Autographs and Signed documents
See also : Italy II Political writing US Civil War Medicine Canada Sport memorabilia Sport memorabilia II Origins of sports Olympic Games Sport document Baseball Birth of USA Inventions Sciences Ancient science Sciences from 1800 Music Ancient Germany
Chronology : 16th century 1500-1519 1780-1789 1850-1859 1860-1869 1892
1510 The Codex Leicester of Leonardo da Vinci
1994 SOLD for $ 31M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
Leonardo is neither a scientist nor an engineer in the modern meaning of these terms. He does not waste his time analyzing the consequences of his theories or conceiving the realization of his inventions. In his swarming of ideas, he could be wonderfully right and naively wrong, and he was certainly unable to distinguish between these two extremes.
For this left-hander, the mirror writing is the way he has found so that his thinking is not slowed down by his hand. The use of numerous abbreviations, which makes these texts extremely difficult to decipher, is consistent with this hypothesis. We will never know how he desired exploiting such a unique mass of informations.
These writings were later assembled into notebooks, identified under the more technical term of codex. The Codex Leicester is the only one remaining in private hands. It was sold twice by Christie's, for $ 5.1M on December 12, 1980 and for $ 31M including premium on November 11, 1994. Between these two sales it was named the Codex Hammer. It was bought by Bill Gates at the last auction. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
The Codex Leicester is made up of 18 double sheets of parchment for a total of 72 pages 22 x 30 cm. It brings together his notes written around 1510 on the theme of the water movements. The author imagines that his ideas could be used for the design of bridges.
His observation on the presence of fossils in the mountains brings an explanation far ahead of his time : they were originally in a seabed which was raised by a geophysical phenomenon. This hypothesis is all the more remarkable since the monotheistic religions of his time do not question the creationism.
In the same notebook, he explains the luminosity of the Moon by the reflection of sunlight on its surface entirely covered with water.
1740 Improvisation for Lautenwerk
2016 SOLD for £ 2.5M including premium
This document is a masterpiece of spontaneity that brings us into the creative process of the most gifted musician. It was probably written in improvisation on the two sides of a reused sheet music. The sheet was later separated into two parts, presumably to facilitate its use.
The musical writing is easy but the creative impulse just missed to overflow the surface of the paper. The sheet is signed and titled in a poor French "Prelude (Fuga, Allegro) pour la Luth ô Cembal". The manuscript is complete of its three movements.
This music was composed for a solo instrument. The BWV classes it amidst the works for lute but Christie's catalog observes that this opus was not fully compatible with the lutes of its time.
It was probably intended for a Lautenwerk, an instrument similar to a harpsichord whose metal strings were replaced with gut strings plucked by quills. The mellow tone of a Lautenwerk supports a fast and playful music. The allegro of BWV998 can be danced.
BWV998 may be dated around 1740, at a time when Bach confronted the Lautenwerk with the lute for his friends. He owned two Lautenwerk. Besides his skilled hands, this instrument was never popular and disappeared almost completely. TheLautenwerck page in Wikipedia offers a recording of BWV998 on a recreated Lautenwerk.
Please watch the video shared by Christie's:
1787 Washington promotes the Spirit of the American Constitution
2009 SOLD 3.2 M$ including premium
George Washington, the hero of the War of Independence, is one of the most active proponents of this reform. In a letter written to his nephew on November 9, he explains that power is not given to people but will always be with the people.
This autograph letter of four large pages is presented for auction by Christie's in New York on December 4. We anticipate a price equivalent to the major political manuscripts of Lincoln. It is estimated $ 1.5 million.
I would not discuss the U.S. Constitution without mentioning the great legislator who designed the mechanism for implementing such a political masterpiece. His name was James Madison. His unsignificant presidential output undervalues him in the American memory, and it is a pity. The U.S. Constitution is still in force today without fundamental changes, while the French Revolution, which began two years later, is mostly leaving an emotional memory.
POST SALE COMMENT
As I expected (or better: as I hoped in the preparation of my auction barometer) this letter of Washington met the prices of the two political manuscripts of Lincoln recently sold (with less than 10% accuracy range).
$ 3.4 million including premium at Sotheby's in New York on April 3, 2008, and the same price at Christie's in New York on February 12, 2009.
