Auctions | April 24, 2015

Shay&#8217;s Rebellion Letter & <i>Book of Mormon</i> Led Swann Galleries&#8217; April 14 Sale


New York—Swann Galleries’ April 14 auction of Printed & Manuscript Americana saw vigorous and unusually broad-based bidding, with the top 12 lots going to 12 different bidders, many of them new to Swann.

Rick Stattler, Swann’s Americana Specialist, said, “Manuscripts, archives, ephemera and broadsides continue to grow in importance; only two of the top 12 lots were printed books.”

The two strongest portions of the sale were the American Revolution and Mormon sections, both consisting mostly of rare and unusual items collected by Milton Slater in the 1960s and 1970s. These included the top lot, a first edition of the Book of Mormon, which brought $55,000*. Other Slater highlights included a dramatic autograph letter signed about Shays’ Rebellion, Officer Epaphras Hoyt’s eyewitness account of the principal battle, January 1787, $35,000; and an 1818 Benjamin Owen Tyler printing of the Declaration of Independence on silk, $25,000.


Key lots that soared above their pre-sale estimates included a Revolution-era volume of the Connecticut Journal newspaper featuring the Tea Party and Bunker Hill, $35,000; and the cover lot, an attractive oil painting of Theodore Roosevelt seated at his desk, by Adriaan M. de Groot, 1925, $15,000.

Latin Americana was, as usual, well represented, with an archive from Hiram Bingham’s important archaeological expedition to Macchu Pichu in Peru bringing $13,750.

Collectors ruled the day, winning 12 of the top 20 lots. The biggest institutional purchase was by the University of Texas’s Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, which picked up an important Mexican naval blockade log from the Texan Revolution for $27,500. They also acquired an 1860s guest register from Houston’s Capitol Hotel for $813. 

An 1860 first edition, first issue of the Lincoln-Douglas debates brought $5,500, a record for an unsigned copy; while an 1849 Steele’s Western Guide Book brought a record $3,250—it was the 17th and final edition, but only the second to include California. An inscribed copy of Coretta Scott King’s My Life with Martin Luther King brought $812.50, tying a previous auction record. 

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. Catalogue and prices are also available online at

For further information, and to propose consignments to upcoming Americana auctions, please contact Rick Stattler by telephone at (212) 254-4710, extension 27, or email:

*All prices include buyer’s premium.

First image: Epaphras Hoyt’s eyewitness account of the principal battle of Shays’ Rebellion, autograph letter signed, January 1787. Sold for $35,000.

Second image: The Book of Mormon, first edition, New York, 1830. Sold for $55,000.