Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - August - 2008 Issue

Historic and Signed Documents from Stuart Lutz

The latest from Stuart Lutz Historic Documents.


By Michael Stillman

Stuart Lutz Historic Documents has issued a new catalogue of...exactly what you would expect. The catalogue does not have a title, but the contents can be described as, historic documents, overwhelmingly from Americans, with the vast majority signed. Being primarily signed documents, these are unique, one-of-a-kind items. Some discuss matters of great importance, others mundane concerns and formalities of the day. What ties them together is the historic roles each of these people played, whether in the arts, politics, finance, military, science, or other fields. Here are a few of these intriguing documents.

Thomas Edison was, of course, one of the giants of science, not the military. After all, he invented just about everything. However, the government asked his help during the First World War, appointing him head of the Naval Consulting Board. Naturally, they were looking to him for technological advice, not military strategy. In particular, the government looked to Edison to help devise ways of locating German U-Boats (undersea boats, or submarines). Item 37 is a January 9, 1918, signed letter from Edison to Admiral Edward Eberle. In it, Edison asks the Admiral to "please allow my assistant Mr. Silver to experiment in your laboratory for a few days until SP 192 gets out of the ice." SP 192 was a submarine patrol boat Edison was given to use, and it must have been temporarily iced in during the dead of winter, resulting in this request to use on land facilities instead. The letter contains a notation from the Admiral to another officer to grant permission to Mr. Silver. Priced at $1,500.

Well, there was one major invention of the era not attributable to Edison, and item 123 contains an amusing connection. It is an autographed letter from Thomas A. Watson to "George" explaining, "I have written the Telephone Company to put in the Telephone and Exchange and private line and have them working by June 5th." The telephone is the item Edison did not invent. It was invented by Alexander Graham Bell, and Thomas Watson was the Watson of Bell's famous instruction, "Mr. Watson. Come here; I want you." Those were the first words ever spoken over a telephone, during the year 1876. Now it was 1912, and Bell's valued assistant Thomas Watson had to apply to the phone company for service like everyone else. $900.

Item 48 connects a famous and serious American Supreme Court Justice with a strange comic performer. It is a copy of Felix Frankfurter Reminisces, a memoir by Justice Frankfurter. In it is the inscription, "for Harpo Marx, whose Susan, through the magic of her own charm, has endowed him with more charm than his own powers could generate. With the judicial and therefore sober regard of Felix Frankfurter February 8, 1962." Harpo was the mute member of the zany Marx Brothers, Susan his wife. This book is ideal for those who collect Justice Frankfurther or Harpo Marx, and perfect for anyone, should there be such a person anywhere on earth, who collects both. $750.

Rare Book Monthly

  • 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
  • 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.

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