Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - August - 2008 Issue

Signed Documents From Two Centuries of Important Leaders from The Raab Collection

Raab58

John Hancock's "John Hancock" graces the cover of the latest Raab catalogue.


By Michael Stillman

The Raab Collection just released Catalog 58, their latest collection of autographed documents. These are mostly from American signers, with a notable concentration of U.S. presidents. Not to be namedroppers, but those names include Jefferson, Madison, J.Q. Adams, Jackson, W.H. Harrison, Lincoln, Grant, both Roosevelts, Taft, Wilson, Coolidge, Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, Kennedy, L.B. Johnson, Reagan, and G.H.W. Bush. There's even a Benjamin Harrison, but not the one who was president. It's from his great-grandfather who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Non-Americans include Victor Hugo, Enrico Caruso, Lafayette and Scottish bacteriologist and discoverer of penicillin Alexander Fleming (just to prove the latter didn't know everything about good health, the inscribed photograph show Fleming holding a cigarette).

Along with the most thorough descriptions imaginable of these items, images, and an explanation of their historical setting, the catalogue discusses other matters important to collectors, such as the care of manuscripts and how the market prices them. Here are a few of the items being offered.

We'll start with item 1, pictured on the cover. There is no more famous American autograph than this one. The man's name has become synonymous with a signature. On February 7, 1777, John Hancock wrote to fellow signer of the Declaration of Independence Robert Morris concerning some money to be sent to two American officer prisoners of war. Early in the Revolution, American troops had been overrun by the British in New York with thousands taken prisoner. Their conditions were deplorable, and there was not a whole lot the cash-strapped patriots could do but provide a small amount of help. Hancock has signed the letter with his flourished signature, same as on the Declaration. Priced at $50,000.

The greatest non-American American hero must be the Marquis de Lafayette. A young Frenchman of noble upbringing, he traveled to America while still in his teens to join Washington and the patriots' cause. He fought and led his men bravely through several battles before returning to France to drum up support in that nation for the American cause. In 1779, he wrote from France to Dr. John Cochrane, George Washington's personal physician, nicknamed by Washington "Dr. Bones." Cochrane, on Washington's instruction, had treated Lafayette when the latter was wounded. Lafayette expresses his love for America, appreciation for "Dr. Bones," and his hope at returning to America soon. However, Lafayette is not all seriousness, as he closes with, "...whenever I meet with carousing, hollering, and drinking, I call again to my mind the happy days you have past in Boston..." Boston hasn't changed much in the past couple centuries. Item 2. $25,000.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.

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