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>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 54. Fanciful engraving of earth's interior with magma core and errupting volcanoes (1682). $1500 to $1800.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 165. Rare state of Jefferys' influential map of New England in contemporary color (1755). $8000 to $9500.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 177. Mouzon's foundation map of the Carolinas (1775). $10000 to $13000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 183. Very rare first state of De Fer's map of the Lower Mississippi Valley (1715). $20000 to $25000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 253. Scarce Scottish edition based on Ellicott's plan of Washington, D.C. (1796). $2400 to $3000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 313. Stunning view of Philadelphia by John Bachmann (1850). $3250 to $4250.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 338. Rare Civil War map based on Bucholtz map of Virginia (1862). $9500 to $12000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 667. First map to accurately show Luzon in Philippines (1590). $6000 to $7500.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 682. Rare map of Shanghai International Settlement published just after WWI (1918). $7000 to $9000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 738. Coronelli's superb map of the Pacific showing the Island of California (1697) Est. $2400 - $3000
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 743. A cornerstone piece in the mapping of Australia and New Zealand (1726) Est. $6000 - $7500
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 781. An uncommon signature during Jefferson's Governorship of Virginia (1779) Est. $9500 - $11000
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Ronald Reagan. Series of 37 letters to Senator George Murphy, and related material, 1968-90. £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Chaim Weizmann. Autograph letter signed, to General Sir Gilbert Clayton, 6 September 1918. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Sir Winston Churchill. Autograph letter signed, to Pamela, Lady Lytton, 1942. £20,000 to $30,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Oscar Wilde. Five autograph letters signed, to Alsager Vian, 1887. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Napoleon I. Letter signed to Admiral Ganteaume, ordering the invasion of England, 22 August 1805. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Horatio, Viscount Nelson, and Emma Hamilton. Two autograph letter signed, to Catherine and George Matcham, 1805. £6,000 to £8,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Frances Palmer, <i>Battle of Buena Vista,</i> chromolithograph, New York, 1847. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma, the earliest publication concerned solely with chocolate, first edition, Madrid, 1631. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Romans Bernard, <i>An Exact View of the Late Battle at Charlestown, June 17th, 1775,</i> engraving, 1776. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> <i>A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston,</i> English edition, London, 1770. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> William Soule, <i>Lodge of the Plains Indians,</i> albumen print, 1872. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Manuscript document to enforce New York’s “Agreement of Non-Importation” during the heyday of the Sons of Liberty, New York, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Clarence Mackenzie, <i>Drummer Boy of the 13th Regiment of Brooklyn,</i> salt print with applied color, 1861. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Moses Lopez, <i>A Lunar Calendar,</i> first Jewish calendar published in America, Newport, RI, 1806. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b><br>The Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $30,000 to $40,000.

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