Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - March - 2012 Issue

The American Revolution in Manuscripts from Joe Rubinfine

Manuscripts from the American Revolution.

Joe Rubinfine American Historical Documents has published their List 169. The American Revolution. A Catalog of Manuscripts. Manuscripts by their nature are very rare, usually being one of a kind pieces. However, those pertaining to the American Revolution as a category are hard to come by. They were not produced in particularly large numbers, and their high collectibility took many out of the market a long time ago. A selection such as those offered by Rubinfine is not easy to come by. They range from an occasional soldier's letter all the way to those written by George Washington during the Revolution. Along the way, we find many others from the generals and other officers who commanded the troops, and occasionally one from a political or diplomatic figure. This is a catalogue that will be appreciated by anyone who focuses on the American Revolution. Here are a few samples.

Which American Revolutionary War General is best known today besides George Washington? Sad to say it probably isn't Nathanael Greene, Horatio Gates, or similar noted patriotic leaders of that time. The “honor,” such as it is, undoubtedly belongs to Benedict Arnold. He achieved his notability/notoriety for all the wrong reasons. His name, to Americans, is synonymous with “traitor.” Arnold, at one time a brave though difficult commander for the Americans, turned coat for money, passing vital secrets to the British. He was finally caught as he attempted to turn over West Point to the enemy, just managing to escape behind British lines ahead of capture. Item 5 is a pass signed by Arnold on May 8, 1776, when he was still one of America's loyal military leaders during an unsuccessful attempt to capture Canada. From Montreal, he signs a pass permitting one Josiah Blakely, a trader from New Haven, to proceed to Albany. It was a similar pass that Arnold would issue four years later to British spy John Andre in his unsuccessful attempt to cross American lines that revealed Arnold's treachery. $6,500.

Arnold was seriously injured during the unsuccessful campaign in Quebec, but he could have done worse. Item 19 is a letter from General Horatio Gates, sending General John Thomas his orders to proceed to Quebec to lead the American forces. Gates notes that Washington “sincerely wishes you a Pleasant Journey & all imaginable Health & Success...” Washington clearly had no idea what was going on in Canada. Thomas arrived to find only a small, outnumbered, bedraggled force remaining, with smallpox running rampant. He had no choice but to order a retreat. Not only did he not achieve the wished for “success,” he was not able to maintain his health either. Thomas was stricken with smallpox and died on June 2, 1776, a few weeks after his arrival. $17,500.

Benedict Arnold was certainly guilty of treason, but another American suspected of that crime was Nathan Hale. NO! Not that Nathan Hale. This was the other Nathan Hale, an officer from New Hampshire. This Hale had surrendered his small command of soldiers to an even smaller British detachment. Hale had returned home after being placed on parole by the British after his capture. He was then taken into custody by the Americans. In this letter from 1777, Goose van Schaick, an American officer, writes General Gates, “As the charge against the Colo. is of the highest nature, Viz high Treason I have tho't proper to confine him in the Fort, where he will remain, 'till your further Pleasure is known...” Evidently, Gates must have forgotten about Hale as no further action was taken against him. Ultimately, under the terms of his parole, Hale returned to his British captors and died there three years later. Item 55. $1,500.

Item 42 is another permission slip, sort of an excused absence from his Pennsylvania regiment granted a Lieutenant Wallace. The permission comes from “Lord Stirling,” as General William Alexander was known. It was signed by his 17-year-old volunteer Aid de Camp. It is one of the earlier signed documents available from the the young man. It is signed “Jas. Monroe Aid de Camp.” It was signed in 1778. Just under four decades later, James Monroe would be elected President of the United States, the last of the revolutionary generation to serve in that office. $6,500.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Bonhams, July 15-25: THE AUTOGRAPH COLLECTION OF ISRAEL WITKOWER. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: GEORGE WASHINGTON SIGNED DISCHARGE. June 9, 1783. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: "Shhhhh!" A DAVID SHANNON ILLUSTRATION FROM DAVID GETS IN TROUBLE. $2,500 - $3,500
    Bonhams, July 15-25: PICASSO, PABLO. Le Carmen des Carmen. Paris, 1964. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: RARE AUTOGRAPH OF AMERICAN NAVAL HERO CAPTAIN JAMES MUGFORD. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: KARA WALKER SILHOUETTES FOR TONI MORRISON'S FIVE POEMS. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: FIRST APPEARANCE OF PINOCCHIO IN ENGLISH. COLLODI, CARLO.New York, 1892. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: BONAPARTE, JOSEPHINE. Autograph Note (unsigned) in French. $1,000 - $1,500
    Bonhams, July 15-25: FROST ON MATTHEW ARNOLD.Autograph Letter Signed to Adams, July 27, 1934. $800 - $1,200
    Bonhams, July 15-25: ELIAS BOUDINOT'S COPY OF BARLOW'S COLUMBIAN EPIC. $800 - $1,200
    Bonhams, July 15-25: A SIGNED HART CRANE BROOKLYN BRIDGE POSTCARD TO EDWARD DAHLBERG. $600 - $800
    Bonhams, July 15-25: A STOCK CERTIFICATE SIGNED BY THE "QUEEN OF WALL STREET," HETTY GREEN. $700 - $900
  • Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: U.S. / European Shipping Archive 1800-1814. The Widow Bermingham & Sons Collection. €7,000 to €10,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Bunreacht na hÉireann. Constitution of Ireland. An important copy of the First Printing of De Valera’s new Constitution, approved in 1938. Signed by the Constitution Cabinet. €7,000 to €9,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: A Rare Complete Run of the Cuala Press Broadsides. €7,000 to €9,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Grose (Francis). The Antiquities of Ireland, 2vols. folio London (for S. Hooper) 1791. Magnificent Hand-Coloured Copy - Only 25 Copies. €3,000 to €5,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Cantillon (Richard). Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en General, Traduit de l'Anglois, Sm. 8vo London (Fletcher Gyles) 1756. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Gregory, (Lady Augusta). Spreading the News: The Rising of the Moon: The Poorhouse (with Douglas Hyde). Being Vol. IX of the Abbey Theatre Series. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Lavery (Lady Hazel). A moving series of three A.L.S. and a Telegram to Gen. Eoin O'Duffy, July-August 1927, expressing her grief at the death of Kevin O'Higgins. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Dampier (Wm.) Nouveau Voyage Autour du Monde, ou l'on descrit en particulier l'Isthme de l'Amerique…, 2 vols. in one, Amsterdam, 1698. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Howell (James). Instructions for Forreine Travel Shewing by what Cours, and in what Compasse of Time…, London, 1642. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Rowling (J.K.) Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, 8vo, L. (Bloomsbury) 1999, First Edn., First Printing of Deluxe Collectors Edn. Signed. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: James (Wm.) A Full and Correct Account of the Military Occurrences of The Late War Between Great Britain and The United States of America. 2 vols. Lond. 1818. €650 to €900.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: The Laws of the United States, Published by Authority, 3 vols. Philadelphia (Richard Folwell) 1796. €600 to €800.
  • Sotheby’s, July 11: Galileo, Document annotated and signed by Galileo, dated Padua, 1595. £500,000 to £700,000.

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