For Washington, yesterday: $ 3.2 million including premium.
See the image of that lot, shared before the sale by AuctionPublicity.
1789 Creation of American Freedoms
2012 SOLD 9.8 M$ including premium
The founders of the nation are now trying to redefine the delicate balance between the executive and legislative branches while considering also the need for autonomy of each state. Their work is outstanding, since the system defined between 1787 and 1789 is still the foundation of the US law.
George Washington is one of the key figures in this success. On June 22 in New York, Christie's sells his personal copy of the main acts of Congress. This collection gathers the Constitution, various acts including the creation of major Executive Departments, and the first draft of twelve articles known as the Bill of Rights for an effective and pragmatic definition of freedoms.
This collection was a working document for the new President. It is also a much valuable autograph: signed on the title page, it includes handwritten notes in the margin of several acts.
This collection of 53 sheets 30 x 19 cm assembled in 1789 in a binding probably made in the same year remains in excellent condition. It is difficult to predict the price of such a treasure, but the auction house tries an estimate: $ 2M to 3M. Here is the link to the catalog.
POST SALE COMMENTS
US people know to recognize their historical documents of great importance. This extraordinary witness of the birth of the Constitution was sold $ 9.8 million including premium.
I invite you to play the video shared before sale on YouTube from Fox News :
1857 The Laws of the Knickerbockers
2016 SOLD for $ 3.26M including premium
The spirit of competition requires fixed rules that will identify champions who will defend their title in the following season. In England, football has a similar story at the same period.
The activist of the standardization of base ball, which will later become the baseball, is the New York Knickerbockers Base Ball Club established in 1845 and named after the uniforms of the firefighters who lent to them their playing field.
The Knickerbockers were not the best in sport but they had the merit of endeavoring to impose their rules. They were also one of the two teams that played the first official match in 1846 and the first base ball club to use a distinctive uniform in 1849.
In 1857 in New York, the first congress of the National Association of Base Ball Players establishes the first regulatory body and freezes the rules that will remain virtually unchanged for ever, ending the initiatives of the Knickerbockers.
A set of three manuscripts that were almost unnoticed in an auction in 1999 gives a new vision on the fundamental and even unique role of the Knickerbockers in defining the final baseball laws.
In 1857 the President of the Knickerbockers is Doc Adams who had been a player in the 1846 pioneering game. The three documents are the first autograph draft written by Adams in 1856 (the last page is missing), an iteration annotated by him before the congress and the final laws submitted to Congress and approved.
These documents are grouped as the lot 1 in the online auction organized by SCP Auctions with bidding close out on April 23. I invite you to watch the video shared by the auction house.
We are record setters here at SCP #Auctions. Remember when we sold The Laws of Baseball for over $3,000,000? We’d love to help you with your #sports #memorabilia in our Summer Premier Auction. Send in your #consignments before it’s too late. pic.twitter.com/jVT7YCG3vh— SCP Auctions (@SCPAuctions) July 7, 2019
1864 Lincoln's Fatal Blow to Slavery
2010 SOLD 3.8 M$ including premium
At the promised date, January 1, 1863, Lincoln proclaimed an executive order abolishing slavery in the ten states on which he had no control.
This strategy is of paramount political skill. It confirms that in the mind of Lincoln the end of slavery is the main issue of the American Civil War. Without alienating the states loyal to the Union, it gave such a boost to the slaves that their emancipation had no more obstacles, entering into the constitution through the Thirteenth Amendment on December 18, 1865.
One hundred years later, the Kennedy brothers are considering new advances for civil rights. The murder of the President does not slow down the ardor of his brother. In 1964, Robert Kennedy bought at auction at Parke-Bernet a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Abraham Lincoln.
This document is again for sale on December 10 in New York by Sotheby's (Parke-Bernet's successor). It is estimated $ 1M, and illustrated in the press release shared by Paul Fraser Collectibles.
POST SALE COMMENT
The estimate of this prestigious lot was undervalued. It was sold for $ 3.8 million including premium.
This document printed and signed in 1864 is bearing the autograph signatures of Abraham Lincoln and of Secretary of State William Seward.
