Chronology : 1776 1780-1789 1820-1829 1860-1869
1297 The Magna Carta
2007 SOLD for $ 21.3 M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
In 1215 the English barons revolted against King John. Financial and military demands had not prevented the scathing failures. In a situation of civil war, the king is forced to accept the Magna Carta by which the barons take control of the taxes.
The Magna Carta undergoes several modifications, because the political circumstances change. De facto rejected by King John, the Council of Barons, which was the forerunner of a parliamentary regime, was canceled in 1216 when the child Henry III acceded to the throne. In 1225 Henry III simplified the Magna Carta to facilitate its legal application.
The idea of a Parliament is gaining ground. Edward I takes the habit of summoning his advisers to make decisions concerning taxes and their collection. The operating rules are defined from 1283. It only remained to give force of law to the Magna Carta, which the king assisted by the Parliament solemnly does on October 12, 1297. It is stipulated in 1300 that a copy will be available in each county to be read four times a year.
17 manuscript copies from the 13th century have survived. 15 of them are in British institutions and one in the Australian Parliament.
The 17th document is a copy from 1297. It was bought in 1984 by the US billionaire Ross Perot, who entrusted it for display at the National Archives in Washington DC. It was sold for $ 21.3M including premium by Sotheby's on December 18, 2007. Its new owner, David M. Rubenstein, returned it to the Archives for a new long-term loan. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1776 The Dunlap Broadside
2000 SOLD for $ 8.1M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
On July 4, 1776 the original manuscript of the Declaration was signed by John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress and especially of this memorable session, and by Charles Thomson, secretary of the Congress. From then they had to act in a hurry to propagate the information in the thirteen colonies and to the army. They had no time left for preparing a clean copy of that draft amended during the debates or a fortiori to have it signed by the delegates who have just approved its text.
The manuscript is forwarded to John Dunlap, a printer operating in Philadelphia who is the usual contractor for official Congress documents. The broadside is printed during the night of July 4 to 5. The manuscript no longer matters : it is lost in this operation. Hancock organizes the distribution of the document while urging each recipient to disclose the text by any appropriate means.
The quantity of copies of the Dunlap broadside is not known although the figure of 200 seems fair. 25 copies survive. Almost all are in US institutions or museums.
One of them was found in 1989 by a bargain hunter in the backside of the frame of a torn painting that he had just bought. It was sold for $ 8.1M including premium by Sotheby's on June 29, 2000, a record at the time for an Internet auction.
The buyer was the television producer Norman Lear supported by Internet entrepreneur David Hayden. Lear is not a collector. He immediately organized the Declaration of Independence Road Trip, a non-profit organization committed for displaying this historic document to as many people as possible through tours from city to city.
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 COMMENT
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 :
1824 Facsimile of the US Declaration of Independence
2021 SOLD for $ 4.4M by Freeman's
The duplicate signed by the 56 delegates in early August, 1776 was becoming a symbol of the American liberty. Unfortunately it was badly deteriorating. In 1820 the Secretary of State and future President John Quincy Adams commissioned the printer William J. Stone to print an exact facsimile.
The engraving was made with a wet ink process by which some of the original ink was transferred to a copper plate which was etched. The engraving was completed and dated in 1823 and the printing was made in 1824 in 200 copies on 80 x 70 cm vellum. Approximately fifty are located.
Two copies were presented to one of the three surviving original signers, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, former delegate and senator of Maryland, aged 87. They were presented by Carroll to his grandson-in-law in 1826 after the death of the last two other signers, former Presidents John Adams and Jefferson.
One of them, inscribed by Carroll, went in 1844 to the Maryland Historical Society. The grandson-in-law copied this inscription on the other document with a reference to the autographed Carroll copy.
This second Carroll copy was discovered in a Scottish attic by Cathy Marsden, specialist of rare books at the Edinburgh auction company Lyon and Turnbull, and transferred for auction to their sister company Freeman's based in Philadelphia. It was sold by Freeman's on July 1, 2021 for $ 4.4M from a lower estimate of $ 500K, lot 1. Please watch the video shared by Freeman's.
