Auctions | November 4, 2013

Revolutionary War Map Brings $173,000 at Swann Galleries


New York—Swann Galleries’ October 10 auction of Printed & Manuscript Americana featured extraordinary material related to the American Revolution, Civil War and whaling. “The most impressive results in this sale were for unique or extremely scarce items,” said Swann’s Americana specialist Rick Stattler, “and nearly half of the lots sold above their pre-sale estimates.”

The American Revolution was particularly strong, accounting for the two spectacular top lots: Bernard Romans’s engraved Map of the Seat of Civil War in America, Philadelphia, 1775, $173,000* and the wartime diary of Connecticut officer John Hutchinson Buell, with a miniature portrait and silver cup, 1780-84, $75,000.

The Romans map depicts most of eastern Massachusetts, from Salem south to Sandwich, going as far west as Worcester, and including the northern part of Rhode Island and a sliver of Connecticut. Romans was not just a mapmaker; at this early point in the war, he was already an officer in the fight for independence, and he dedicated this map to John Hancock, then president of the Continental Congress. It was only the second copy of the map at auction in nearly 40 years.

Manuscript diaries by identified American soldiers in the Revolution appear quite infrequently at auction, so interest was also high for the Buell diary, which documented dinners with General Washington, the retreat of the British at the Battle of Connecticut Farms, the night maneuvers on the Hudson River that led to the Battle of King’s Bridge, appearances from Baron von Steuben, Governor Clinton, Benjamin Lincoln, Count Rochambeau, Henry Knox and Alexander Scammell, rumors of Washington’s peace negotiations in 1782 and, finally, the excitement over the proclamation of peace in 1783. It was accompanied by an original miniature portrait and engraved silver beaker, all from the estate of Buell’s great-great grandson.

Also from the 18th century were early American imprints such as Hodder’s Arithmetick, Boston, 1719, the first separate English textbook on arithmetic to be printed in America, which also appears very rarely at auction, $15,000; Cotton Mather’s India Christiana: A Discourse Delivered unto the Commissioners for the Propagation of the Gospel among the American Indians, Boston, 1721, $8,125; and Samuel Buckner’s The American Sailor: A Treatise on Practical Seamanship, Rhode Island, 1790, $10,625.

A run of lots relating to whaling from the Kristina Barbara Johnson Whaling Collection included an Autograph Letter from Master of the Charles & Henry John Brown Coleman to the boat’s owners, describing the hire of Herman Melville for his final whaling voyage, near Tahiti, November 1842, $10,625 and the journal of a successful cruise of the whaling ship Helvetia in the South Pacific, October 1837 to June 1839, $6,912.


Two Arctic albums of note were Suzanne Rognon Bernardi’s Story of a Whale Hunt, manuscript album illustrated with 31 photographs, Alaska, 1901-02, which provided a warm and detailed portrait of Inupiaq life 100 years ago $18,750; and a photographic album from the 1901 Peary Relief Expedition, containing approximately 376 albumen photographs documenting photographs documenting all aspects of the expedition, such as crew members and guests at work and play; visits to Sydney, Nova Scotia and Port aux Basques, majestic icebergs and coastlines and the weeks spent with the Pearys, Matthew Henson and their Inuit crew, 1901, $25,000.

Civil War highlights include Charleston Mercury Extra . . . The Union is Dissolved!, first printing of the first act of secession, Dec. 1860 and a very early printing of the Emancipation Proclamation, i.e. By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation, Washington, 1863, $37,500 each; and Edward Everett’s An Oration Delivered on the Battlefield of Gettysburg, containing what is likely the first pamphlet printing of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, New York, 1863, $13,750.

A 20th century stand-out was Evelyn M. Jones’s Remembrances of My Kennedy Years, a typed manuscript and three notebooks of a first draft detailing Ms. Jones’s years as a domestic worker for the Kennedy family, including many revealing anecdotes about the family gathered from close exposure, circa 1973, $6,500.          

Swann has offered a few portraits in Americana auctions recently with good results. This sale included three oils by the important portrait artist Henry Ulke, led by an 1876 portrait of scientist Louis Aggasiz, which brought $6,912.

From the Latin Americana section of the sale was Hernando Arias de Saavedra’s Important decree concerning the rights of Indians, manuscript document, Paraguay, 1598, $11,875.

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: Bernard Romans’s engraved Map of the Seat of Civil War in America, Philadelphia, 1775, sold for $173,000 (including buyer's premium).

Second image: Suzanne Rognon Bernardi, Story of a Whale Hunt, manuscript album illustrated with 31 photographs, Alaska, 1901-02, sold for $18,750 (including buyer's premium).