Auctions | December 17, 2013

Swann Galleries’ Top Autographs Sale of All Time Led by Mozart and Einstein


NEW YORK—Swann Galleries’ November 26 auction of Autographs brought in more than $990,000*—making it the highest earning sale in the department’s history.

The sale’s two top lots—which sold for $161,000 each—were an Autograph Musical Manuscript by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, bars 57-70 of the sixth movement of his Serenade in D major, Vienna, July-August 1773, and a group of five Autograph Letters Signed from Albert Einstein to mathematician and theoretical physicist Paul Hertz, in German, in which Einstein shares his own frustration in confronting problems arising during the development of the general theory of relativity, 1910-15.


Another lot related to Hertz was a group of 17 letters from physicists and other scientists—including Max Planck—in German, on thermodynamics, black-body radiation, relativity and other topics, 1906-52, which brought $32,000.

Music highlights included an exceptional Autograph Letter Signed by Gustav Mahler to music publisher and composer Oskar Eichberg, thanking him for the sympathetic response to his music after Mahler’s London debut, which brought a record price of $21,250; as well as an ALS from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky to Paul Dultier, Leipzig, 1889, $12,500; a fragment of a handwritten note from Ludwig van Beethoven to an unnamed recipient, $10,000; and a Richard Wagner ALS sending regards to and asking after Franz Liszt, by way of a shared associate, Zürich, 1858, $9,375.

Among the earliest items in the sale were signed documents from European monarchs: one, from Ferdinand V and Isabella I, King and Queen of Spain, transferring ownership of a tract of land in 1492—the year they sponsored Christopher Columbus’s expedition, $10,880; the other, on vellum, by Mary Queen of Scots, appointing John Botz to the prebend at Bitcry, 1582, $12,500.

Select Americana material included a Paul Revere Autograph Document Signed, a receipt for silver goods and engraving services, Boston, 1795, $16,250; a Printed Letter Signed by James Madison, as Secretary of State, to an unnamed politician, announcing a session of Congress to ratify the Louisiana Purchase, $27,500; and an Andrew Jackson ALS, written as Senator, to Edward G.W. Butler, Washington, 1824, $26,250.

Twentieth-century presidents were represented by a Theodore Roosevelt Typed Letter Signed as President, to Rep. Walter I. Smith, arguing for the establishment of a fortified naval station at Pearl Harbor, Washington, 1908, $15,000 and an unsigned Typescript with holograph annotations by John F. Kennedy, a reading copy of the speech he delivered in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, September 15, 1960, $8,125.

Featured autographs by writers included a Charles Dickens Autograph Letter Signed to the Dean of Peterborough, arranging a reading of A Christmas Carol, September, 1855, $17,500; a Jean Jacques Rousseau Autograph Letter Signed to a Mr. Mussard, informing him that Rousseau’s play Narcissus would be performed the next day and urging him not to tell anyone, 17 December 1752, $9,375; and a Mark Twain Autograph Quotation Signed and Inscribed, reading “Let us endeavor to so live, that when we come to die, even the undertaker will be sorry. . .” Florence, 1904, $8,125.

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.

First image: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Autograph Musical Manuscript, bars 52-70 of the sixth movement of his Serenade in D Major, Vienna, 1773. Sold for $161,000 (including buyer's premium).

Second image: Albert Einstein, group of five Autograph Letters Signed to Paul Hertz, discussing problems arising during the development of the general theory of relativity, 1910-15. Sold for $161,000 (including buyer's premium).