Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - June - 2009 Issue

Signed American Documents from Joe Rubinfine

Lincoln's letter to Herald publisher on cover of Joe Rubinfine's latest catalogue.


By Michael Stillman

Joe Rubinfine of Cocoa, Florida, has published his List 163 of American Historical Autographs. Most of these autographs come on letters or other written documents, and most are from important leaders, either political or military. Collectors of presidential documents will find no shortage of interesting material here. However, there are also a few items from outside of these parameters, such as letters home from Revolutionary and Civil War soldiers, or letters from scientists and aviation pioneers, even poets. Here are a few of these firsthand looks at America from the 17th to the 19th century.

Item 18 is a remarkable collection of autographs from Connecticut at the dawn of the Revolution. The Connecticut Assembly was called together on July 1, 1775, to respond to an urgent request from her sister colony of Massachusetts. The Battle of Bunker Hill had taken place just two weeks prior, and the Massachusetts patriots had been driven from their ground, though at a very high cost to the British army. The British actions only served to make other colonists angry, and the Connecticut Assembly voted to send two regiments along with financial aid and ammunition to their neighbor. At the end of the day, the assemblymen had to take care of a pecuniary matter, payment for their attendance. Each attendee received around two pounds, the amounts varying, most likely because of the distance traveled. This document is a receipt of their payments, signed by 155 members of the Assembly, as Rubinfine notes, a "Who's Who" of Connecticut political leaders in 1775. Priced at $2,000.

Item 4 is the appointment of a foreign envoy, but it was of great importance to the newly self-declared independent nation. On January 30, 1778, the French government issued this official appointment of Conrad Alexandre Gerard as envoy to the United States. It was the first such appointment of an envoy to the U.S. by any nation and displayed recognition of its independence by a foreign power. Shortly thereafter, Gerard would sign treaties with the United States, which were signed by Benjamin Franklin and others representing America. This appointment is signed by Gravier de Vergennes, the French foreign minister, who was happy to stick it to the British, and by King Louis XVI's secretary on his behalf. $50,000.

The early French treaty with America included a secret provision, kept hidden so as not to tell the British. It provided for Spain, France's ally, to align itself with France and America through this treaty. When John Jay joined the Continental Congress and was quickly chosen as its leader in early 1778, the Continental Congress' Secretary, Charles Thomson, wrote out a copy of the secret provision to be given to Jay. Item 5 is this copy. $6,500.

Benjamin Rush was one of America's "Founding Fathers," a physician, educator, and writer, as well as a devoutly religious man and great humanitarian. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, a member of the Continental Congress, and was the man who years later brought about the reconciliation between the nation's second and third presidents, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Rush's strong principles led him to oppose slavery and capital punishment. In this letter to an unidentified recipient, dated July 9, 1803, Rush expresses his happiness that several states have abolished capital punishment. Writes Rush, "May the time come soon, when man everywhere shall cease not only to be the 'greatest foe of man!' but feel that the most degraded & the most guilty individual of his Species, is an unfortunate brother!" He goes on to say, citing the advice of an "Old Clergyman," "Continue my dear Sir your labors for the benefit of your fellow citizens. 'Do all the good you can, - expect to be persecuted for doing good, and learn to rejoice in persecution'..." Still good advice. Item 11. $7,500.

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
  • Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [RUTH, George Herman “Babe” (1895-1948)]. Signed photograph. Circa 1930s. 191 x 248 mm. $1,500 to $2,500.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: HARRISON, Benjamin. Document signed (“Benj Harrison”) as governor of Virginia, certifying the service of Daniel Cumbo, a Black Revolutionary soldier. $6,000 to $9,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: ONE OF THE FIRST PRINTED ANNOUNCEMENTS OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. $4,000 to $6,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: FIRST PRINTING OF LINCOLN’S IMMORTAL GETTYSBURG ADDRESS. $4,000 to $6,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: HIGHLY IMPORTANT MORMON ARCHIVE. ALLEY, George. Archive of 23 Autograph Letters Signed by Mormon Convert George Alley to His Brother Joseph Alley. $10,000 to $20,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [AVIATION]. [ARMSTRONG, Neil A.] Aviation Hall of Fame Gold Medal MS64 NGC, Awarded to Neil Armstrong in 1979. $2,000 to $3,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: NEWLY DISCOVERED FIRST PRINTING OF "WITH MALICE TOWARDS NONE... " FROM THE ONLY NEWSPAPER ACTUALLY ALLOWED TO PARTICIPATE IN LINCOLN’S SECOND INAUGURAL PROCESSION. $4,000 to $8,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: THE MOST IMPORTANT GEORGE WASHINGTON DOCUMENT IN PRIVATE HANDS; GEORGE WASHINGTON’S COMMISSION AS COMMANDER IN CHIEF, 1775, ONE OF ONLY TWO ORIGINALS. $150,000 to $250,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: A VERY RARE ACCOUNT OF BLACKBEARD’S DEATH AND ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PIRATE ITEMS EXTANT. $3,000 to $5,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: EDISON, Thomas. Patent for Edison’s Improvements on the Electric-Light, No. 219,628. [Washington, D.C.: U.S. Patent Office], 16 September 1879. $2,000 to $3,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [VIETNAM WAR]. The original pen used by Secretary of State William P. Rogers to sign the Vietnam Peace Agreement, Paris, 27 January 1973. $10,000 to $15,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: SONS OF LIBERTY FOUNDER COLONEL BARRÉ ANNOTATED TITLE-PAGE, “WHICH OUGHT TO ROUSE UP BRITISH ATTENTION”. $4,000 to $6,000.
  • Swann, Apr. 11: Lot 80: Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote (El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha), Madrid: Por Juan de la Cuesta, 1608. $80,000 to $120,000.
    Swann, Apr. 11: Lot 239: J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, First London Paperback Edition, London, 1997. $6,000 to $8,000.
    Swann, Apr. 11: Lot 221: Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, New York, 1985. $6,000 to $8,000.
    Swann, Apr. 11: Lot 281: Napoleon Bonaparte, Sloane, William Milligan, Life of Napoleon Bonaparte, New York, 1896. $25,000 to $35,000.
    Swann, Apr. 11: Lot 147: Christoph Jacob Trew, Plantae Selectae quarum Imagines ad Exemplaria Naturalia, Nuremberg, 1750-73. $30,000 to $50,000.
    Swann, Apr. 11: Lot 125: Guido de Monte Rochen, Manipulus Curatorum, London, 1509. $10,000 to $15,000.
    Swann, Apr. 11: Lot 197: William Faulkner, Turn About, Ottawa, 1939. $8,000 to $10,000.
    Swann, Apr. 11: Lot 159: Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, London, 1844. $6,000 to $8,000.
    Swann, Apr. 11: Lot 119: Niccolo Machiavelli, The Works, London, 1675. $6,000 to $8,000.
    Swann, Apr. 11: Lot 45: Book of Hours in Latin, Use of Rome, illuminated with miniatures, Lyon, circa 1475-1500. $40,000 to $60,000.

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