Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - December - 2004 Issue

American Historical Autographs From Joseph Rubinfine

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American Historical Autographs from Joe Rubinfine.


By Michael Stillman

Joseph Rubinfine's
List 152 is described as a collection of American Historical Documents. These are documents running from the late 18th century to the early 20th, and the great majority are from names everyone knows. They range from the most collectible of American autographs, such as Washington and Lincoln, to those not quite so weighty, like Van Buren and both presidential Harrisons. This is certainly a worthy catalogue for those who collect important American autographs.

Item 22 is an interesting Washington letter as it comes from the in-between period, post Revolution but prior to his being elected president. So what was the father of his country doing then? Well, one thing he was doing was managing his farm. On August 22, 1785, he wrote a lengthy letter to Bataille Muse, who was Washington's agent for collecting rents. In it Washington speaks of the amount he is willing to pay for wheat, including a lengthy discussion of determining a fair price. In it, you see a glimpse of the principles which guided his actions. Washington is determined not to pay more than the market price being charged in Alexandria, taking care to note that a couple of bushels sold at a premium because someone was in a hurry does not constitute market value. On the other hand, Washington makes it clear he is not looking for any bargains either, just a fair price. Referring to the market price, Washington writes, "My prices are always governed by the Alexandria cash market - for I will neither give more, nor expect it for less." Priced at $35,000.

Item 19 is a letter you will never see from a politician today. Benjamin Franklin was just too honest. This is a cover letter for a recommendation for Dr. Thomas Ruston, along with an apology for oversleeping and missing him in the morning. States Franklin, "Excuse my not seeing you this morning, I was heavy to Sleep having taken a large Dose of Opium last Evening." No, that excuse would not fly in political circles today. This letter was written in 1789 and in the later stages of his life, Franklin used opium to relieve severe arthritic pain. $35,000.

General William Tecumseh Sherman is best remembered for two things: his "March to the Sea" through Georgia, and his steadfast refusal to run for president despite attempts to draft him for such a run. In 1884, he issued what has become known as the "Sherman Statement," the ultimate promise not to run. That statement has been slightly adjusted to "If nominated I will not run; if elected I will not serve." However, Sherman's disdain for politics and unwillingness to be involved goes back much earlier than that. Here is a letter from 1868, 16 years prior to his famous declaration, to H.W. Slocum, who commanded Sherman's left wing in his "March to the Sea." Among his quotes are, "As to politics it is impossible for language to convey my distaste of them." And then there's, "I have seen Fear, Cowardice, treachery, villainy in all its shapes contort & twist mens judgment & actions, but none of them like Politics." Some things never change. And finally, "They have tried to rope me in more than once, but I have kept out and shall do so, as long as I can & then I hope I shall die before what little fame I have is lost and swept away...." Sherman would prove to be faithful to his ideals the remaining 20 years of his life, though he quite likely could have been president if he wanted. Item 1. $4,000.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Ronald Reagan. Series of 37 letters to Senator George Murphy, and related material, 1968-90. £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Chaim Weizmann. Autograph letter signed, to General Sir Gilbert Clayton, 6 September 1918. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Sir Winston Churchill. Autograph letter signed, to Pamela, Lady Lytton, 1942. £20,000 to $30,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Oscar Wilde. Five autograph letters signed, to Alsager Vian, 1887. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Napoleon I. Letter signed to Admiral Ganteaume, ordering the invasion of England, 22 August 1805. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Horatio, Viscount Nelson, and Emma Hamilton. Two autograph letter signed, to Catherine and George Matcham, 1805. £6,000 to £8,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Frances Palmer, <i>Battle of Buena Vista,</i> chromolithograph, New York, 1847. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma, the earliest publication concerned solely with chocolate, first edition, Madrid, 1631. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Romans Bernard, <i>An Exact View of the Late Battle at Charlestown, June 17th, 1775,</i> engraving, 1776. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> <i>A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston,</i> English edition, London, 1770. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> William Soule, <i>Lodge of the Plains Indians,</i> albumen print, 1872. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Manuscript document to enforce New York’s “Agreement of Non-Importation” during the heyday of the Sons of Liberty, New York, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Clarence Mackenzie, <i>Drummer Boy of the 13th Regiment of Brooklyn,</i> salt print with applied color, 1861. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Moses Lopez, <i>A Lunar Calendar,</i> first Jewish calendar published in America, Newport, RI, 1806. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b><br>The Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <center><b>Gonnelli Auction House<br>Books and Graphics<br>19th, 20th and 21st April 2021</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br>Atlases and Maps</b
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br> Veneto and Venice, a Selection of Books from the XVI to XX century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br></b>Rossini Gioachino, Baguette de chef d'orchestre appartenuta a Gioachino Rossini, dono del Comune di Passy. 1500 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Manetti Saverio, Storia naturale degli uccelli trattata con metodo. Cinque volumi. 1767. 18.000 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Poe Edgar Allan, Double assassinat dans la rue morgue. Illustrations de Cura. 1946.
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>

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