Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - April - 2004 Issue

America&#146;s History in Autographs:<br>The Latest from Steven Raab

Wash

Autographed documents from Washington, Adams, Churchill, Rochambeau and a check from John Brown


By Michael Stillman,

Steven S. Raab Autographs has released its “Catalogue 47,” another collection of signed history that can only make you wonder where they find this material. It contains 85 signed documents, primarily American, and virtually all from names that are familiar, including the likes of Washington and Lincoln. What is truly remarkable about a Raab catalogue is that he conducts detailed research to explain most of his items and places them in their historical context. The result is a fascinating look into the personal lives of many of our most important historical figures. It brings them to life as if they were contemporary personalities rather than semi-mythical figures from another age.

One of the striking things you see is what small matters routinely required the attention of people we now see as giants. For example, here’s a signed approval from Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton authorizing the purchase of two mooring chains to be used at a lighthouse. In it, Hamilton notes that he has secured the approval of the President (George Washington). The president had to approve the purchase of a couple of mooring chains? One wonders how many billions of dollars are spent today without ever rising above a mid-level bureaucrat. Item 26. $4,395.

Item 52 is one of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “binoculars” letters. During World War I, Roosevelt served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. One of his jobs was to secure binoculars for the Navy, but in those days they didn’t go out and order a bunch from L.L. Bean. No, they asked citizens to send their binoculars to the Navy to help them out. In return, donors got a nice letter from Roosevelt, a check for $1, and a promise to return the binoculars when the war was over if possible. If they were unable to do so, the $1 would represent the purchase price; if they could be returned, it would constitute a rental. I cannot imagine how Roosevelt would have been able to connect each pair of binoculars left at the War’s end with the right donor, but Roosevelt was a very clever man. While the payment was small, those who patiently held onto their letters were, in due time, rewarded for their patriotism, for Roosevelt went on to be president and his autograph is now quite valuable. Item 52 includes one of these letters, the envelope, and a check for $1. $895.

Item 56 is an even more remarkable letter from Eleanor Roosevelt, written during the Depression (1933) when she was First Lady. Evidently, a woman from the Syracuse, New York, area wrote her requesting the First Lady please help her out with a loan. Would such a request receive serious consideration today? Mrs. Roosevelt did a bit of research through the local YWCA to assure the lady making the request was honest, and once confirming that she was, wrote to a Mr. Kelly requesting he see if he could find someone in Syracuse willing to lend her the money. The First Lady then added that she would be willing to loan her a little, but could not provide the entire amount. While the concept of political figures giving away public money sounds familiar, the idea of their giving away their own sounds downright bizarre. $895.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Jean de Mandeville, <i>Reysen und Wanderschafften durch das Gelobte Land,</i> Strassburg, 1488. Sold for $106,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> José González Cabrera Bueno, <i>Navegación Especulativa, y Práctica,</i> Manila, 1734. Sold for $55,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. Sold for $65,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Louise Bourgeois, <i>He Disappeared Into Complete Silence,</i> portfolio with complete text & 9 engravings, 1947. Sold for $413,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Erich Maria Remarque, <i>All Quiet on the Western Front,</i> first American edition, Boston, 1929. Sold for $9,375.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Sir William Russell Flint, gouache & watercolor illustration for Homer's <i>Odyssey,</i> 1924. Sold for $22,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Kurt Vonnegut, archive of 12 letters, signed to his family, 6 illustrated, 1930s-40s. Sold for $12,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Oscar Wilde, <i>Lady Windermere's Fan,</i> first edition, presentation copy, signed & inscribed, London, 1893. Sold for $27,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Emil Cardinaux, <i>St. Moritz,</i> 1918. Sold for $17,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> R.J. Waters, 3 panoramas of the San Francisco earthquake & fire, 1906. Sold for $21,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Album with 200 cartes-de-visite, including images by Felice Beato, John Thompson & F.W. Sutton, Japan & China, 1863-69. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. Sold for $40,000.
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
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    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Bonhams New York: Fine Books and Manuscripts Including the World of Hilary Knight. December 5, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> KNIGHT, HILARY. The Original Portrait of Eloise that Hung at the Plaza Hotel. $100,000 to 150,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> WARHOL, ANDY. "Iced Lemon Delight," an Original Watercolor Presented to Hilary Knight's cat, Phoebe $8,000 to 12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> SENDAK, MAURICE. <i>Where the Wild Things Are.</i> PRESENTATION COPY, INSCRIBED with drawing to Hilary Knight in the month following publication. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams New York: Fine Books and Manuscripts Including the World of Hilary Knight. December 5, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> NOLAND, KENNETH. Original circle painting, untitled, acrylic and ink on cloth, for cover of monograph $8,000 to 12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> TOULOUSE-LAUTREC. <i>Histoires Naturelles,</i> 1899. With 22 original lithographs. $10,000 to 15,000
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    <b>Bonhams New York: Fine Books and Manuscripts Including the World of Hilary Knight. December 5, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> LONDON, JACK. <i>The Call of the Wild.</i> 1903. First edition, first state jacket. $2,000 to 3,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> FROST, ROBERT. Autograph Manuscript of "Build Soil," 12 pp, 1932-1936. $15,000 to 20,000
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    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> PLATH, SYLVIA. EARLY Autograph Letter Signed, about her beginnings as a writer, Northampton, MA, 1951. $7,000 to 10,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> HOUDINI, HARRY. A collection of 11 cast iron shackle and lock items from Houdini's personal collection. $20,000 to 30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> M4 ENGIMA MACHINE, with very rare RARE HYDRA KEY ENVELOPE. $400,000 to 600,000

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