Two letters signed by Albert Einstein (one typed, one handwritten, both in German), a recognizance bond signed by Sir Isaac Newton when he was Warden of the Royal Mint in 1699, and two items signed by Abraham Lincoln (one an autograph album, the other an early legal brief drafted in 1854) are just a few of the expected highlights in University Archives’ online-only auction slated for Wednesday, February 16th, beginning at 10:30 am Eastern time.
The Rare Autographs, Manuscripts, Photographs & Books auction features historical material from multiple collecting categories. The catalog, with all 455 lots, is up for viewing and bidding now, on the University Archives website (www.UniversityArchives.com), plus the platforms LiveAuctioneers.com, Invaluable.com and Auctionzip.com. Phone and absentee bids will also be accepted. The auction marks nearly a year since University Archives’ relocation to a modern new facility in Wilton.
“Our February auction is just a few days shy of George Washington’s 290th birthday and the Presidents’ Day holiday is certainly appropriate, since our catalog features many outstanding presidential items ranging from Washington to Biden,” said John Reznikoff, the president and owner of University Archives. “Other well-represented collecting categories include Science and Technology, Aviation and Space, Sports, Literature, and the Civil War, to name just a few.”
The list of major categories is indeed extensive, to include Science (Einstein, Newton, Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking, others); Presidents (from Washington to Biden); Sports (Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali, Larry Bird, others); Aviation & Space (Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, Orville Wright, the Enola Gay, the Apollo and Mercury programs, Soviet Cosmonauts, others).
Other categories include Civil War (Robert E. Lee, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, J.E.B. Stuart, William T. Sherman, Jefferson and Varina Davis, many generals, others); Early American (John Hancock, Arthur Middleton, others); Literature (Samuel Clemens, Oscar Wilde, E. E. Cummings, Jack Kerouac, others); and World Leaders (Brezhnev, Kim Il Sung, Giuseppe Garibaldi, others).
Both of the Einstein letters carry identical pre-sale estimates of $45,000-$55,000. A typed letter in German signed by Einstein, addressed to close friend Michele Besso, recalls how the two collaborated to formulate the theory of special relativity over 35 years earlier. In it, Einstein compares the process of scientific theorizing to God’s creation of the world, both a “pointless luxury” but nevertheless essential to pushing the boundaries of understanding and existence.
The other letter, handwritten by Einstein and signed “A. Einstein”, is dated June 19, 1919 and is addressed to Professor Georg Lockemann concerning the origins of special relativity in the “ether question”. Einstein suggests that its current state can best be understood if one considers it historically. Before Maxwell, it was an “all-pervading inert substance”, with its “transverse waves” manifesting themselves as light. A full and complete English translation is included.
Sir Isaac Newton, in his role as Warden of the Royal Mint in early 1699, signed a recognizance bond relating to the criminal case against William Chaloner, a recalcitrant counterfeiter (and Newton’s nemesis) who was convicted of high treason and hanged at Tyburn two months later. The bond was meant to ensure the future appearance of Nathaniel Peck as a witness against Chaloner. The beautifully signed document should gavel for $24,000-$28,000.
A Civil War-era scrapbook album compiled by Union Army Major John S. Schultz contains 214 bold and mostly high-grade signatures, including those of four presidents (Abraham Lincoln, James Buchanan, Millard Fillmore, and Franklin Pierce); current and future Lincoln cabinet members (Hamlin, Colfax, Seward, Cameron, Welles, Bates); and a myriad of other important American politicians and military leaders. The album is expected to realize $15,000-$17,000.
An early legal brief drafted by Abraham Lincoln on May 15, 1854 features his signature as “Lincoln for defendant” in the case of Coventry and Warwickshire Banking Company vs. William Whorrall. The fascinating document, loaded with international intrigue and 316 words written in the hand of Lincoln as a young lawyer, has a pre-sale estimate of $10,000-$12,000.
A Revolutionary War-dated manuscript letter twice signed by George Washington and relating to new military draft resolutions passed by the Continental Congress in 1780 provides detailed information about the number of soldiers who had survived the past winter at Morristown, N.J., harsher than even Valley Forge. Continental military commanders Henry “Lighthorse” Lee, Hazen, Webb and Lamb are explicitly mentioned in the document (estimate: $30,000-$40,000).
George Washington boldly signed a three-language ship’s passport on July 7, 1794 for a St. Bartholomew-bound schooner named Nancy, commanded by Captain Abijah Potter. Just one year later, Captain Potter was fatally axed during a shipboard slave uprising. The document printed in French, English and Dutch, is signed by Washington (as President), Secretary of State Edmund Randolph and Collector of Customs Jeremiah Olney (estimate: $12,000-$15,000).
A first edition copy of The Babe Ruth Story, as told to Bob Considine, complete with its original dust jacket and a 1948 letter of provenance, signed by the Sultan of Swat just six months before his death from cancer, should bring $7,000-$8,000. Also, a turn-of-the-century diary and address book signed by Virgil Earp, Wyatt’s older brother and a fellow participant of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, very rare and with impeccable provenance, is estimated to realize $12,000-$14,000.
A slave reward poster issued in Baltimore and dated Sept. 7, 1857, offering $500 for the capture and return of Adam Smith, measuring 7 ¾ inches by 12 inches, should sell for $30,000-$40,000. The broadside reads, in part, that Smith “ran away, or decoyed, from the subscriber on Saturday, Sept. 5, 1857”. Smith escaped with the help of the Underground Railroad, then returned to free his family, thereby earning a permanent place in the annals of American freedom.
A signed manuscript copy of John Howard Payne’s wistful song Home! Sweet Home! — one of Abraham Lincoln’s favorite melodies—inscribed “to my friend Miss Alice Stetson” and dated Aug. 6, 1850, is expected to fetch $10,000-$12,000. Also, a scrapbook of inscriptions from 100 of the legendary World War II African American aviators known as the Tuskegee Airmen, for their flight instructor Milton T. Hall, gathered from 1943-1945, should garner $9,000-$10,000.
For more information about University Archives and the Rare Autographs, Manuscripts, Photographs & Books auction slated for Wednesday, February 16th, please visit www.universityarchives.com.
About University Archives:
University Archives has become world-renowned as a go-to source for rare items of this kind. It is actively seeking quality material for future auctions, presenting a rare opportunity for sellers. Anyone who has a single item or a collection that may be a fit for a future University Archives auction may call John Reznikoff at 203-454-0111, or email him at email@example.com. University Archives was founded in 1979, as a division of University Stamp Company, by John Reznikoff, who started collecting stamps and coins in 1968, while in the third grade. Industry-wide, Reznikoff is considered the leading authenticity expert for manuscripts and documents. He consults with law enforcement, dealers, auction houses and both major authentication companies. University Archives’ new offices are located at 88 Danbury Rd. (Suite 2A) in Wilton, Conn. For more information about University Archives, please visit www.universityarchives.com.