Autographs and Signed documents
See also : Italy II Political writing Development of USA US Civil War Medicine Sport Sport II Origins of sports Olympic Games Sport document Basketball Sciences Ancient science Sciences from 1800 Physics Astronomy Music
Chronology : 16th century 1500-1519 1780-1789 1860-1869
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.
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 :
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 Answer by Lincoln to the Children's Petition
2008 SOLD for $ 3.4M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
The President received a great deal of mail which was carefully handled by his secretaries. Amidst thousands of requests for favors, he was moved by a letter forwarded to him in early April 1864 by Charles Sumner, senator from Massachusetts, more radical than him for an immediate emancipation.
The document is a children's petition prepared and annotated by Mrs Mann, a widow who had founded a school in Concord MA. 195 boys and girls under 18 wrote their names under a simple and short text : "Children's Petition to the President asking him to free all the little slave children in this country".
The President prepares an autograph draft, which is kept at the Library of Congress. He replies to Mrs Mann : "Please tell these little people I am very glad their young hearts are so full of just and generous sympathy, and that, while I have not the power to grant all they ask, I trust they will remember that God has, and that, as it seems, He wills to do it ".
This answer is very important to the President, who himself copies his draft onto an 8 x 5 inch letterhead page of the Executive Mansion in Washington. Dated April 5, 1864, the letter is addressed to Mrs Mann to whom it is transmitted through the good care of the Senator. It was sold for $ 3.4M including premium by Sotheby's on April 3, 2008, lot 85.
On April 20, Mrs Mann thanks the President for his "sweet words to the children" for whom she was going to have facsimiles prepared, replacing her name as a precaution with the identification of the place of origin, Concord MA. She insists in her abolitionist demand by courteously calling out to the President : "You who can hasten it must be the happiest of men, for in saving the colored man you will feel that you are doing equal service to the white man".
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.
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.
1913 Relativity by Einstein and Besso
2021 SOLD for € 11.7M by Aguttes-Perrine
In physics it is not uneasy to propose theories and equations. None of them is valid until it is verified by an experience.
There was a discrepancy in the application of Newton's universal gravitation theory : the orbit of Mercury, the nearest planet to the sun, is not perfectly elliptic. The tiny discrepancy is 43 seconds of arc per century at the perihelion.
In June 1913 in Zurich, Einstein and his lifelong friend Michele Besso manage a working session on the Mercury issue. Einstein's unprecedented intuition is that the gravity must be distorted by the rotation.
The two friends create and test equations in a method of trial and error. None of them matches the expected result of 43 seconds per century. After some additions in early 1914, Besso keeps their working notes.
This autograph draft document is made of 54 pages on 37 loose sheets 21 x 27 cm in equal parts by Einstein and Besso. It was sold for $ 560K by Christie's on October 4, 2002, lot 81. Coming from the Aristophil judicial liquidation, it was sold for € 11.7M from a lower estimate of € 2M by Aguttes et Perrine supported by Christie's on November 23, 2021, lot A. Please watch the video prepared by Christie's.
Einstein is persistent. He manages to refine the parameters and establish the suitable "Einstein field equations", thus releasing in 1915 a refined theory of gravitation known as the general relativity which is still today the basic of cosmology.
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.