Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2002 Issue

A Visit with Jeremy Markowitz at Swann Galleries


Markowitz puts the phenomenal framed Lindberg letter away and goes on to show me another breathtaking item. “Here we have a John Brown letter [Lot 43, also reproduced as the catalogue’s rear cover illustration]. It’s one of a series of letters that he wrote from jail. What strikes me most about this letter is its immediacy and its sense of urgency. Talking about some purported misrepresentation of his remarks, Brown writes: ‘…there is a most gross and intentional misrepresentation of them [his remarks] & had I the time I would expose them.’ Notice that these words are underlined. This letter was written just two days before Brown’s execution. With the underlining it really reads as if he is so hyper aware of just how little time he had left. We could locate only one other letter by Brown written on that day – that letter was sold at the Sang sale. There are no known Brown letters dating from the day of his execution, making this one of the last letters, possibly the last letter, he wrote from jail before dying. And this letter fits into so many overlapping Americana fields – you could buy it as a Civil War piece, a slavery or abolition piece, as African-American history, as a piece relating to reconstruction…the list goes on. In many ways I feel that John Brown is one of our great underrated American icons,” says Markowitz, a thought with which I heartily concur.

After replacing the poignant Brown letter on the shelf, Markowitz pulls out another of his favorite items. This one I salivate over too. It is Lot. 16, a 1900 letter in which Susan B. Anthony, then a very old lady, writes to Hamilton Holt, agreeing to send him an article but also suggesting that he contact her best friend and frequent collaborator Elizabeth Cady Stanton as well for her perspective. It reads in part: “…Would you not be just as well pleased with an article from Ms. Elizabeth Cady Stanton...I know she will be overflowing with recollections of our life long friendship and our half century’s work together for the emancipation & enfranchisement of women…” I ask Markowitz why this letter captures his attention. “Women’s history, I am learning, is a rapidly growing field within Americana,” he replies. “I was I must admit quite surprised that in our October sale a female Indian captivity letter sold not to a ‘traditional’ Americana collector, as it would have years ago, but to a women’s history collector.” As someone who calls myself a collector in this sub-field, I can’t agree more and I marvel over this short but sweet piece which neatly ties together two of the major feminist icons of the late nineteenth/early twentieth centuries.

Next, Markowitz tells me about another run of material in the sale that is dear to his heart. “We have this run of New York material [Lots 80-83]. A family brought it in. It had been their grandfather’s. It was lots of material, all in the original auction envelopes from the 1918’s to 1920’s. By looking at this entire run of material you really can see what this guy collected. On his own, he crafted this flawless collection of material by and about New York’s British Colonial Governors. There’s an example of the mind of a true collector at work – he just chose a narrow enough topic and collected all he could on it. It turns out that he had amazing foresight.”

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Eric Carle, <i>The Very Hungry Caterpillar,</i> hand-painted collage. Sold for a record $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Charles Addams, <i>Couple passing a giant bird house,</i> watercolor cartoon for <i>The New Yorker,</i> 1948. Sold for $16,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Miriam Troop, <i>Rain on Laundry Day,</i> oil on canvas, cover for <i>The Saturday Evening Post,</i> 1940. Sold for $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Rockwell Kent, <i>To All Fascists,</i> ink broadside for The League of American Writers, circa 1937. Sold for $6,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Jo Mielziner, <i>Pet Shop Drop,</i> backdrop design for <i>Pal Joey</i> on Broadway, 1940. Sold for a record $55,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Lee Brown Coye, acrylic cover illustration for the 25th anniversary of <i>Weird Tales,</i> 1944. Sold for $18,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Virgil Finlay, <i>The Outsider & Others,</i> pen & ink dust jacket illustration for H.P. Lovecraft's book, 1939. Sold for $5,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Al Hirschfeld, <i>Paul Robeson as Othello,</i> illustration for <i>The New York Times,</i> 1942. Sold for $68,750
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Frederic Remington, pen & ink illustration for <i>A Scout with the Buffalo Soldiers</i> in <i>The Century</i> magazine, 1889. Sold for $17,500.
  • <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> EARLY AVIATION PHOTOGRAPHY ARCHIVE. Chronicling 20th century aviation from the earliest Wright Brothers images through commercial and military applications. $50,000 to $70,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> FIRST TELEPHONE CALL TO THE MOON. Partial transcription signed by Apollo 11 astronauts and President Nixon. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> SPUTNIK-1 EMC/EMI LAB MODEL, 1957. Full scale vintage test model of the Sputnik-1 satellite, Moscow, [February, 1957]. $400,000 to $600,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> Apollo 11 Beta cloth crew emblem, SIGNED BY THE ENTIRE APOLLO 11 CREW. $8,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> GEMINI 1/8 SCALE MODEL. Rarely seen large-scale contractor's model. $3,000 to $5,000
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions