David Schulson Autographs has released their Catalog 152. It contains, naturally enough, autographed materials, primarily personal letters, along with signed photographs and other documents. The catalogue is divided into two sections, one of new material, the other of items that have been steeply discounted. The signers come from varied walks of life – art, music, science, government, literature, acting, and more. They are people whose names you will recognize. The material, letters in particular, however, tends to deal more with personal issues than with their fame or noted accomplishments. For example, Winston Churchill, the great politician and Britain's unbending leader during its “darkest hour,” along with being a prolific history writer, orders paints from a friend. He was also a painter. These are some of the signed items you will find inside this new Schulson catalogue.
We will start with one of the more unusual signed documents. The great photographer Ansel Adams' signature appears not on a letter or photograph or even a cancelled check. It here appears on a restaurant menu. The cover of this 1939 menu for “The Ahwahnee” restaurant in Yosemite National Park featured an Adams photograph entitled The Grizzly Giant. The “Grizzly Giant” is a very large sequoia tree in the park, one of the largest trees in the world. On the back cover of the menu is a lengthy description of the image. Below the description, Adams has signed his name. Item 1518. Sale priced at $450.
Here is that letter from the painter Winston Churchill. It was written to Willy Sax, a Swiss paint manufacturer and friend to Churchill and other painters, in 1946. Churchill had been “retired” by the voters the previous year, so he would have had a little more time on his hands. Churchill has questions about the use of Sax's tempera paint, whether it can be painted on top of oils, or oils on top of it. Churchill also orders some more tubes of paint. Churchill and Sax would continue to correspond until the latter's death in 1964. Item 1532. Sale $2,200.
Mark Twain is noted for his humorous stories, but he regularly used humor in his private letters as well. Here he writes to publisher Henry Oscar Houghton in 1890 concerning a subscription to a publication he cannot recall having placed. Writes Twain, “I can't remember about this. Of course I am not denying or repudiating the subscription; I merely have no memorandum of it, & there may be some error. I can forget things; once forgot to die; when four doctors said I was going to...” Twain has signed using his actual name, “S.L. Clemens.” Item 2216. Sale $4,125.
Here is a letter from another notable writer employing humor. This time it is A.A. Milne, but in his pre-Pooh days. Indeed, it is dated May 1, 1920, three months before the birth of his son Christopher Robin, who, along with his stuffed animals, was the inspiration for the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. At the time, Milne was a playwright, his first successful play, Mr. Pim Passed By, having opened to a run of 246 performances in London earlier that year. Writes Milne, “I don't really think that I am better than Shakespeare; it is only that 'Shakespeare and Milne' would be even more deadly than pure Milne. But I am much too proud that you like any of the play to resent your finding fault with the rest of it, and I shall be grateful for your advice...” Item 2363. $2,850.