I invite you to play the video shared on the web by Sotheby's :
1864 The Two Victories of Abraham Lincoln
2009 SOLD 3.4 M$ including premium
Now, in a press release, Christie's reminds with suitable details the events of this decisive year. Until June, Lincoln, the outgoing president, was considered a loser. The popular opinion was in favor of McClellan calling to enter into negotiations to end the civil war.
In August the fall of Atlanta happened, and supporters of Lincoln saw that a military victory was possible. On November 8, Lincoln won the election, one of the most important in the history of his country: his anti-slavery ideas would now be able to overcome. The end of the war came also very soon afterwards.
On 10 November 1864, at the White House, the reelected president made an important speech to celebrate his political victory. The paper he wrote with his hand for reading it on that day will be sold by Christie's in New York on 12 February 2009. Those four pages in excellent condition were owned by the heirs of Lincoln before going into a library that sells them now.
In a nice marketing approach that we would like to see more often from auction houses (big and small), Christie's organizes this sale the very day of the 200 th anniversary of Lincoln, who was born on 12 February 1809. This lot is expected to realize more than $ 3 million.
POST SALE COMMENT
Sold for $ 3.4 million charge included, the manuscript of an important speech has made the same price as the emotional letter sold last year. I would hope it sells more, but perhaps is it just the regular price for an important autograph of Lincoln.
This is of course one of the most important results at the beginning of this year.
1888 A Letter with a Drawing of La Maison Jaune
2013 SOLD for $ 5.5M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
Arriving in Arles on February 20, 1888, Vincent first stayed at the hotel. The atmosphere was pleasing him and he wanted to install his accommodation and his workshop by the town. He was seduced by a house with yellow walls that he could rent for a low price : it had been vacant for a long time and was fairly decrepit.
His enthusiasm is growing. He set up his workshop in the Maison Jaune, waits for the scheduled connection of town gas which will improve his working conditions, and chooses to invite an artist with whom he feels affinities : Paul Gauguin.
On November 5, 2013, Christie's sold an autograph sheet 13.4 x 20.6 cm, lot 16, for $ 5.5M including premium over a lower estimate of $ 2.5M. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
The back page is the end of a letter, including a praise of Gauguin and wishes of health improvement for Theo. Vincent rarely dated his letters. This document is the fifth page of a letter sent to his brother around September 29, 1888.
The front is a full page ink drawing showing the Maison Jaune with lots of small details and a good animation. This image is a copy of an oil painting he had just made. The artist has not overlooked the long awaited earthworks of the gas companies. He wants to show Theo that his new living environment is ready for an unprecedented artistic adventure.
Gauguin agreed : he knocks on the door of the Maison Jaune on October 24, 1888.
1891 Ball and Basket for Indoor Sport
2010 SOLD 4.3 M$ including premium
By design, it is not a rough sport. The idea of the inventor, the Canadian James Naismith, was to occupy without risk of injury the sportsmen in winter, when weather conditions do not allow to play baseball or football.
The elevated position of the baskets gives a specific interest to this sport that does not invite to physical contact. One can argue whether similar sports existed before basketball and inspired Naismit. No matter: the basketball based on his thirteen rules has become one of the most popular sports due to the simplicity of its required equipment.
Naismith had typed these thirteen rules, in two sheets that he modified by hand writing and signed. His family, who had kept this precious document, sells it at Sotheby's in New York on December 10 for the benefit of a Canadian foundation that spreads the ideals of sportsmanship of the inventor. The photo of these pages is shared by Artdaily.
It is clear that this lot is highly important in the history of sport. The auction house devoted a separate catalog to it, and expects $ 2M.
POST SALE COMMENT
The invention of basketball is really a major act of modern history, one of those advances that have impacted the lives and behavior of millions of people. The document was sold for $ 4.3 million including premium.
I invite you to play the video shared on the web by Sotheby's :
1892 Faster, Stronger, Higher
2019 SOLD for $ 8.8M including premium
With a remarkable open-mindedness, Coubertin compares the progress of sport in several countries. In England, the country of the fair play, football is a team sport practiced in colleges, including Rugby, and the establishment of official rules allows competitions. In Sweden the mental benefit of gymnastics is officially recognized. In the United States, sport opens the way to the practice of collective recreation. He does not like the use of sport for military training in Germany but recognizes its heroic character.
