January 2018 | Rebecca Rego Barry

George Washington-Owned and Signed Book Headed to Auction

Paging the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association of the Union ... Coming up for auction on January 27 at Case Antiques in Knoxville, Tennessee, is George Washington's signed copy (and bearing his armorial bookplate) of The Massachusetts Magazine: or Monthly Museum of Knowledge and Rational Entertainment, volume 1, published by Isaiah Thomas and Ebenezer T. Andrews of Boston in 1789.

GW SB #1.jpgWhy page the Ladies? Well, they did pay nearly $10 million for Washington's annotated copy of the Constitution and Bill of Rights in 2012. Washington-owned and signed books are coveted items. Also in 2012, Heritage Auctions sold his signed (and bookplated) copy of A View of the History of Great-Britain (1782) for just over $100,000. In 2013, seven books from the first president's library sold at Sotheby's for a total of $1.2 million, some signed, some only with bookplate.

Aside from the autograph and bookplate, what makes the volume now headed to auction so special is trifold, said John Case, president of Case Antiques. First, this copy has associative value, as it was later owned by Chief Justice John Marshall. "Marshall and Washington were close friends," Case said, citing another lot in the auction, a letter from Washington to Marshall that demonstrates this relationship. Second, Marshall's descendant, Lewis Minor Coleman, Jr., noted the book's provenance on the front endpaper (pictured below)--and this too is a selling point because it records the fact that the book resided in both Washington's and Marshall's library. And third, according to Case: "A remaining desirable factor is the subject matter of the book, as it is contemporary to the time of Washington by a well known publisher and patriot, Isaiah Thomas, on subjects including the 1789 inauguration of President Washington."

GW 2.jpgThe auction estimate for this volume is a conservative--or should we say federalist?--$28,000-32,000. Several other lots related to John Marshall will also be offered at the sale.

Images courtesy of Case Antiques