February 26, 2024

Letter Signed by Washington and Jefferson Leads Rare Books Auction

Ahlers & Ogletree

The letter signed by Washington and Jefferson

A letter from 1793 signed by both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson brought $21,780, a first edition of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) sold for $22,990, and a first edition, three-volume set of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations realized $16,940 in three days of sales held by Ahlers & Ogletree.

The February Rare Books & Important Documents Auction, held online and in Ahlers & Ogletree’s Atlanta gallery, comprised the lifetime collection of important historical books and documents from the estate of Fred Bentley, Sr., more than 900 lots in all. Mr. Bentley founded the rare book rooms at a college and a university, both in Georgia.

The exceedingly rare sea letter signed by Washington (as President) and Jefferson (as Secretary of State) is a four-language cut ship document, dated July 9, 1793, and signed three times by Hodijah Baylies, the collector of customs, for the schooner Rebecca, to the ship’s commander, Samuel Swasey.

Other highlights included:

* an 1818 copperplate engraving on paper broadside of The Declaration of Independence by Benjamin Owen Tyler (1789-1855), published by Peter Maverick (1780-1831), sold for $13,310. The facsimile had a dedication to Thomas Jefferson at the upper margin and an endorsement to Secretary of State Richard Rush.

* a rare, fully illustrated copy of Albrecht Durer’s first Latin edition of Clarissimi Pictoris et Geometrae de Symetria Partium in Rectis Formis masterpiece on anatomy, published 1532 and printed by D. Caroli, Noremberger, went for $10,890. It was the personal copy of Johann Georg Bergmiller, Director of the Augsburg Academy. 

* a President Abraham Lincoln signed document dated March 21, 1861 for the appointment of Calvin Hudson of New York to be the Commissioner of the United States for which to advocate claims of U.S. citizens over Costa Rica, making him the first-ever consulate there appointed by Lincoln, sold $9,075.  

*  a plan of the New Constitution for the United States of America, Agreed Upon in a Convention of the States, with A Preface by the Editor, published 1787 by J. Debrett (London), was the first separate English edition of the U.S. Constitution. The 30-page volume, with a contemporary quarter tan leather binding with gray boards, was sold for $9,680.

* a first edition, first state copy of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, published 1859 by Chapman and Hall, with illustrations by H.K. Browne, made $8,470

* a copy of the 184-page Sonetti e Canzoni di messer Francesco Petrarcha in vita di madonna Laura by Frencesco Petrarca, printed 1514 by the Aldus Manutius and bound in a highly decorated hand cut double-sided Venetian window design, using mother of pearl as the background canvas and hand painting within each of the 21 compartments located on each of its sides, changed hands for $6,655

Other Mark Twain offerings included a first edition, first state copy of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in the rare blue cloth boards, published in 1885 by Charles L. Webster ($7,260), bound copies of The Carpet-Bag Weekly, For the Amusement of the Reader, from 1852 featuring the very first national appearance of the writing of Twain, as Samuel Longhorne Clemens ($6,655), and another first edition, first state copy of Adventures of Tom Sawyer, published 1876 by American Publishing Company ($4,538).