Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - July - 2008 Issue

Spectacular Signed Documents from the Raab Collection

Catalog 57 from The Raab Collection.


By Michael Stillman

The Raab Collection has issued a spectacular new catalogue of historic manuscripts and other signed documents and autographs. While primarily American in origin, there are several British items, from names such as Winston Churchill, Benjamin Disraeli and Queen Victoria, within the pages of Catalog 57. This is a catalogue filled with the most important names in American history, Washington, Lincoln, Kennedy and the like. While government and political leaders lead this pack, there are also important names from other fields, including Edison and Martin Luther King. Then there are the personalities who crossed over multiple fields, such as President and General U.S. Grant, or Benjamin Franklin, who did almost everything. Add to that people whose importance covered multiple nations, such as Gandhi for India and England, or King George III, a British ruler who was well known, though hardly beloved, in America.

What makes the Raab catalogue extraordinary, besides the quality of material offered, is the detail in the descriptions. Each item is not only explained in detail, buts its historic setting is also fully described. Recognizing the circumstances of a letter or document can be key to understanding its meaning and significance. Raab provides complete explanations of the documents' circumstances, giving us informative history lessons along with an opportunity to own a piece of that history. Here are some of the documents they are offering.

Item 6 touches on a major event in American and British history, and it is filled with irony. It is a note from King George III, requesting a meeting to hear greater details of Cornwallis' supposedly successful campaign in America. Cornwallis had technically won the Battle of Guilford Court House on March 15, 1781, but the victory came with major troop losses. Cornwallis, believing he had conquered the more southern states, next decided to turn his attention to Virginia. He hoped to once and for all seal off the southern states, allowing the British to defeat the rebels in the north. Instead, he suffered defeat at Yorktown, which effectively ended the war. However, based on early good news, King George, in calling for a more detailed report, wrote on June 4, 1781, "The letters from Ld Cornwallis show how well he has conducted his enterprise." Priced at $17,000.

Here is a remarkable piece of ephemera I never would have believed you could buy - Martin Van Buren's passport. Van Buren was America's eighth president, Andrew Jackson's handpicked successor. He was the survivor of Jackson's cabinet upheaval during the latter's first term in office. After Jackson's split with Vice-President John C. Calhoun, and a scandal involving the wife of his Secretary of War, Jackson called on his cabinet to resign. That included Van Buren, who was Secretary of State. Van Buren, despite being a favorite of Jackson, had to go to make the housecleaning appear even-handed. Therefore, Jackson instead promptly appointed Van Buren as his ambassador to Great Britain, an extremely important and prestigious position at the time. Item 15 is the very passport Van Buren took with him to England on his new assignment. It states that Van Buren is America's "Minister Plenipotentiary" to Britain, and is signed by his successor as Secretary of State, Edward Livingston, dated August 1, 1831. Ultimately, as a result of Calhoun's maneuvering, the Senate failed to approve Van Buren's appointment, but Jackson got the last laugh. He had his ally nominated by the Democratic Party for vice-president in 1832, replacing Calhoun on the ticket. Van Buren was elected vice-president in 1832, and then as president four years later. $2,000.

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
  • 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

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