Auctions | August 28, 2015

Mormon Materials, Civil War & Revolutionary War Items Headline at Swann Galleries


New York—On September 17, Swann Galleries’ book department will offer Printed & Manuscript Americana, with Mormon materials, Civil War Diaries, Revolutionary War items and pieces from the private collection of Milton R. Slater headlining the auction, along with items that evoke the thrill of American adventures and the intrigue of conspiracy.

Among many notable items is a first edition of The Book of Mormon, Palmyra, NY, 1830, (estimate: $40,000 to $60,000). This was the only edition to list Joseph Smith as the “author and proprietor” rather than as the translator, as well as the only edition with his two-page preface.

A fascinating piece of history from an American founding father comes in the form of George Washington’s The Journal of Major George Washington, London, 1754 ($40,000 to $60,000).  The journal details then-21-year-old Washington’s diplomatic mission to meet and parley with a French commander prior to the French and Indian War.

The beginnings of fine American craftsmanship and the influence of European-born immigrants can be glimpsed in a manuscript book of furniture designs by Philadelphia joiner John Widdifield, dating from 1700-20. The book contains notes on materials, prices, measurements and sketches, as well as recipes for varnishes and lacquers ($15,000 to $25,000).

This sale includes several diaries from Civil War soldiers, including both Union and Confederate diaries, which are rare on the market. Among them are the diary of Tennessee sergeant James F. Halloway, written between 1858-61 ($3,000 to $4,000); the diary of regimental band member George L. Hall of Maine, dated January 1 to September 14, 1862 ($2,500 to $3,500); and the diary of Valentine S. Barker of Pennsylvania, dated February 24 to May 29, 1863 ($1,200 to $1,800), chronicling his time in the army through his release, return home and enrollment in Duff’s Iron City College in Pittsburgh.

Several items with an air of conspiracy and intrigue add a different sort of thrill to the sale, including a British report written just a few years after the completion of the French and Indian War which details a proposal to flood Spanish-held New Orleans in order to gain open trade access to the Mississippi River, written circa August 1769 ($10,000 to $15,000); and a printed Civil War-era recruitment circular for underground sleeper cells to oppose Lincoln and the draft, Philadelphia, 1863 ($4,000 to $6,000), which encourages men to form “Decemvirates:” groups of ten resisters in which only their captain would know the identities of the other nine members. This piece represents the only Civil-War era reference to the Decemvirate factions we’ve found referenced anywhere.

Revolutionary materials are well-represented in this sale, including a first-hand report on the Battle of Bunker Hill written by a Boston Loyalist, June 26, 1775 ($6,000 to $9,000); a first London edition of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, bound with James Chalmers’s reply Plain Truth, London, 1776 ($3,000 to $4,000); and an Oath of allegiance signed at Valley forge by Captain Paul Brigham with Brigadier General James Mitchell as witness, May 13, 1778, ($5,000 to $7,000).

Rounding out this sale with a sense of adventure is Charles Merz’s Diary of My Trip Around the World, January to August 1921 ($2,000 to $3,000). Merz, a well-known journalist who would later go on to become editor of the New York Times, traveled across the globe meeting with diplomats, industrialists, and authors, from George Bernard Shaw, to Colonel T.E. Lawrence (the famed Lawrence of Arabia), Bertrand Russell and Hebrew revivalist Eliezer Ben-Yehuda.

The auction preview will be open to the public, with an exhibition opening Saturday, September 12 from noon to 5 p.m.; Monday, September 14 through Wednesday, September 16 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Thursday, September 17 from 10 a.m. to noon.

An illustrated auction catalogue will be available for $35 from Swann Galleries, Inc., 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, or online at

For further information and to make advance arrangements to bid by telephone during the auction, please contact Rick Stattler at 212-254-4710, extension 27, or via e-mail at

Image: Lot 173: Manuscript book of furniture designs by Philadelphia joiner John Widdifield, 1700-20. Estimate $15,000 to $25,000.