Among the more than a thousand auctions in the books, manuscripts, maps, and ephemera auctions that take place every year there are some that are more important than others. Eric Caren’s 7th auction in the series, “How History Unfolds on Paper”, is one of the important ones and will be held at Bonhams in New York over the weekend of the ABAA New York Book Fair. Eric’s sales, now in their 4th year, have been ground-breaking for they are principally printed, manuscript, and photographic paper Americana, and a few European and UK items. Such sales are highly unusual and, as his previous sales have shown, important events in the great awakening to ephemera. Such material, not-so-long ago, received little attention and now warrants the same attention long given to rare books, manuscripts, and maps.
Eric rarely moves in one direction when two or more are possible so he is also an early adaptor and this is the first experience for Bonhams, in conducting an on-line only sale. Sotheby’s conducted three such sales last year and Christie’s quickly followed. Such sales look to be the new norm within 5 years.
The on-line presentation is fine but, if you have the option, also request the printed catalogue because the method in Eric’s madness is quite apparent.
So what’s available? For the answer let’s go to the official news release and then, at the end of this article click through to see the entire catalogue.
For those considering to bid contacting Bonhams early is useful. They are thorough so a little extra time is suggested.
New York- Bonhams announces the seventh installment collector Eric C. Caren's voluminous collection of How History Unfolds on Paper, an online-only sale from March 6-14, with an exhibition in the New York galleries March 7-11. The collection begins in the 17th century and covers 4 centuries of American and world history, focusing primarily on letters, documents, and printed media.
Highlighting the sale is an Albert Einstein letter written to a young U.S. Naval Officer near the end of World War II (estimate: $100,000-200,000). The young man had written to Einstein relaying a conversation he'd had with a Jesuit priest who claimed he had convinced the scientist to believe in a "supreme intellect which governs the universe." Rather than his usual cagey response, Einstein admits that he has always been an atheist, but that the world is indeed wondrous: "We have to admire in humility the beautiful harmony of the structure of the world--as far as we can grasp it. And that is all." The letter includes its original envelope, and copies of the original outgoing correspondence.
From America's pre-Revolutionary War period, two highlights include examples of patriot Paul Revere's artwork: a first issue of his famous engraving of Boston Harbor, published in a 1770 Boston almanac (estimate: $15,000-25,000); and a rare variant of his even more famous engraving of the Boston Massacre showing British soldiers firing on American colonists (estimate: $8,000-12,000).
An important Revolutionary War highlight is the military commission appointing Benjamin Lincoln as Major General of the Army of the United States, signed by John Hancock as President of the Continental Congress (estimate: $60,000-90,000). Issued in February 1777, the appointment was signed at Baltimore during the brief window of time that city served as the nation's capital. Interestingly, this appointment as Major General (one of 5 suggested by George Washington), provoked jealousy and outrage in Benedict Arnold, who was not one of the 5 promoted, and who nursed a grudge which likely led him to betray his country a short while later.
Further highlights include reportage of Alexander Hamilton's duel with Aaron Burr, providing both an account of the tragic event and printing the correspondence exchanged between the two in the run up. Most devastatingly for Burr, the paper prints Hamilton's message to his family, in which he announces his intention to throw away his shot (and make Burr look the villain) (estimate: $3,000-5000); two remarkable broadsides from the War of 1812: a Baltimore paper's first-hand account of the bombardment of Fort McHenry (estimate: $8,000-12,000), and a rare, early printing of the full lyrics of the "Star Spangled Banner" (estimate: $8,000-12,000).
The sale also offers several items of Mormon interest, including a fine copy of the 1830 first edition of the Book of Mormon (estimate: $40,000-60,000), and an 1844 letter from an early church member relaying a first-hand account of Joseph Smith's last words to his flock before his death at the hands of a mob (estimate: $10,000-15,000).
From the realm of sports, the collection offers the earliest known newspaper coverage of Babe Ruth (estimate: $6,000-9,000). In an April 4, 1914 issue of the Baltimore News, as the Babe's first professional season with the Orioles got underway, the newspaper emphasized the young player's prowess as a pitcher, not a batter, reporting that the "St. Mary's schoolboy is going to do plenty of twirling." Not long after this story appeared, Ruth was traded to the Red Sox, who would infamously trade him to the Yankees after only 2 years.
The 8th "How History Unfolds on Paper" auction of paper Americana from Eric Caren's collection will be at Heritage in Dallas, in the fall.