Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - February - 2012 Issue

Autographs On Sale from David Schulson Autographs

Schulson150

Autographs on sale.

David Schulson Autographs recently issued their Catalog 150, also known as Winter Sale. It doesn't matter how much you can afford. Everyone loves a sale. There isn't a set reduction, but most of these items appear discounted in the 25% to 33% range. If you collect autographed material, and what is offered are various signed letters and other documents, not mere autographs, this is the time to buy them. The sale lasts through February. As they say, “act now!” Here are some samples of the items on sale.

Item 2 is a signed, retained copy of a letter from America's first millionaire, John Jacob Astor. Astor made his fortune in the fur trade and other business ventures. In his later years, he supported various good causes, among them the Ornithological Society, of London. Astor had been honored by the society, and in this letter he requests they accept “...my grateful acknowledgment of the honor done me.” Regular price $1,450. Sale price $975.

Grandma Moses is one of the most unexpected of iconic American figures. Anna Mary Robertson Moses was born on a farm and lived all her life on a farm. She married at the age of 27 to a farmhand, and they farmed until he died when she was 67. She continued to operate the farm for a while, but when it became too difficult, she moved in with a daughter. She loved to embroider, but when arthritis made that difficult, she took up painting instead. Now in her late 70s, “Grandma” would paint farm and rural scenes, in a style known as primitive or folk art. She would give her paintings to relatives and friends, and when the supply outgrew her acquaintances, she began selling them for $2 or $3 (based on size). She offered them in a local drug store, and one day, an art dealer from New York spied them, bought them all up, and soon her work was on display in New York. Amazingly, she became a sensation. She had her first one-woman show at the age of 80, and her paintings became displayed in magazines and on many products. The public could not get enough of her art, and Grandma Moses complied by producing lots more. You might think that someone who did not begin painting until her late 70s would not have had much of a career, but Grandma was not only a prolific painter, she lived to be 101. Item 51 is a letter Mrs. Moses wrote to Louis Caldor, the dealer who discovered her, and her letter, like her paintings, can be described as “primitive.” She writes, “Dear Mr. Caldor, was tired the night that you were here and could not think fast. But have been thinking sence if you...realy wants some more of my paintings for a exibet, I could paint two or three large ones like those I;m doing for my children...I would do them on hard board and fram them...” $2,500. Sale price $1,750.

After a heartwarming story like that, we have to tell one that is not nearly so pleasant. Henry Clay was one of America's leading political figures of the first half of the 19th century. He was a great orator, and his ability to get people to work together earned him the name of the “Great Compromiser.” Twice he led Congress to compromises over the contentious slavery issue, the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which led to decades of peace, and the Compromise of 1850, which only worsened a rapidly deteriorating situation. Along the way, Clay ran for President three times, in 1824, 1832, and 1844. The last time, he came close, but not quite. Item 21 is a document Clay wrote in 1827, and it's not exactly what you like to see from a great statesman. Clay came from Kentucky, where slavery was allowed, and he owned slaves. In this document, he seeks to get a refund for a slave he purchased for $117. That was a low price for a slave, but the slave, named Jude, was an older woman. However, Clay maintained that he was led to believe she was nevertheless a hearty and healthy woman. Clay writes, “Since the sale and payment of the purchase money, [I] have discovered that the said slave is entirely unsound and diseased, so much so as to be worthless.” If Clay possessed any human compassion, it is certainly absent from this writing. Jude was nothing but a defective piece of property in his eyes. $3,500. Sale price $2,450.

Rare Book Monthly

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