Auctions | December 8, 2011

Strong Results for Autographs at Swann Galleries

NEW YORK—The Autographs auction at Swann Galleries on November 3 saw active bidding for scarce and fascinating items from writers and artists, as well as material related to world leaders, scientists and performers.

Marco Tomaschett, Autographs Specialist, said, “There was much interest and strong bidding for this sale’s most extraordinary material, as well as smaller items, resulting in a 92 percent sell-through rate. Many of the top European autographs went to buyers in Europe, suggesting that some are taking advantage of the favorable exchange rate.”

The top lot was a bound volume containing over 120 illustrated letters by Frederick Stuart Church, many containing his charming depictions of polar bears, lions and other animals, written to financier Grant B. Schley, Carnegie Hall, 1913-17. It sold for $31,200*.

Also containing numerous illustrations was a guestbook for the Isola Bella Restaurant in London, 1919-33, containing hundreds of items signed or signed and inscribed, including entries by Theodore Dreiser, T.S. Eliot, Mary Pickford, and W.B. Yeats, $15,600.

The highest selling literary lot was a group of four typed letters signed and an initialed postcard by Ezra Pound, concerning private publication of his translations of Provençal poet Arnaut Daniel, London, 1917-18, $28,800.

Also from the writers portion of the sale were an autograph letter signed by Samuel Johnson to Hester Lynch Thrale, concerned for the health of his friend Henry Thrale, Ashbourne, 17 June 1779 $19,200, and a related item, an 1815 autograph letter unsigned by the now Hester Lynch Thrale Piozzi, to physician James Fellowes, on behalf of Mrs. Lutwyche, $6,000; as well as an Immanuel Kant autograph inscription, unsigned, a dedication to his one-time student Carl Gottlieb Fischer, in Latin, circa December 1793, $6,480; a Mark Twain autograph manuscript, unsigned, a draft of a brief article for Harper’s Weekly, December 1908, $5,040; and an autograph manuscript, unsigned by Jean-Paul Sartre, consisting of fragmentary notes, likely from his unpublished 1965 Cornell lecture, in French, circa 1964, $4,800.

Science-related items were a Charles Darwin autograph letter signed to an unnamed recipient, in which he offers to send a copy of his Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, Beckenham, December 1872, $4,080; an autograph note signed by Sigmund Freud, a bill for 23 hours of services to one of his last patients, Vienna, 31 October 1933, $3,840; and a photo of Albert Einstein and his wife Elsa, signed by both and dated by Albert, 1931, $5,280.

Other notable signed photographs included a photograph of Leon Trotsky’s son Sergei Sedov, signed and inscribed by Trotsky to American writer and activist Waldo Frank, in French, 1 March 1937, $6,000; a standing portrait of Winston Churchill, $6,000; and a stunning full-length photo of Maria Callas, dated and signed, 1966, $4,800.

The auction also featured a signed program from the ceremony of the Oslo Accords, with signatures by William J. Clinton, Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, Washington, 1993-94, $5,520. A related item was a typed letter signed by Chaim Weizmann and Nahum Sokolow concerning the formation of the London Zionist Political Committee, July 1917, $6,000.

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, or online at

For further information, and to propose consignments to upcoming Autographs auctions, please contact Marco Tomaschett at (212) 254-4710, extension 12, or via email at

*All prices include buyer’s premium.