The time is also favorable for meetings of thematic clubs in England and France. They will support the development of the Coubertin project. In 1891 he promulgates a motto : citius, fortius, altius (later modified in its sequence). Coubertin is setting the example : on March 20, 1892 he is the referee in the final of the first French rugby championship.
Taking as a pretext the fifth anniversary of a running club, a conference is organized at the Sorbonne on November 25, 1892, with three speakers. Bourdon and Jusserand tell the history of the sport. Coubertin, entrusted for dealing with modern sport, concludes his speech by proposing the reestablishment of the Olympic Games.
In this seminal address, Coubertin's vision is universal. The most developed nations will help the others. It is a matter of practicing sports in common between athletes of all nations with a search for the individual excellence, but not yet of international competition or rewards.
The autograph draft of this Coubertin thesis, largely modified by the author in the preparation phase, is estimated $ 700K for sale by Sotheby's in New York on December 18, lot 173. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
Very remarkably, despite necessarily different visions of his international interlocutors, it is Coubertin himself who will concretize his concept. A January 1894 autograph document defining the stadium and sports passed at Goldin Auctions on October 29, 2016. In June 1894, Pierre de Coubertin creates the International Olympic Committee.
#AuctionUpdate Moments ago in our #NYC salesroom, the original Olympic Games manifesto soared to $8.8 million, more than 8.5x its $1 million high estimate following a 12-minute bidding battle. The manifesto outlines Pierre de Coubertin's vision for reviving the ancient games. pic.twitter.com/xoR4uAzs2t— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) December 18, 2019
1894 Passions for Beyond the Grave
2016 SOLD for £ 4.55M including premium
Attending von Bülow's funeral in 1894, Mahler is dazzled by the ode to the Resurrection by Klopstock. He immediately begins his second symphony in five movements starting with the symphonic poem Todtenfeier which he had composed in 1888. The next phases form a dramatic crescendo leading to the exalted fortissimo of the fifth movement.
Mahler's second symphony is monumental by its duration close to an hour and a half and by its orchestra requiring 90 musicians accompanied by choirs and by soloists in soprano and alto. The conductor Semyon Bychkov comments : “At the end of it you feel that you have arrived in heaven having gone through hell”.
In 1965 the businessman Gilbert Kaplan is in his turn overwhelmed by the second symphony. He has conductor skills which he thereafter devotes exclusively to this piece.
Written from April to December 1894, the autograph manuscript of the second symphony in 232 pages 35 x 27 cm remains complete with its reworks, its withdrawals and its additions. It has never been bound.
Coming from the deceased estate of Kaplan who had acquired it in private sale in 1984, the manuscript is estimated £ 3.5M for sale by Sotheby's in London on November 29, lot 36. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
1953 The Release of the Secret of Life
2013 SOLD 6.05 M$ including premium
Through a mathematical approach to X-Ray views that had been difficult to analyze, Crick and Watson built the model of the double helix of DNA. Copernicus had used a somehow similar method to raise the heliocentric hypothesis when seeking to simplify an apparently too complex data.
Very excited (as he told it), Crick could not keep the secret. The listener is well chosen: he explains with great foresight the result and its consequences in a seven-page handwritten letter dated 19 March 1953 to his son Michael then twelve years old, a college student out of home for his school time.
This first digest work of one of the greatest discoveries is signed Daddy. We see with great pleasure that this research was an actual team work honoring equally the two scientists, "Jim" Watson and Daddy. The schematic diagram of the double helix has a beautiful clarity.
On April 2, Watson and Crick submitted the first official text to the professional review Nature, which published it on April 25. The contrast is striking between the enthusiasm of Daddy's letter and the short and careful scientific release, not illustrated, soberly explaining that the fundamental breakthrough of the new theory is the relative position of the chemical elements in the molecule.
Their theory was right, and was soon validated by all biochemists in the world. Daddy's letter is a true treasure in the history of science, unparalleled except perhaps by some letters from Einstein. The estimate is quite open: $ 1M to 2M.
POST SALE COMMENT
This document is extraordinary and certainly unique. One of the most important discoveries of our time is announced in a letter to a child before being published in the specialized journals. Emotion takes its place alongside the scientific rigor.
This manuscript is recognized as one of the greatest releases in the history of science: $ 6.05 million including premium.
Here is the link to the catalogue.