Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2005 Issue

One lot tells the story

Packet

An exceptionally important American newspaper


By Bruce McKinney

Copies of the United States Constitution printed in the Pennsylvania Packet and Daily Advertiser on September 19, 1787, have been raising eyebrows for most of the 20th century. On November 19th at Freeman they also raised the record for a copy sold at auction running well beyond Freeman's $80,000 to $120,000 estimate to reach $180,000 hammer and $207,225 all in. This item has not always done so well.

In the spring of 1976 Sotheby's sold a copy for $2,000 to John Jenkins, the Texas dealer, who made it an important item in his 1976 Bi-centennial Catalogue and priced it at $85,000. It was eventually sold for something close to the asking price. The catch was that payment was in 85 monthly installments without interest. In time the deal washed out and Jenkins re-sold this copy for less. In 1983 Sotheby's auctioned another copy: this one for $24,000 and in 1987 another copy: this one for $100,000. In 1988 a bound volume of this newspaper including this issue and 307 others, trimmed and with repairs, brought $60,000, a bargain given all the additional material included.

In 1998 Christies sold a trimmed single issue with condition problems for $70,000 and in 2001 the 1988 bound volume returned to the rooms [Sotheby's] to be re-priced at $130,000. There it stood until November 19th last where, as the center piece of Freeman's four day Bi-centennial Celebration sale, it moved the chains well beyond Freeman's estimate and the existing auction record to settle at $207,225 with hammer, a new auction record by $70,000. It was purchased by the 19th Century Shop of Baltimore for stock. Tom Edsall, speaking for the firm about this purchase said, "this is the only unbound, untrimmed copy we have ever encountered and it was a bargain at the price."

Prior copies in the second half of the 20th century have been exclusively the domain of Sotheby's and Christies. This sale suggests buyers are increasingly aware of and prepared to place their bids where the material is offered even if the auction venue is beyond the zip codes that begin with 100. The world grows more open and international by the month if not the day. For consignor, Freeman's and the buyer this was a very successful effort.

This was not the only item of interest of course, only the most important.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Announcing a new Books for Sale platform hosted by Biblio</b>
    <b>List your books simultaneously on Rare Book Hub and Biblio</b>
  • <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Exodus 10:10 to 16:15. Complete Biblical scroll sheet in Hebrew, a Torah scroll panel. Middle East, ca. 10th or 11th century.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Copernicus Refuted. (Astronomy.). Scientific manuscript of a course of studies at Collège de la Trinité, Lyon. 1660s.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Israel’s War of Independence and the Early Days of the IDF. 58 photographs presented to Israel Ber, IDF officer and later convicted spy.
    <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Early Unpublished Darwin letter on the races of man. Autograph Letter Signed [to Henry Denny]. Down, Kent, June 1, [1844].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Classic Image of American Slavery. Kimball, M. H. <i>Emancipated Slaves</i>. New York: George Hanks, 1863.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> (Underground Railroad.) Scaggs, Isaac. Important Runaway Slave Poster: $500 Reward Ran away, or decoyed from the subscriber…
  • <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Newton. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica</i>. London, 1687.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Josephus. <i>De antiquitate Judaica.</i> Lubeck, 1475-76.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Carlerius. <i>Sporta fragmentorum, Sportula fragmentorum</i>. Brussels, 1478-79.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Fridolin. <i>Der Schatzbehalter</i>. Nuremberg, 1491.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Pinder. <i>Der beschlossen gart des rosenkrantz marie</i>. Nuremberg, 1505.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Isidorus Hispalensis. <i>Synonyma de Homine</i>. Nuremberg, 1470-71.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Durer. Sammelband including <i>Underweysung der messing</i>. Nuremberg, 1525-29.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 19: 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28: Printed & Manuscript Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 5: African-American Fine Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 17: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 19:<br>Art & Storytelling: Photographs & Photobooks</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 26: Rare & Important Travel Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 2:<br>Old Master Through Modern Prints</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 7: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14: 19th & 20th Century Literature</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 16: Contemporary Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:<br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14: Illustration Art</b>

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