Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - July - 2009 Issue

Historic Autographed Documents from The Raab Collection

Raab60

Signed documents from the Raab Collection.


By Michael Stillman

The Raab Collection has issued Catalog 60 of autographs and signed documents. They are all signed by notable personalities, and most pertain to some event of historic significance. Raab's catalogues are particularly helpful as they provide a wealth of background for most items. You will learn a lot of history, along with being introduced to some of the documentation of the events described. Here are a few of the items available this time.

Item 7 is a rare, likely unique survival from the first congress of the United States. Those who were elected to serve in that first congress in 1789 were required to bring credentials from home, establishing their bona fides. Those who were selected to the Senate or House of Representatives turned theirs over to the Clerk. The Clerk of the Senate retained his credentials, which have since been turned over to the National Archives. Unfortunately, the Clerk of the House tossed his away after they were received. The result is that it appeared none had survived. However, one representative, George Thatcher, who represented Massachusetts (the far northern part of the state which today is Maine) must have asked for his back as a souvenir. Item 7 is Thatcher's credentials, and thorough searching indicates that it is the only such set still extant. The Massachusetts credentials are particularly desirable as they are signed with one of the most collectible of all signatures, that of Governor John Hancock. Priced at $75,000.

One name associated with proper, if not prudish behavior, is that of Britain's most majestic Majesty, Queen Victoria. One might not expect it of this very proper lady, but she was totally in love with and devoted to her husband, Prince Albert. Albert is not associated with great public achievements, though he did much to keep England out of America's Civil War when certain incidents with the Union could have pushed the two nations into war. The great tragedy of the Queen's life was that Albert died young, just 42 years of age. She spent the remaining 40 years of her life in mourning, wearing black, and keeping his rooms in various residences as they were during his lifetime, even having fresh linen and hot water brought daily. Item 18 is a set of the five-volume biography, The Life of His Royal Highness the Prince Consort. Four of the volumes in this set are inscribed by Victoria to John Tulloch, a prominent Scottish churchman. $4,000.

When Albert Einstein first arrived on the shores of America in 1930, he was accompanied by author Hendrik Willem Van Loon. His first address to Americans, while still shipboard, was introduced to the radio audience by Van Loon. In gratitude, Einstein gave the author a memento with his image, and wrote a poem specifically to Van Loon at the bottom. Don't expect great poetry. Longfellow couldn't write about relativity, so Einstein shouldn't be judged by his poetry. Here it is:

"Perfect in English is Herr Loon.
Bravely helped me to the microphone.
Others would be far more befuddled,
Yet he 'really has his act together.'"

Does that even rhyme? Item 53. $7,500.

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