A historic discovery! Our sister auction house, Freeman’s, is pleased to announce the sale of a signer’s copy of William J. Stone’s 1823 printing of the #DeclarationofIndependence recently rediscovered in Scotland by Lyon & Turnbull. Find out more: https://t.co/RiosDcVn4k pic.twitter.com/xSL20pV2Do— Lyon & Turnbull (@LyonandTurnbull) June 24, 2021
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".
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.
1865 The Proclamation of Equality
2016 SOLD for $ 2.4M including premium
The thirteenth amendment to the Constitution was a major political achievement by Lincoln. It was not an easy operation, especially as the President did not want to wait for the end of the Civil War.
On 8 April 1864 the Senate voted at 38 against 6 a resolution in favor of the thirteenth amendment, but its embedding into the Constitution also required the approval of the House of Representatives and of 3/4 of the States.
In the House, the required 2/3 majority of voters was impossible to achieve in 1864 but the new elections have strengthened the power of Lincoln. The text was accepted on January 31, 1865 after a first negative vote followed by a change of opinion of some voters.
The joint resolution of both chambers is signed on the next day. In the joy of this event, some manuscript duplicates are prepared on the official paper of the Congress.
One of these copies is estimated $ 2M for sale by Sotheby's in New York on May 25, lot 79. This document 55 x 40 cm is signed by 36 senators from the historic proclamation of 1864 and by Abraham Lincoln himself who endorse it as "Approved".
Slavery was abolished in the United States of America in December 1865 when Georgia becomes the 27th state to ratify the thirteenth amendment, eight months after the death of the President.
I invite you to watch the video shared by Sotheby's for introducing the sale. Another top lot is a copy of the "Authorized edition" of the Emancipation Proclamation (June 1864), also signed by Abraham Lincoln. It is estimated $ 1,5M, lot 78.
RESULTS INCLUDING PREMIUM :
1864 Authorized edition : $ 2.17M
1865 Signed manuscript copy of the proclamation : $ 2.4M
1939 Secular Gospel for the Drinkers
2018 SOLD for $ 2.4M including premium
In 1934 a heavy drinker considered as incurable by the doctors tries to recover. He understands that alcoholism is a mental and physical illness but not a sin. After failing in a spiritual approach, he conceives that only a former alcoholic can help a patient disavowed by his family and friends.
He stops drinking but that is not enough. During a professional visit that goes very badly at Akron OH, he feels that he will relapse and looks in the city for another incurable for a mutual help. He finds a surgeon whom he heals and persuades. Bill W and Dr. Bob consciously launched a chain of healing from that disabling illness, without a doctor, without a psychoanalyst, without a priest, simply by ordinary people helping other ordinary people.
They reached at the first attempt a balanced practice, based on the instinctive desire of drinkers to group together for avoiding their natural surroundings, on the protection against relapsing simply brought by the pride of helping another victim, on the anonymity and the absence of a guru which allow the patient to keep his freedom of thought.
They have founded a fraternity without registration and without obligation, without fees and without sponsoring, operating through regular local meetings where it is forbidden to debate anything else than the healing from alcohol. They are the Alcoholics Anonymous.
The method is pragmatic and the early successes are blatant. That deserves a book in which the two founders actively participate. This is another achievement. The first typed draft is sent to a large number of sympathizers invited to comment from their personal experience.
The modifications are written on a reference copy that is considered suitable for publication early in 1939. This 161-page document is a unique example of a collective text serving a great cause. It was sold for $ 1.58M including premium by Sotheby's on June 18, 2004. It is estimated $ 2M for sale by Profiles in History in Calabasas CA on May 5, single lot of the sale here linked on iCollector bidding platform.
The book titled Alcoholics Anonymous is also known by its nickname The Big Book. Its basic principles are applied in all countries of the world.