Auctions | March 5, 2019

The Stars at Swann Galleries' Autographs Auction

New York - Swann Galleries’ March 21 sale of Autographs promises an assortment of hard-to-find items from world leaders, scientists, innovators and other notable figures.             

An extraordinary run of material by Diana, Princess of Wales, includes a group of six autograph letters signed to her friend, the editor of British Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, Elizabeth Tilberis. The group comes from the late 80s and early 90s and discuss a number of topics including Diana’s cover of the December 1991 issue of British Vogue, as well as Tilberis’s move to Harper’s Bazaar and the United States (Estimate: $5,000-7,000). Additional cards signed and inscribed by the late royal include a selection of Christmas cards featuring photographs of the family, estimated at $700 to $1,000 apiece. Also of note is a photograph signed by Queen Elizabeth II and Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, from 1976, and an 1884 ALS from Queen Victoria to Alfred, Lord Tennyson expressing her sorrows over the death of her son, Leopold ($1,000-2,000 and $3,000-4,000, respectively).  The sale is led by a 1776 ALS from Joseph Brant, Thayeadanegea, the leader of the Mohawk people and military, and British Loyalist. At the time of the American Revolution both the Colonies and British military were vying for Native American support: in his letter Brant explains that he had been in England meeting with King George III recounting the events that had taken place in America. The letter is expected to bring $20,000 to $30,000. 

Additional Americana highlights include a letter signed from 1793 by Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury to the President and Directors of the Bank of the U.S. expressing that they will receive an appropriation for giving advances to the U.S. Mint, and a 1783 autograph document by Elbridge Gerry, from which the term “gerrymander” is derived, discussing the landscape of Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey for placement of the Capital ($4,000-6,000 and $3,500-5,000, respectively).  

George Washington leads the selection of presidential signatures with a signed ticket for the Mountain Road Lottery from 1768 at $5,000 to $7,500. Theodore Roosevelt is present with a number of typed letters signed: one from November 1912 expressing his hopes for the future of the Bull Moose Party shortly after being shot while giving a speech, and a group of five to his sister, Corinne Roosevelt Robinson, in one of which he expresses that he “…cannot give a position to anyone simply because he is a friend,” ($1,200-2,500 and $3,000-4,000, respectively). A partly-printed document signed by Abraham Lincoln appointing John T. Hogeboom as Appraiser of Merchandise in April of 1864 rounds out the assortment at $4,000 to $6,000. 

Scientists and inventors feature prominently in the sale, including a rare signature from Edwin Hubble, one of the most influential astronomers and the namesake for the Hubble Telescope, estimated at $1,500 to $2,500; a letter signed by Swiss mathematician Johann “The Elder” Bernoulli, in which he states that Paris seems to think him dead, is expected to bring $4,000 to $6,000; and an ink and wash portrait by Charlotte Berend-Corinth of Albert Einstein, signed by the physicist ($4,000-6,000). Nikola Tesla is on offer with a dated and signed correspondence card that bears his Art Deco monogram ($3,500-5,000), as well as an ALS from Alexander Graham Bell to Eliza Catherine Scidmore accepting an invitation to tea during his only trip to Japan ($1,000-2,000).  

Unique combinations of autographs include a 1950-56 guestbook from Lüchow’s-a popular New York City restaurant that was a meeting place for the city’s entertainers, artists, musicians and athletes. The book contains over 400 signatures from the likes of Joe DiMaggio, Al Hirschfeld, Grace Kelly, Joan Miró, Cole Porter, Eleanor Roosevelt and Barbara Streisand and carries an estimate of $8,000 to $12,000. Charles B. Driscoll’s personal copy of his book Doubloons features over 500 signatures and inscriptions from authors, artists, entertainers and others from the 1930s-40s. Notable figures include Al Capp, James Montgomery Flagg and Burne Hogarth; Albert Einstein, Aldous Huxley and Thomas Wolfe all signed on the same page ($3,500-5,000).  

Musicians, writers and artists round out the sale with autograph material from Glenn Gould, Friedrich Hölderlin, Claude Monet and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec.