Auctions | June 26, 2013

Dickinson Letter, Calder Archive Top Lots at Swann Galleries May 23 Autographs Auction


NEW YORK—Writers made a good showing at Swann Galleries’ May 23 auction of Autographs, with an Autograph Letter Signed by Emily Dickinson bringing the sale’s top price at $28,800*. The cryptic missive was written circa 1881 to an unnamed recipient and includes a reference to the Biblical story of Jacob and Esau.

Other featured autographs from writers were an Oscar Wilde signed cabinet card photograph, $7,800; an Autograph Letter Signed by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, declining to contribute to a journal, circa 1838-46, $6,480; and a Mark Twain, Autograph Letter Signed to James Redpath, attesting to a Congressman Thomas Fitch being a fascinating speaker, able to “hold any audience willing prisoners for two hours…” Buffalo, 1870, $6,000. There was also an Autograph Letter Signed by philosopher David Hume to his translator, correcting the French edition of his History of England, Paris, November 1763, $12,000.

An archive of 15 Autograph Letters Signed by artist Alexander Calder, written to his banker, Beverly Iszard, some with drawings, 1953-70, achieved $19,200, while an Autograph Inscription Signed, a 60th birthday card, by Andy Warhol, New York, May 1983, brought $7,800.


Bidders competed for a trio of Typed Letters Signed by Chaim Weizmann, as President of the World Zionist Organization, to Rabbi Solomon Goldman, President of the Zionist Organization of America, London, 1938-46, $15,600.           

A pair of Albert Einstein lots were also popular. Two Typed Letters Signed by the scientist to engine manufacturer E. Paul du Pont, in German, Princeton, 1935, in which he discusses economics, sold for $10,800. And, a large Photograph Signed and Inscribed to its photographer, E. Willard Spurr, 1931, $9,000.

The top Americana lot was a Thomas Jefferson Autograph Letter Signed to James Madison, suggesting Russia engage the Turks in war, in which he refers to Alexander I as “the watchman of tyranny for Europe,” Monticello, May 1822, at $19,200.

A different Jefferson ALS, this one concerning remodeling of his Monticello, Virginia residence, Washington, November 1807, brought $11,400.           

Additional presidential highlights were a George Washington Letter Signed from Valley Forge requesting provisions, 1778, $13,200; a partly-printed vellum Document Signed by Abraham Lincoln, as President, appointing a Commander in the Navy who was later killed in action, Washington, February 1863, $13,200; a Dwight D. Eisenhower, Photograph Signed as President, showing him reciting the Oath of Office during his inauguration, also signed by Presidents Truman, Hoover and Nixon, circa 1953, $6,000; and a 1946 Ronald Reagan Autograph Letter Signed to a fellow member of the American Veterans Committee, written on Jane Wyman stationery, in which he writes, “I will defend to the death the right of communists . . . to belong to the AVC,” $7,800.

Reflecting the range of musical material were two items that sold for $6,000 each: an ALS from Franz Liszt to a conductor, in German, circa 1856, and a brief ALS, with a sketch of a car, by Bob Dylan, 1973.

For complete results, an illustrated catalogue, with prices realized on request, is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, Inc., 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, or online at

For further information, and to propose consignments to upcoming Autographs auctions, please contact Marco Tomaschett at (212) 254-4710, extension 12, or via email at

*All prices include buyer’s premium.

First image: Emily Dickinson, Autograph Letter Signed to an unnamed recipient, referencing the story of Esau and Jacob in Genesis, circa 1881. Sold for $28,800 (including buyer's premium).

Second image: Andy Warhol, Autograph 60th birthday card Signed, New York, May 1983. Sold for $7,800 (including buyer's premium).