Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - November - 2012 Issue

American Revolution Era Signed Documents from Joe Rubinfine

Latest Rubinfine catalogue with letter from Washington to Franklin on the cover.

Joe Rubinfine recently released his List 171 of American Historical Autographs. This selection brings us back to the time of the American Revolution. They range from the days just before the Declaration of Independence, when a few of the colonies were already in open rebellion, to the early days of the new republic. Most signed documents fall into three categories: notable leaders, such as Washington, Hancock, Franklin and Adams; generals and other military leaders (and a few enlisted men); and signers of the Declaration of Independence (or Constitution). These are the patriots who earned America her independence the hard way, although, there are a few traitors in here as well, or people who were at one time on one side of the aisle, but ended up on the other. There is much in the way of important and collectible material to be found, such as these examples which follow.

We will start with a truly amazing piece of American history. It connects three of the greatest names from the American Revolution – Washington, Franklin, and Lafayette. It was written by George Washington on December 28, 1778, from Philadelphia, where he was meeting with Congress. He writes to Benjamin Franklin in Paris, who was serving as America's Minister to France. The letter is an introduction for Lafayette, still a young man of 22, but a trusted aide of Washington. With France now going to war with Britain, Lafayette wanted to serve his own country, but also wanted to round up more aid for America back home. “It is with pleasure that I embrace the opportunity of introducing to your personal acquaintance a Gentm whose merit cannot have left him unknown to you by reputation,” writes Washington. He notes that Lafayette's “Zeal, Military ardour & talents...have endeared him to America, and must recommend him to his Prince.” On a personal note, Washington adds that he wishes to “endulge my own feelings to add that I have a very particular friendship for him...” While in France, Lafayette would work with Franklin to obtain more aid and to send French forces headed by Rochambeau to assist the Americans, before returning himself to America for the successful conclusion of the war. It is unlikely any other foreign citizen has ever been as honored in America as Lafayette. Item 2. Priced at $250,000.

Lafayette was not the only person to cross the Atlantic to assist the Americans. Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, most often known as “Baron” von Steuben, was a Prussian military officer who came to America on a recommendation, this time the recommendation flowing from Franklin to Washington. Von Steuben volunteered his services to Washington at Valley Forge, where the latter's ragtag army was barely surviving the brutal winter. Von Steuben took on the task of training the Americans into a real army, teaching discipline and techniques unknown by Washington's volunteers. It must have been a trying time for both von Steuben, speaking little English, and his pupils, but with help from translators, along with young Alexander Hamilton and General Nathanael Greene, he turned the Americans into a serious fighting force. After the war, von Steuben remained in America, became a citizen, and was granted property and a pension for his services. One of his properties was in Herkimer County in upstate New York. On March 27, 1793, von Steuben wrote to Peter Smith, “As the season is now advancing in which I retire to your neighbourhood, I address myself to you to assist me in arranging the necessaries for my summer residence.” Von Steuben was 62 years old at this time and died the following year. Like Lafayette, the “Baron” is still a highly honored historic figure in America. Item 43. $1,500.

Taxes have never been beloved by the American public. We want the services; we just don't want to pay for them. Item 16 is a letter from one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, George Clymer of Pennsylvania, from 1787. He expresses the opinion that if more taxes are necessary, they cannot be raised in Pennsylvania. He explains, “I do not say that the people cannot bear greater burthens, but if they will not 'tis nearly the same thing, for they are an Ass that will not travel with a greater load than what he is pleased himself to take up....it is vain to beat or to reason with the animal.” $8,500.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    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
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    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:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    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
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    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:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    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
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    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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