From 17th-Century Mexico to the Wild West, Swann Galleries’ June Americana Auction Runs the Gamut

Lot-387-Memorias-transcript copy.jpgNew York— On Tuesday, June 21, Swann Galleries will hold an auction of Printed & Manuscript Americana, featuring items relating to the American Revolution, the Civil War, Latin America and the American West.

            A top lot of the sale is a pair of Revolutionary War-era pencil portraits of Abraham and Jannetje Cuyler of Albany, NY drawn circa 1776 by (then) Lieutenant John André, who was later executed for relaying messages from Benedict Arnold. André had been making his way to Lancaster, PA to serve a prison sentence after being captured in the Siege of Fort St. Jean in Quebec, when he stopped for several weeks in Albany where he stayed with the Cuylers, who were Loyalists. The portraits are estimated at $50,000 to $75,000. Other items related to the American Revolution include issues of The New York Journal (1774) and The Pennsylvania Journal (1775) featuring the iconic “Unite or Die” woodcut ($4,000 to $6,000 and $3,000 to $4,000, respectively). Also on offer is the manuscript diary and memorandum book of Lieutenant Jonathan Palmer of Stonington, CT, titled First Events of the American War, 5 September 1774 to 10 November 1775, including Palmer’s notes on the first Continental Congress and the Battles of Lexington and Concord ($2,000 to $3,000).

            The sale also includes many lots related to the Civil War, such as a 136-page manuscript Inmate Register from Confederate Prison No.1, housing Union POWs in Richmond, circa November 1861 to January 1862. Written primarily by the Union POWs themselves, the register includes several noteworthy names, such as Alfred M. Wood, the future mayor of Brooklyn, and surgeon Edward H.R. Revere, grandson of Paul Revere. The register is estimated at $20,000 to $30,000. A full set of 12 cards from artist Winslow Homer’s series Life in Camp, Part 2, Boston, 1864, is also on offer ($4,000 to $6,000).

            Several highlights in the vein of Latin Americana include a register of lease contracts from the Central Mexican city of Puebla de los Angeles from 1622-33. In colonial Mexico, the Church disapproved of usury, making mortgage loans impossible, so sellers charged a censo consignativo, or consignment rent, which essentially disguised an interest-bearing loan as a lease. The register is estimated at $15,000 to $25,000. A first edition of John Phillips and A. Rider’s Mexico Illustrated in Twenty-Six Drawings, with 26 lithographed plates, London, 1848, is also on offer ($20,000 to $30,000). Another featured lot is an early transcript of Inquisition victim Luis de Carvajal’s autobiographical Memorias, with devotional manuscripts. De Carvajal wrote a long memoir of his Jewish faith under a pseudonym, intending to send it to his brothers in Italy. After being incarcerated with the manuscript and subsequently having it confiscated when a cellmate informed on him, de Carvajal broke under torture and was eventually executed. While the original Memorias was destroyed, the text was transcribed into his Inquisition proceedings. The early transcript in this sale is estimated at $50,000 to $75,000.

            Other religious texts in the sale include a first edition of The Book of Mormon, Palmyra, NY, 1830 ($40,000 to $60,000); a third edition of Joseph Smith’s The Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Nauvoo, IL, 1845 ($15,000 to $25,000); and Liber Psalmorum Hebraïce, “the first printing of any part of the bible in Hebrew in America” Cambridge, 1809 ($5,000 to $7,500).

            Among the items related to the American West are a group of Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency quarterly criminal bulletins, including two featuring notorious criminals Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, August 1898 to March 1902, ($5,000 to $7,500). Also on offer are a first edition of Amelia Sherwood; or, Bloody Scenes at the California Gold Mines, New York, 1849, one of the first works of Gold Rush fiction ($5,000 to $7,500); and a first edition, first state copy of Joel Palmer’s Journal of Travels over Rocky Mountains, to the Mouth of the Columbia River, Cincinnati, 1847, an important early account of the overland journey to Oregon ($5,000 to $7,500).

The auction will be held Tuesday, June 21, beginning at 1:30 p.m. The auction preview will be open to the public Thursday, June 16 and Friday, June 17 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, June 18 from noon to 5 p.m.; Monday, June 20 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Tuesday, June 21 from 10 a.m. to noon.

An illustrated auction catalogue is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, Inc., 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, or online at

For further information or to make advance arrangements to bid by telephone during the auction, please contact Book Department Director and Americana Specialist Rick Stattler via or at 212-254-4710, ext. 27.

Image: Lot 387 Early transcript of Inquisition victim Luis de Carvajal's Memorias, with other Mexican Inquisition items, circa 1600. Estimate $50,000 to $75,000.

Auction Guide