Jefferson-Signed Coinage Act Brings $118,750 at Swann Galleries

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New York—Swann Galleries’ April 8 auction of Printed & Manuscript Americana saw active bidding and set several auction records for material related to the Civil War, the Morman church, early expeditions of the Americas, and examples of Latin Americana.

Swann Americana Specialist, Rick Stattler, said, “The top lot, a 1792 printed copy of An Act Establishing a Mint, and Regulating the Coins of the United States, signed by Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State, set an auction record for one of Jefferson’s signed acts at $118,750.”

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Several other auction records were set as well. An 1820 manuscript book of Mexican recipes, Cuaderno de Guisos, by Ramona Garia Rico, brought $21,250, a record for a manuscript cookbook from the Western Hemisphere. Richard Blome’s Description of the Island of Jamaica . . ., first edition, with A Draught of the Sea Coast and Rivers of Virginia, Maryland, and New England, and two other important maps New York, 1672, sold for a record $16,250, and an Autograph Letter Signed by Union General Joseph Mansfield brought $1,500. 

The top four lots in the sale sold directly to collectors, including a first edition of the Book of Mormon, Palmyra, New York, 1830—the only edition listing Joseph Smith as the “author and proprietor” rather than as the translator, and the only edition with his two-page preface—which brought $45,000, as did a 1601 first edition of Antonio de Herrera’s Historia General de los Hechos de los Castellanos en las Islas I Tierra Firme del mar Oceano.           

The sale was strong throughout, and contained several surprise lots that sold for five, 10 or even 20 times their pre-sale estimates, such as an archive of Mexican War letters addressed to General Edward G.W. Butler at $16,250 (estimated at $1,500 to $2,500); a pair of Albert Berghaus drawings of the Virginia militia standing guard before John Brown’s jail before his execution, November 1859 at $16,250 ($2,000 to $3,000); an extremely rare first edition of José Martiniano de Alencar’s Brazilian novel Iracema, Ienda do Ceará, Rio de Janeiro, 1865 at $15,000 ($800 to $1,200); and a Texan military photo album compiled by a military musician at Fort McKavett from the 1870s that brought $10,000 (estimated at just $400 to $600). 

Bringing $16,250 against an estimate of $3,000 to $4,000 was an extensive archive of New York artist Henry Grant Plumb, mostly from 1858-1930, which included 18 framed original works, approximately 60 unframed smaller watercolors and oil paintings, four sketchbooks from the 1870s, more than 200 pencil and ink sketches as well as letters, photographs and diaries. Plumb had a long career as an artist in a diverse range of styles and media, exhibiting as a landscape artist, doing portraiture and commercial art, and employed as a lithographer and art instructor. He taught at Cooper Union for 35 years, and was also active in the Salmagundi Club and the Artists' Fund Society.

Among the notable lots sold to institutions were a collection of family papers of Richard Henry Green—a lot that received national press coverage when it was discovered that Green was the first African-American graduate of Yale—which was purchased by New Haven dealer William Reese, who donated it to Yale.

The New-York Historical Society acquired two important lots: a collection of early Manhattan surveyor’s notebooks from Bridges family firm, 1809-51 for $18,750, and a group of Mayor James J. Walker’s correspondence on the housing issue, 1926-32. The University of Illinois acquired a nice copy of Cotton Mather's Magnalia Christi Americana to add to their substantial collection of pre-1800 books. Kentucky’s Filson Historical Society acquired six lots of station plans from the Louisville & Nashville Railroad. Finally, the College of William & Mary won an interesting World War II scrapbook kept by an African-American sailor.

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 www.swanngalleries.com.

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: rstattler@swanngalleries.com.

*All prices include buyer’s premium.

First image: An Act Establishing a Mint, and Regulating the Coins of the United States, document signed by Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State, April 1792, sold for a record $118,750, including buyer's premium.

Second image: Ramona Garia Rico, Cuaderno de Guisos, manuscript book of Mexican recipes, December, 1820, sold for a record $21,250, including buyer's premium.

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