Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - October - 2007 Issue

American Historical Documents and Signatures from Joe Rubinfine

Document signed by Washington and Jefferson on cover of Joe Rubinfine's latest catalogue.


By Michael Stillman

Joe Rubinfine
has issued his List 160 of American Historical Autographs. Rubinfine regularly puts together top-level collections of important American signatures and documents. This catalogue is dominated by important political and military personalities, with a scattering of literary and other figures. There are presidents from Washington to Ike, generals from…well…Washington to Ike, Custer and Sioux warrior Rain In The face, writers such as Thoreau and Hawthorne, several signers of the Declaration of Independence, and a few poignant letters from widowed first ladies. Here are some samples.

Item 1, pictured on the cover of this catalogue, is a document signed by President George Washington and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson in 1793. In three languages (English, French, and Dutch) it assures every imaginable diplomat that Captain Joshua Merrill and the Brig Polly are American noncombatants engaged in peaceable trade. These were the days when the European powers were constantly either at war with one another or planning to start one. This document, signed by America's leaders, would hopefully reassure officials in St. Croix (where the ship was headed) and elsewhere the Polly was in no way connected to ongoing European hostilities. How could a ship named the Polly be warlike anyway? Priced at $22,000.

John Hancock signatures are among the most collectible of all American autographs for reasons obvious to anyone who has ever seen the Declaration of Independence. Item 9 is one of his signatures, as President of the Continental Congress, appointing Samuel Loring a Second Lieutenant in the infantry. It is dated January 1 of that famous year, 1776. $9,500.

Thomas Jefferson was not one of those presidents who became wealthy from his position. He was always battling debts, trying to find ways to pay them off. Item 14 is a letter from 1802 when he was serving as President to Dr. William Bache, Benjamin Franklin's grandson. He owed money to Franklin's grandson too. Fortunately, he is able to write Bache that his cousin, George Jefferson, has $143.33 waiting for him in Richmond. $25,000.

Documents from the presidency of William Henry Harrison are the hardest to find, Harrison surviving but one month in office. Those he signed as president are virtually impossible to find. Item 19 is the next best thing. It is a grant of land in Wisconsin to one Harvey Durkee, dated March 25, 1841, and signed with Harrison's name by his secretary, N.P. Cousin. A week later Harrison died. $1,750.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Potter (Beatrix). Complete set of four original illustrations for the nursery rhyme, 'This pig went to market', 1890s. £60,000 to £80,000.
    Forum, May 30: Dante Alighieri.- Lactantius (Lucius Coelius Firmianus). Opera, second edition, Rome, 1468. £40,000 to £60,000.
    Forum, May 30: Distilling.- Brunschwig (Hieronymus). Liber de arte Distillandi de Compositis, first edition of the so-called 'Grosses Destillierbuch', Strassburg, 1512. £22,000 to £28,000.
    Forum, May 30: Eliot (T.S.), W. H. Auden, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, Robert Lowell, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, & others. A Personal Anthology for Eric Walter White, 60 autograph poems. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum, May 30: Cornerstone of French Enlightenment Philosophy.- Helvetius (Claude Adrien). De l'Esprit, true first issue "A" of the suppressed first edition, Paris, 1758. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Szyk (Arthur). The Haggadah, one of 125 copies, this out-of-series, Beaconsfield Press, 1940. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Fleming (Ian). Casino Royale, first edition, first impression, 1953. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Japan.- Ryusui (Katsuma). Umi no Sachi [Wealth of the Sea], 2 vol., Tokyo, 1762. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Computing.- Operating and maintenance manual for the BINAC binary automatic computer built for Northrop Aircraft Corporation 1949, Philadelphia, 1949. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Burmese School (probably circa 1870s). Folding manuscript, or parabaik, from the Court Workshop at the Royal Court at Manadaly, Burma, [c.1870s]. £8,000 to £12,000.
  • Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    K. Marx, Das Kapital,1867. Dedication copy. Est: € 120,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Latin and French Book of Hours, around 1380. Est: € 25,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Theodor de Bry, Indiae Orientalis, 1598-1625. Est: € 80,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Breviary, Latin manuscript, around 1450-75. Est: € 10,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    G. B. Piranesi, Vedute di Roma, 1748-69. Est: € 60,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    K. Schmidt-Rottluff, Arbeiter, 1921. Orig. watercolour on postcard. Est: € 18,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Breviarium Romanum, Latin manuscript, 1474. Est: € 20,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    C. J. Trew, Plantae selectae, 1750-73. Est: € 28,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    M. Beckmann, Apokalypse, 1943. Est: € 50,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Ulrich von Richenthal, Das Concilium, 1536. Est: € 9,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    I. Kant, Critik der reinen Vernunft, 1781. Est: €12,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Arbeiter-Illustrierte Zeitung (AIZ) / Die Volks-Illustrierte (VI), 1932-38. Est: €8,000
  • 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

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