Rare Book of Mormon, Early Maps, Presidential Material Coming Up at Swann Galleries April 8


New York—On Tuesday, April 8, Swann Galleries will conduct an auction devoted to Printed & Manuscript Americana that offers a wide range of material, from Thomas Jefferson’s Act Establishing a Mint to an archive related to the Bird Man of Alcatraz.

The item with the highest pres-sale estimate is An Act Establishing a Mint, and Regulating the Coins of the United States, a five-page document signed by Thomas Jefferson, as Secretary of State, Philadelphia, 2 April 1792. This first printing of the coinage act defined the American currency system and established the dollar as legal tender. (Pre-sale estimate: $50,000 to $75,000).

Also from that decade is a letterpress broadside of General Washington's Letter Declaring His Acceptance of the Command of the Armies of the United States. In July 1798, President John Adams turned to the most qualified man to assume leadership of the nation’s military as hostilities with France escalated. Former president Washington had been enjoying his retirement in Mount Vernon for more than a year when Adams sent Secretary of War James McHenry to convince Washington that his country needed him one more time. This broadside records Washington's response to Adams, dated 13 July 1798 ($10,000 to $15,000).

A pair of exceedingly rare Mormon items are The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon, upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi, Palmyra, New York, 1830, a first edition released just days before the official establishment of the church on 6 April 1830, and the only edition listing Joseph Smith as “author and proprietor” rather than translator, and the only edition with his two-page preface ($40,000 to $60,000). There is also a third edition, first state of The Book of Mormon, Nauvoo, IL, 1840, one of approximately 2,000 copies prepared in this state, a smaller print run than the 1830 first edition, making it considerably scarcer ($10,000 to $15,000).  

Rare works containing mappings and views of America include Johannes de Laet’s L'Histoire du Nouveau Monde, with sections devoted to the Virginia colony, New England and what became New York, Leiden, 1640 ($6,000 to $9,000) and a complete copy of the richly illustrated America: Being the Latest, and Most Accurate Description of the New World by Arnoldus Montanus via an expanded translation by John Ogilby, with 19 maps and 39 plates and containing rare variants, London, 1671 ($8,000 to $12,000).

There is also a fascinating archive of manuscript field notebooks of the Bridges family surveying firm, with most of the 116 manuscript volumes representing downtown Manhattan south of 14th Street, though a few are from further uptown, Brooklyn, Westchester and even further afield, New York, 1809-51 ($7,000 to $10,000).

From a section devoted to Latin Americana and the Caribbean are Antonio de Herrera’s Historia General de los Hechos de los Castellanos en las Islas i Tierra Firme del mar Oceano and Descripcion de las Indias Occidentales, one of the most comprehensive early histories of the Spanish colonies, produced with full access to secret Spanish archives and drawing upon manuscript sources that are no longer extant, Mardrid, 1615 ($20,000 to $30,000); Richard Blome’s A Description of the Island of Jamaica, with the other Isles and Territories in America, to which the English are Related, in which the first two extensive chapters are devoted to Jamaica and Barbados, and containing three important maps, 1672 ($7,000 to $10,000); and Antonio de Ulloa and Jorge Juan y Santacilla’s Relacion Historica del Viage a la America Meridional and Observaciones Astronómicas y Phisicas, with 12 (of 13) maps, by the Spanish naval officers who accompanied the 1735 French Geodesic Mission measured the curvature of the earth at the equator in what is now Ecuador, Madrid, 1793 and 1948 ($7,000 to $10,000).


An item with pop-culture appeal is a research archive on Robert Stroud, known as the Birdman of Alcatraz. The collection contains hundreds of items amassed by Stroud's biographer Thomas E. Gaddis, including original signed letters and documents by Stroud and his associates, the subject of a 1962 film starring Burt Lancaster, circa 1906-1984 ($10,000 to $15,000).

Another compelling archive is related to New York artist Henry Grant Plumb (1847-1930) who had a long career in a diverse range of styles and media. Raised in rural Sherburne, Chenango County, New York, he studied art at Cooper Union in Manhattan, and was apprenticed to a lithography firm in 1864. He attended the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris from 1874 to 1878, and returned to New York City for the remainder of his long career. He taught at Cooper Union for 35 years, and was also active in the Salmagundi Club and the Artists’ Fund Society. This extensive archive of Plumb's artwork, correspondence and family papers, mostly from 1858-1930, includes original landscapes he exhibited at the Salmagundi Club, and others that were reproduced as popular chromolithographs ($3,000 to $4,000).

One lot that has already received a fair amount of press coverage is the family papers of Richard Henry Green, an African-American graduate of Yale University in 1857—which may make him the earliest black graduate of that institution—containing 95 items, 1855-1910 ($1,000 to $1,500).

And, apropos of spring’s approach is the lithograph Representatives of Professional Base Ball in America, one of the most attractive baseball prints of the 19th century, a promotional piece commissioned by P. Lorillard & Co. of Jersey City, New Jersey in 1884 to promote their Climax Red Tin Tag Plug Tobacco ($3,000 to $4,000).

The auction will take place Tuesday, April 8 at 1:30 p.m. The items will be on public exhibition Thursday, April 3, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday, April 4, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, April 5, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Monday, April 7, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Tuesday, April 8, from 10 a.m. to noon.

An illustrated catalogue, with information on bidding by mail or fax, is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, Inc., 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, or online at www.swanngalleries.com.

For further information, and to make advance arrangements to bid by telephone during the auction, please contact Rick Stattler by telephone at (212) 254-4710, extension 27, or email: rstattler@swanngalleries.com.

Online bidding is available via Invaluable.com.

First image: An Act Establishing a Mint, and Regulating the Coins of the United States, document signed by Thomas Jefferson, as Secretary of State, Philadelphia, 2 April 1792. (Pre-sale estimate: $50,000 to $75,000).

Second image: A research archive on Robert Stroud, known as the Birdman of Alcatraz, circa 1906-1984 ($10,000 to $15,000).

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