Auctions | May 2, 2022

Bach, Tesla, Hawking Among Autographs and Artifacts up for Auction

Courtesy of RR Auction

A handwritten musical manuscript by Johann Sebastian Bach. Estimate: $500,000+

Boston — RR Auction's May's Fine Autograph and Artifact sale brings nearly 1,000 unique items to the auction block, including a stunning handwritten musical manuscript by Johann Sebastian Bach. The remarkable one-page autograph musical manuscript by Bach, circa 1728, being a fragment from the church cantata Ich habe meine Zuversicht, BWV 188. This section is the lower half of folio 17 of the original manuscript, portions of the 4th movement, scored for alto with cello and organ obbligato, on four systems of four hand-drawn staves. (Estimate: $500,000+)

In addition, to remarkable letters, including a Nikola Tesla one-page letter on The Gerlach Hotel letterhead, March 21, 1895. Handwritten letter to Mrs. Anthony, in part: "My new work is progressing fast and soon, I hope, you will hear from me more pleasant news." In August 1892, Tesla moved his lab to 33-35 South Fifth Avenue where he took up the fourth floor; he remained there for two-and-a-half years before the building burnt down.He relocated to The Gerlach Hotel—now known as the 'Radio Wave Building'—where he lived before the end of the century and experimented with radio waves in 1896. (Estimate: $40,000+)

A scarce Stephen Hawking one-page letter, signed "Stephen," postmarked April 26, 1968. Handwritten note to his childhood friend Bill Cleghorn at the Central Electrochemical Research Institute, sharing happy personal news on the birth of his son, along with reports of a trip to America and an uneasy professional detente with the astronomer Fred Hoyle. In part: ""Although I wrote my first paper attacking Hoyle's theory of gravity, I have now got a job at his Institute of Theoretical Astronomy." Diagnosed with early-onset motor neurone disease in 1963, Hawking's physical capabilities deteriorated over time—his shaky hand evinced in this handwritten letter just five years later—making authentic autographs exceedingly scarce. Confined to a wheelchair by the end of the 1970s, he opted to sign with just a thumbprint later in life—an excessively rare autograph letter from one of the towering figures of science in the 20th century.

And an Albert Einstein one-page typed letter, Institute for Advanced Study letterhead, July 5, 1952. Letter to mathematical physicist Daniel M. Lipkin, with a few handwritten additions, including the equation in question and the word "general" in "general relativity." In part: "The present quantum theory, in spite of its many successes, is far from the truth." (Estimate: $30000+)

The sale also includes an incredibly rare baseball signed by President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Originating from the Randy L. Kaplan collection. Mr. Kaplan plans to donate a portion of his proceeds to a Ukrainian support effort. RR Auction will contribute all of its proceeds from the lot to the same.

Other highlights include a fantastic selection of sports cards and autographs, including a complete set of 1956 Topps baseball cards, a wealth of modern relics, and a book signed by Babe Ruth.

The Autograph and Artifact auction from RR Auction will conclude on May 11. More details can be found online at