From Shakespeare to Kerouac, Remarkable Letters & Manuscripts by Great Minds

Image of Shakespeare in the opening of a book.
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From Shakespeare to Kerouac, Remarkable Letters & Manuscripts by Great Minds

  • Oscar Wilde and Constance Lloyd Wilde, Autograph epigrams, 1893. Estimate $15,000–25,000.
    Wilde's quotation, signed and dated November 1893, is one of his most famous epigrams: "A cynic is one who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing." These epigrams from the Wildes were written less than two years before the author's calamitous trial and conviction.

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  • George Gershwin, Fine photographic portrait signed and inscribed by the composer. Estimate $3,000–5,000.
    This fine photographic portrait is signed and inscribed by the composer, in black ink (“Most sincerely, George Gershwin”), showing Gershwin seated at his Steinway grand piano.

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  • William Shakespeare, Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. London: 1632. The first issue of the second folio edition of Shakespeare's works, also containing John Milton's first appearance in print. Estimate $100,000–150,000.
    "An Epitaph on the admirable Dramaticke Poet, W. Shakespeare" (A5r). The second folio was essentially a page-for-page reprint of the first folio of 1623. This edition was printed by Thomas Cotes—who had taken over Isaac Jaggard's shop in 1627—for the five publishers listed in the colophon, each of whom had rights in one or more of the plays.

    Of the nine imprint variants of this edition, this is the first. Among the other variants are title-page imprints for the four other publishers (Smethwick, Aspley, Hawkins and Meighen) and two reissues of the edition circa 1641 or later. The very handsome binding is much in the style of—and attributed by the Bishop and Stockhausen catalogues to—Christian Samuel Kalthoeber.

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  • Leonhart Fuchs, Pergameni medici praestantissimi, De curatione per sanguinis missionem libellus. Lyon: 1546. Estimate $8,000–12,000.
    Galen's understanding of anatomy and medicine was principally influenced by the then-current theory of humorism (also known as the four humors – black bile, yellow bile, blood, and phlegm), as advanced by ancient Greek physicians such as Hippocrates. His theories dominated and influenced Western medical science for more than 1,300 years. The first edition by Leonhard Fuchs is an exceptionally rare edition of Galen's work on bloodletting, with only one other copy having been offered at auction.

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  • Josiah D. Whitney, The Yosemite Book. New York: 1868. First edition, one of 250 copies issued with photographs by Carleton Watkins. Estimate $7,000–10,000.
    The Watkins views in this book were made during the photographer's 1866 trip to Yosemite with the Geological Survey of California; those by Harris, a Survey photographer, were made in 1867. Mount Whitney is named after the author. The photography history book The Truthful Lens referred to The Yosemite Book as, "one of the first American books devoted entirely to photographs of the landscape."

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  • Richard Feynman, Autograph Manuscript, being a sheet of calculations with original drawings by Feynman. Estimate $10,000–15,000.
    In 1962, at the age of 44, renowned American physicist Richard Feynman began learning to draw, starting by taking weekly classes at the home of artist/scientist Tom Van Sant. He developed into a talented artist over the years, often working with live models in his home, or simply sketching the people around him, and eventually began signing his works under the pseudonym "Ofey."

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  • Apple Corps Ltd Dissolution of Contract, signed by all four Beatles, 29 December 1974. The end of a global phenomenon — the dissolution of The Beatles' legal partnership. Estimate $30,000–50,000.
    Signed legal documents relating to critical moments in The Beatles' career are quite desirable — their 1962 managerial contract with Brian Epstein achieved £365,000 in 2015, and McCartney's 1970 Affidavit initiating the lawsuit that would break up the band achieved $125,000 in 2018.

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  • Arthur Rackham, "The Moon Like to a Silver Bow New-Bent in Heaven." Original watercolor for A Midsummer Night's Dream. Estimate $12,000–18,000.
    This drawing is one of seventy illustrations Rackham produced for William Heinemann's 1911 edition of A Midsummer Night's Dream, which the artist exhibited at the Leicester Gallery, London, in 1908. The image at hand accompanies Hippolyta's opening lines in the palace of Theseus in Act I Scene I:

    "Four days will quickly sleep themselves in night;
    Four nights will quickly dream away the time;
    And then the moon, like to a silver bow
    New-bent in heaven, shall behold the night
    Of our solemnities."

    Original illustrations from A Midsummer Night's Dream are sought-after — another work from this series sold for $39,650 in 2010.


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  • Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan ... London: Andrew Crooke, 1651. First edition, Sir Thomas Hanmer's copy. Estimate $20,000–30,000
    Hobbes' masterpiece of political theory was formed based on his experience of the English Civil War, in which the State is seen as an artificial monster to which individuals submit for their own survival. It has been said of its influence: "This book produced a fermentation in English thought not surpassed until the advent of Darwinism. Its importance may be gauged by the long list of assailants it aroused." (Pforzheimer).

