Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - April - 2006 Issue

Important Signed Documents and Autographs from The Raab Collection

George Washington plays debt collector to Robert Morris on cover of Raab catalogue 52.


By Michael Stillman

Just released is Catalogue 52 from The Raab Collection. Raab offers autographs, manuscripts, and other signed items. Most signers are either household names or people who played important roles in history. Many documents touch on major historical events. While most of the personalities represented are American, that is not a limitation. Raab offers signed items from a couple of British queens (Victoria and the current Elizabeth), and a man who is French and yet also American (Lafayette). Here are a couple of the fascinating signed documents Raab is offering this month.

Some letters are difficult to write, and this one must have pained George Washington immensely. It was written to Robert Morris, a patriot who had helped Washington during the Revolution, and grew to be America's largest landowner. As something of a financial wizard, he raised funds during the war, including those necessary to help Washington move his troops south to Yorktown for the decisive victory. At times he even took out personal loans to finance the cause. After the war, Morris, a believer in western expansion, purchased vast sums of land on the frontier. At one time he controlled 8 million acres, borrowing everywhere he could to speculate in the new land. He also purchased 7,000 lots on credit in the newly developing Federal City, a favorite project of Washington that would, in a few years, bear his name. Unfortunately, Morris was stretched thin, and when it came time to pay for the lots, he lacked the funds. The District Commissioners prevailed upon the President to write his friend Morris, urging payment. Washington did, and Morris provided assurances he would pay up shortly, but failed to do so. That led to this signed second letter from Washington to Morris, item 3 in the Raab catalogue. In it, a more terse Washington says, "I can add nothing...that was not contained in a former letter from me to you on the same subject. But I would thank you for letting me know what answer I shall return to the Commissioners of the Federal city. Their credit, I know, has been stretched to the utmost limits..." The letter is dated December 3, 1795. It is priced at $68,000. Morris would respond four days later explaining he did not have the money, but was attempting to raise it. Raab notes that this event chilled the longtime friendship between Washington and Morris, and there apparently was very little communication between the two old comrades in the remaining years of Washington's life.

Item 5 is the letter that notified Thomas Johnson that he had been appointed just the sixth justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Johnson had nominated George Washington to be commander-in-chief of the Continental Army in 1775, and organized and personally led a militia to support Washington when he was in difficult straits early in the war. Therefore, it was not surprising that Washington would nominate this former Maryland governor, judge, and member of the Maryland convention that ratified the Constitution to the federal bench. Washington's nomination of Johnson was quickly ratified by the Senate, and on November 10, 1791, he received this letter notifying him of his appointment. The letter is signed by then Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. $38,000. As it turned out, Johnson didn't much like the job which, at the time, required much circuit riding, and resigned just 14 months later. However, he did write the first recorded U.S. Supreme Court decision, in Georgia vs. Brailsford.

Rare Book Monthly

  • 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.
  • 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

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