Auctions | March 13, 2015

17th-Century Manuscript Qur’an, Black Panther Banner at Swann Galleries’ March 26 Auction


NEW YORK—Swann is pleased to present our annual auction devoted to Printed & Manuscript African Americana on Thursday, March 26. This impressive catalogue of material relating to the African experience in the Americas was catalogued, as it is each year, by Wyatt Houston Day.

This year’s auction includes an exceptionally rare 17th-century West African Q’uran from Timbuktu (in today’s Mali). This scared text, and other writings like it, give proof to the existence of a complex literate West African culture that began with the founding of Timbuktu in the 10th century. The manuscript volume is from the Yattara library, one of Timbuktu’s founding families, and is estimated at $40,000 to $60,000.

There are many ephemeral highlights, including exceedingly scarce periodicals. Among these are one of only two known copies of The African Sentinel and Journal of Liberty, founded by John G. Stewart in Albany, New York in 1831, which was the only African-American newspaper after the demise of the short-lived Freedom’s Journal, in 1827. It was advertised in The Liberator for March of 1831, but apparently was undersubscribed, and like its predecessor, failed to survive ($15,000 to $25,000).

In 1846, when Frederick Douglass returned from his brief exile in Great Britain he stopped by the Anti-Slavery Society’s offices in Boston, and took with him to his new home in Rochester, New York, a handful of the sheets for his Narrative. There he bound up an unknown, but small, number of copies at his North Star newspaper office, and one of only five known complete copies is in the March 26 auction ($25,000 to $35,000).


Also very scarce is a large, elaborately engraved broadside of the Thirteenth Amendment. Joint Resolution of the Thirty Eighth Congress . . . Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution . . . Abolishing Slavery, with vignettes and facsimiles of Lincoln’s signature and those of all the congressional signers ($7,000 to $10,000).

Early photographic highlights include a cased image of a runaway slave woman, California, 1860s ($10,000 to $15,000) and an exceptional Civil War-era album from the Beals family of New England, with a number of very important slavery-related carte-de-visites images, 1860s to 70s ($15,000 to $25,000).

A large selection of rare Black Panthers memorabilia includes a one-of-a-kind silkscreened cloth banner reading “Free Huey,” San Francisco, circa 1968-1969 ($4,000 to $6,000) as well as a number of early posters, publications and internal memos issued by Chairman Huey Newton dating from the group’s earliest formative period.

Among material that highlights the contributions of African Americans in the U.S. is a small but exceptional archive of Ragtime-related items from the personal collection of music historian Rudi Blesh. It includes original manuscripts for songs, such as The Lily Queen Rag, a collaboration between Arthur Marshall and Scott Joplin; a number of original photographs; three pieces of Scott Joplin's personal stationery; a first edition of Joplin's School of Ragtime, Exercises for Piano; a first edition of Joplin's opera Treemonisha and more, 1900-1910s ($7,500 to $10,000).

There is also a WWII recruitment poster by David Stone Martin, referencing the heroism of Dorie Miller, who received the Navy Cross at Pearl Harbor, with the headline, “Above and beyond the call of duty,” 1943 ($10,000 to $15,000); and an archive of correspondence and art from the collection of painter, art historian, educator and philosopher, Alain Locke, known as the Dean of the Harlem Renaissance, circa late 1920s to 1952 ($8,000 to $12,000).

The auction will take place on Thursday, March 26 at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. The items will be on public exhibition at Swann Galleries on Saturday, March 21, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.; and Monday, March 23 through Wednesday, March 25, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Groups wishing to attend the preview are requested to make advance arrangements.

An illustrated catalogue, with information on bidding by mail or fax, is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, 104 East 25 Street, New York, NY 10010, (212) 254-4710, extension 0, and can also be viewed online at

For further information, and to make advance arrangements to bid by telephone during the auction, please contact Wyatt Houston Day at (212) 254-4710, extension 300, or via email at

Live online bidding is available via

First image: Black Panthers silkscreened cloth banner, San Francisco, circa 1968-1969 (estimate: $4,000 to $6,000).

Second image: Engraved broadside of the Thirteenth Amendment, Chicago, 1868 (estimate: $7,000 to $10,000).