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  • Joseph Penso de la Vega, Confusion de confusiones. Amsterdam: 1688. The legendarily rare first edition of the first book to describe a stock exchange. Estimate $200,000–300,000.
    De la Vega’s Confusion de Confusiones provides a detailed explication of the Amsterdam stock exchange at which he speculated, supposedly losing and winning back his fortune five times. The practices he describes—puts, calls, pools, and manipulations—remain very much in evidence in contemporary exchanges.

    The 1688 first edition of Confusion de Confusiones probably survives in fewer than ten copies.

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  • John Milton, The Poetical Works of John Milton. London: 1794-1797. Extra-illustrated with a selection of the original watercolors by Richard Westall. Estimate $5,000–7,000.
    Richard Westall was a Royal Academy member best known for his landscapes. He eventually became a drawing tutor for Queen Victoria. His illustrations of Milton that Boydell commissioned are striking in their vibrant Romanticism and would become perhaps the most renowned depictions of the work throughout the next century.

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  • James Avati, Original cover art for The Hoods, New York: Signet Books, 1953. Estimate $10,000–15,000.
    James Avati (1912–2005) was an influential American paperback cover illustrator, whose work with The New American Library had a lasting impact on the art of the paperback. The cover of The Hoods presents a frenetic and lurid composition of beiges and greens, with "Noodles" and his accomplices in the midst of perpetrating a robbery. A 1954 article in Harper's articulated the genius of Avati's work: "His accomplishment is not just to reproduce the real ... but to frame it emotionally, in a way that defines the book inside without letting a prospective reader feel it is defined too completely to bother with." The Hoods is perhaps his best work after his paperback cover for Catcher in the Rye.

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  • Jack Kerouac, On the Road. New York: Viking Press, 1957. First edition. A very fine association copy, inscribed by Neal Cassady to Ted Wilentz, legendary bookseller and proprietor of Greenwich Village's Eighth Street Bookshop. Estimate $10,000–15,000.
    The inscription in famed Beat writer Neal Cassady's scrawling hand covers the front free endpaper. "(at his store on 8th st. 9–9–5): "For Ted — who led me to believe that all bookmen don't resent giving themselves away in their entirety, nay, in their heart, aye! with love, Neal Cassady, (himself; I think) Dean Moriarty." Wilentz was known for his generosity to both Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady, giving them both numerous loans which were never repaid, in addition to feeding them and standing them rounds of drinks at the Cedar Tavern.

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  • Lord George Curzon’s hunting trip in India and Nepal. Estimate $3,000–5,000.
    This fine album includes images of Curzon and his party, the camp, and photographs of the group on elephants, at a formal meal, various hunting scenes as well as the group with tigers. Curzon, who was Viceroy of India (1899–1905), created the territory of Eastern Bengal and Assam.

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  • William Falconer, The Shipwreck. Edinburgh, 1858. A fine emblematic jeweled binding by Sangorski & Sutcliffe. Estimate $6,000–8,000.
    This intricate cover is an excellent example of a luxury binding from the zenith of Sangorski & Sutcliffe's atelier, and was part of the library of one their greatest patrons, Phoebe Boyle of Brooklyn, New York.

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  • George Washington, Autograph letter signed, 19 September 1767, to William Neale. Estimate $25,000–30,000.
    John Robinson was a Virginia landowner and Speaker of the House of Burgesses from 1738 until his death in May 1766. It was discovered by Robinson’s executor, Edmund Pendleton, that Robinson had made personal loans of more than £100,000 to fellow planters with monies taken from the public treasury. Bernard Moore, who lived between the Mattaponi and Pamunkey rivers in King William County, was one of the largest debtors to the Robinson estate, and he was forced to sell all of his property to settle the debt.

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  • Ludwig van Beethoven, Fine characteristic autograph letter signed ("Beethoven"), to his friend Nikolaus von Zmeskall. A lost letter of Beethoven, described as missing by Anderson and Brandenburg. Estimate $50,000–80,000.
    Count Nikolaus von Zmeskall was one of Beethoven’s oldest friends and quaffing partners, with whom he could communicate in a relaxed and unbuttoned manner. The misdemeanor of the servant is not elaborated by Beethoven, who also avers that “A well-polished head also needs a well-polished boot.”

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  • Albert Einstein, Original manuscript calculations related to field theory in Einstein's hand — a remarkable unpublished manuscript by one of the world's most renowned physicists. Estimate $30,000–50,000.
    Following his original and groundbreaking research on general relativity, Einstein attempted to generalize his theory of gravitation to include electromagnetism as another aspect of a single entity. In 1950, he described his "unified field theory" in a Scientific American article titled "On the Generalized Theory of Gravitation."

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  • Charles Darwin, A highly important autograph letter signed to Professor Adam Sedgwick, Darwin's former professor, and an opponent of the theory of evolution by means of natural selection. Estimate $15,000–20,000.
    A highly important autograph letter signed to professor Adam Sedgwick, Darwin's former professor, and an opponent of the theory of evolution by means of natural selection.

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