Paine's "American Crisis" Leads Swann April 12 Americana Auction
New York—Swann Galleries’ Thursday, April 12, auction of Printed & Manuscript Americana illustrates the many facets of American history, from the records of a sixteenth-century Mexican silver mine, to the diary of a Colorado sheep herder in the Wild West, to photos of JFK.
The fifth known surviving example of the first edition of Thomas Paine’s American Crisis, recently rediscovered in Utah, leads the auction with an estimate of $50,000 to $75,000. The rousing pamphlet, which begins “These are the times that try men’s souls,” is credited with galvanizing the American forces and turning the tide of the Revolutionary War. This will be the first time the first state has been offered at auction since 1955. The book was likely brought to Utah by Mormons in the nineteenth century.
Mormons are additionally represented in the auction with scarce and unusual records of their plight. A first edition of the Nauvoo Neighbor Extra containing the first account of the 1844 murder of Joseph and Hyrum Smith will be the first to appear at auction since 1966. The broadside, valued at $50,000 to $75,000, has been called “the first official Mormon statement on the tragedy.” A first edition Book of Mormon, 1830, and a $1 banknote issued by the Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Co., 1837, will also be offered ($40,000 to $60,000 and $2,500 to $3,500, respectively).
The sale features an extensive section of Latin Americana, including 13 examples of fine Mexican incunables (pre-1600 and printed in the New World) and a wealth of printed and manuscript material in Nahuatl, the Aztec language. Exemplifying the selection of Nahuatl material is a sammelband of two rare second-edition Mexican imprints showing parallel text in Spanish and Nahuatl of Alonso de Molina’s Confessionario mayor, en la lengua mexicana y castellana, 1578, and Confessionario breve, en la lengua mexicana y castellana, 1577, only seen once at auction since 1966 ($20,000 to $30,000). Also by Molina is Aquí comiença un vocabulario en la lengua Castellana y Mexicana, 1555 ($10,000 to $15,000).
The selection of Mexican incunabula includes Alonso de la Vera Cruz’s Dialectica resolutio cum textu Aristotelis, 1554, is the first printing of Aristotle—or any classical author—in the western hemisphere ($40,000 to $60,000). Another highlight is the first edition of Bartholomé de Ledesma’s De septem novae legis sacramentis summarium, 1566, explaining seven sacraments for use in the Mexican church, with several decorative elements, estimated at $50,000 to $75,000.
Both the first and unauthorized editions of Alexander Hamilton’s Observations on Certain Documents. . ., in which he admits to having an affair, will be offered. The first, published in 1797, was largely suppressed by his family; the unauthorized second edition was published three years later by political opponents ($12,000 to $18,000 and $10,000 to $15,000, respectively).
A scarce Pony Express Bible, supplied by the Russell, Majors & Waddell freight firm, provides unusual insight into the lives of the riders. An inscription reads, in part: “This book was presented to our company and was carried with us across the plains of Nebraska to Fort Laramie during the summer of 1859.” The inscription demonstrates that a single Bible was issued to a group of riders for their shared use-and that they valued the gift enough to draw lots for it when their joint service ended ($7,000 to $10,000).
Revealing manuscript material includes the diary of Charles Carr, a Colorado sheep herder living large on the plains of the Wild West from 1871-76 ($5,000 to $7,500), and an 1864-65 archive of drawings and letters by Thomas Belknap, a Union marine on the USS Octorara describing his activities and wishes, including a close encounter with a torpedo boat, which carries an estimate of $6,000 to $9,000. Other manuscript records include a bound record for a Mexican silver mine, 1567-77; a pigeon racing enthusiast’s papers, 1921-45, and the account book of physician George Huntington, 1874-77.
An unusual highlight neither printed nor manuscript is a cypress branch cut by General Lafayette at George Washington’s tomb in the 1820s, attractively framed shortly thereafter and with remarkable provenance tracing through Lafayette’s great-great grandson, with an estimate of $5,000 to $7,500.
Sixteen binders of photographs of John F. Kennedy from the estate of his official photographer Cecil Stoughton carry an estimate of $5,000 to $7,000. Also by Stoughton, the only known photograph of the President and Marilyn Monroe, valued at $2,500 to $3,500.
Image: Lot 19: Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, Parts I & II, first separate edition, first state, Philadelphia, 1776-77. Estimate $50,000 to $75,000.