Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - October - 2004 Issue

American Historical Autographs<br>From Joseph Rubinfine

American Historical Autoraphs from Joseph Rubinfine.


By Michael Stillman

Joseph Rubinfine recently issued his "List 151" of American historical autographs. This is a wonderful collection of autographs, primarily as parts of manuscripts, some of which touch on particular historical events.

Americans enjoy greater freedoms than most peoples because the father of this nation was a most remarkable man. If power corrupts, then how do you explain George Washington? Here was a man with all the power anyone could dream of in his grasp, who instead chose to be true to his democratic principles. He subjected himself to elections, agreed to checks and balances over his authority, and when he felt it was time to move on, he let that power be transferred to others. If his signatures are a bit pricey today, it is because they deserve to be.

Of course most people think of Washington in his General-President-Father-of-his-nation role, but he was also a surveyor. That goes back a ways, but in 1750, the 18-year-old Washington was signing his documents not as "Gen." or "Pres.," but as "S.C.C." (Surveyor Culpeper County). Item 1 of the Rubinfine catalogue is a survey Washington conducted for David Edwards of 412 acres of "waste and ungranted Land" in Frederick County, Virginia. Priced at $37,500.

Item 2 is another very interesting Washington document. Written from Middlebrook, New Jersey, in 1779, with two Washington signatures (the second his frank on the address leaf), it informs General Alexander McDougall that an assistant paymaster has been sent with $400,000. It includes Washington's instructions on how the funds are to be applied. Part of it was to be used for encouraging re-enlistments. Naturally, money was less than plentiful at the time, so Washington tells McDougall, "You are so well convinced of the necessity of care and economy that I need say nothing on that head." Of course, he just did. Another great American figure also writes in this document, though his signature does not appear. Young Alexander Hamilton was an aide to Washington at the time, and the letter is actually in his handwriting. $35,000.

Here is one more Washington letter, but unlike the survey, it comes at the other end of his life, nearly 50 years later. It is a letter to Alexandria, Virginia, merchants Thompson and Veitch that came with a check for $500. He inquires about the availability of a vessel bound for England on which he can send some cured hams to a friend. The letter is dated August 30, 1799, just 3 1/2 months before Washington died. Item 4. $11,500.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
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    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
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    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD
  • Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
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    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [RUTH, George Herman “Babe” (1895-1948)]. Signed photograph. Circa 1930s. 191 x 248 mm. $1,500 to $2,500.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: HARRISON, Benjamin. Document signed (“Benj Harrison”) as governor of Virginia, certifying the service of Daniel Cumbo, a Black Revolutionary soldier. $6,000 to $9,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: ONE OF THE FIRST PRINTED ANNOUNCEMENTS OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. $4,000 to $6,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
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    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: FIRST PRINTING OF LINCOLN’S IMMORTAL GETTYSBURG ADDRESS. $4,000 to $6,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: HIGHLY IMPORTANT MORMON ARCHIVE. ALLEY, George. Archive of 23 Autograph Letters Signed by Mormon Convert George Alley to His Brother Joseph Alley. $10,000 to $20,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [AVIATION]. [ARMSTRONG, Neil A.] Aviation Hall of Fame Gold Medal MS64 NGC, Awarded to Neil Armstrong in 1979. $2,000 to $3,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
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    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: NEWLY DISCOVERED FIRST PRINTING OF "WITH MALICE TOWARDS NONE... " FROM THE ONLY NEWSPAPER ACTUALLY ALLOWED TO PARTICIPATE IN LINCOLN’S SECOND INAUGURAL PROCESSION. $4,000 to $8,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: THE MOST IMPORTANT GEORGE WASHINGTON DOCUMENT IN PRIVATE HANDS; GEORGE WASHINGTON’S COMMISSION AS COMMANDER IN CHIEF, 1775, ONE OF ONLY TWO ORIGINALS. $150,000 to $250,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: A VERY RARE ACCOUNT OF BLACKBEARD’S DEATH AND ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PIRATE ITEMS EXTANT. $3,000 to $5,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
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    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: EDISON, Thomas. Patent for Edison’s Improvements on the Electric-Light, No. 219,628. [Washington, D.C.: U.S. Patent Office], 16 September 1879. $2,000 to $3,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [VIETNAM WAR]. The original pen used by Secretary of State William P. Rogers to sign the Vietnam Peace Agreement, Paris, 27 January 1973. $10,000 to $15,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: SONS OF LIBERTY FOUNDER COLONEL BARRÉ ANNOTATED TITLE-PAGE, “WHICH OUGHT TO ROUSE UP BRITISH ATTENTION”. $4,000 to $6,000.

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