Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - December - 2008 Issue

History in Signed Documents from The Raab Collection

Raab59

Washington letter on the cover of the latest Raab Collection catalogue.


By Michael Stillman

We just received Catalog 59 from The Raab Collection. It reads like a 200-year political history of America. Well, not entirely. Albert Einstein was not a politician; Napoleon not an American. However, most of the items offered come from major American political figures, most of whom served as president. They range from Washington to the first President Bush, and include the great, near-great, and failures. Many of these documents pertain to important events in American history, revealing the thinking of the nation's leaders on important subjects of the day. All items are signed, and most are filled with written (or typed) text. Here are a few samples of these often important and highly collectible documents.

Item 1 is an amazing letter from George Washington which reveals the mind of the military strategist at work. It was written at Valley Forge on March 31, 1778. His dispirited troops had endured a long, bitter winter after having been chased by the British from Philadelphia the previous fall. They were outnumbered, poorly equipped, and definitely on the defensive. The cause appeared lost. While Washington fully appreciated the situation, and was not above getting dispirited himself on occasion, he here looks at the desperate situation and strategizes how to go on the offensive. He has heard that the already strong British military is sending reinforcements from New York to wipe him out. In writing to Major General Alexander McDougall, stationed north of New York, Washington says, "General Howe intends an early campaign; to take advantage of our weak state. What is to be done? We must either oppose our whole force to his, in this Quarter, or take the advantage of him in some other, which leads me to ask your opinion of the practicability of an attempt upon New York..." Figuring that even gathering all his troops at Valley Forge would not be sufficient to withstand a reinforced British assault, Washington considers attacking New York instead once the British have moved some of their troops from that city to Philadelphia. It was a clever idea to hit the British where they had let down their defenses. Ultimately, the attack on New York did not take place, as it turned out the British had transferred far fewer troops out of New York than he had initially been led to believe. Priced at $185,000.

Item 14 provides some interesting insight to President Monroe's input at the time he signed the Missouri Compromise. This was a major piece of legislation as it staved off the split in the Union for three decades. Missouri wished to enter the Union as a slave state in 1820. However, this would upset the delicate balance between slave and free states. To balance Missouri, Maine was entered as a free state. However, to avoid problems in the future, a line along Missouri's boundary was extended west. Above this line, no new states could ever have slavery. Former President Thomas Jefferson opposed this compromise, fearing, not inaccurately, that it would divide America by region, setting off regional strife. This certainly did occur in the future, though it is hardly clear that it would not have happened anyway without the Missouri Compromise. Jefferson sent a letter to Maine Congressman Mark Hill explaining his opposition. Item 14 is a letter from Monroe to Hill acknowledging that he has read, and is now returning, Jefferson's letter to Hill. So we know that Monroe was familiar with Jefferson's opposition to the Compromise, but ultimately decided to support it anyway. The Missouri Compromise would be repealed three decades later in an attempt to keep the South in the Union, but the potential extension of slavery to territories where it previously was prohibited only increased anger in the North. $8,000.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Textile of the Great White Fleet, with portraits of Theodore Roosevelt, Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans & successor Charles Stillman Sperry, 1908. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> William J. Stone, <i>Declaration of Independence,</i> Force printing, 1833. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Shugart family papers including documentation of the Underground Railroad, 63 items, 1838-81. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Records of the Dickinson & Shrewsbury salt works, over 2000 items, with extensive slave labor correspondence, legal records & receipts, bulk 1820-1865. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Gloria Steinem, typescript for her speech <i>Living the Revolution,</i> with related letters and documents, 1941-77. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> <i>Liberty Triumphant or the Downfall of Oppression,</i> depicting the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party, c. 1774. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, <i>Historia naturae, maxime peregrinae, libris XVI distincta,</i> Antwerp, 1635. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Antonio de Mayorga, manuscript map of Mexico City, 1779. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Thomas L. McKenney & James Hall, <i>History of the Indian Tribes of North America,</i> first edition, 3 volumes, Philadelphia, 1842-44. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Samuel Walker, diary of the entire first cruise of the USS Kineo, a gunboat on the Mississippi, 1854-69. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Scrapbook on early Stanford football, with letters from Walter Camp, 1893-95 & 1931. $8,000 to $12,000.
  • <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Roberts, David. Twenty Lithographs of the Holy Land, 19th Century. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Declaration by the Reps. of the United Colonies of N.A. 1775. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Composer Jerome Kern personal Letters, Albums and Other. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Paine, Thomas. <i>Common Sense,</i> London 1776. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Stowe, Harriet Beecher. <i>Uncle Tom’s Cabin,</i> Cleveland 1852. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Hobbes, Thomas. <i>Leviathan,</i> 3rd edition, London 1651. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Anno Regni Georgii III. Intolerable Acts and other Bills, 1774. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Wilberforce, William. An Abstract of the Evidence, 5 Letters, and two books. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Nightingale, Florence. Notes on Nursing and Signed Letters, ca. 1860 $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Tolstov, Leo. <i>War and Peace,</i> 5 volumes, 1886. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Dickinson, John. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1768. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Twain, Mark. <i>Tom Sawyer,</i> 1877 [and] <i>Huckleberry Finn,</i> 1885. $4,000 to $6,000.

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