literature, Manuscripts, Maps & Works of Art. December 13, 2016</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Dec. 13:</b> Alexander (Wm.). <i>Picturesque Representations of The Dress and Manners of the Chinese</i>, with 50 hand-coloured plates, 1814. €600 – 800
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Dec. 13:</b> Manuscript Estate Atlas - Neville (Arthur Richard). <i>The Estate of Sir John Coghill Bart</i>, 1791. €10,000 – 15,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Dec. 13:</b> Unique Collection of Ballads by Brendan Behan Behan. €3,000 – 4,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Books, Literature, Manuscripts, Maps & Works of Art. December 13, 2016</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Dec. 13:</b> Original Manuscript of Edith Somerville's Unpublished Children's Book. Somerville (Edith). <i>GROWLY-WOWLY. Or, The Story of the Three Little Pigs</i>. €3,500 – 5,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Dec. 13:</b> Full Set of Cuala Press Broadsides with fine hand-coloured illustrations by Jack B. Yeats, 1908 – 1915. €4,000 – 6,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Dec. 13:</b> Eyzinger (Michael). <i>Ad Leonis Belgici Topographicam atque Historicam Descriptionem</i>, [Cologne:] 1586. €3,000 – 4,000
  • <b>Bonhams: History of Science and Technology. December 7, 2016</b>
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. <i>Die Grundlage der allgemeinen Relativitätstheorie.</i> Leipzig: Johann Ambrosius Barth, 1916.<br>$80,000 – 120,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in English, Signed Integrally ("Isaac Newton"). $50,000 – 70,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> DARWIN, CHARLES. <i>On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life</i>. London: John Murray, 1859. $25,000 – 35,000
    <b>Bonhams: History of Science and Technology. December 7, 2016</b>
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. <i>The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy.</i> London: Benjamin Motte, 1729.<br>$20,000 – 30,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> HEISENBERG, WERNER. Autograph Manuscript entitled "<i>Entwicklung der Theorie der Elementarteilche,</i>” [1964].<br>$15,000 – 25,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> BERNOULLI, DANIEL. <i>Hydrodynamica, sive De viribus et motibus fluidorum commentarii.</i> Strasbourg: Johann Heinrich Decker for Johann Reinhold Dulsecker, 1738. $5,000 – 7,000
    <b>Bonhams: Voices of the 20th Century. December 7, 2016</b>
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> [TARKOVSKY, ANDREI ARSENIEVICH.] STRUGATSKY, BORIS AND ARKADY. Typed Manuscript for <i>Stalker</i>, being the director's working script, 1977. $150,000 – 200,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> HEMINGWAY, ERNEST. Typed Manuscript of "Marlin Off the Morro: A Cuban Letter," n.p., [1933]. $30,000 – 50,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> SALINGER, JEROME DAVID. 4 Autograph Letters, 2 of which Signed ("Jerry") and 6 Typed Letters, 2 of which Initialed ("J"). $30,000 – 50,000
    <b>Bonhams: Voices of the 20th Century. December 7, 2016</b>
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> PASTERNAK, BORIS LEONIDOVICH. Typed Manuscript Carbon, "Doktor Zhivago," with some typed corrections, Moscow, 1948. $30,000 – 50,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> MILNE, ALAN ALEXANDER. Autograph Manuscript Signed 3 times ("A.A. Milne"), entitled "Peace with Honour: An Enquiry into the War Convention," 1934.<br>$30,000 – 50,000
    <b>Bonhams Dec. 7:</b> FROST, ROBERT. Autograph Manuscript Signed ("Robert Frost"), titled "Gold for Christmas," 1952. $15,000 – 20,000

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