PHILADELPHIA — Freeman’s May 3 Books and Manuscripts auction was marked by fierce bidding for presidential material and significant Americana, resulting in the remarkable $441,000 sale of a volume from the personal library of George Washington.
“The market for presidential books, documents and autographs is quite strong, and this exceptional result really drives that home,” said Head of Freeman’s Books and Manuscripts department Darren Winston. “As rare as material like this is, it’s still Freeman’s bread and butter, right in our wheelhouse, and we’re thrilled with the result — as is the consignor.”
The first edition of The Transactions of the Royal Humane Society was given to Washington during his second presidential term by physician Dr. John Coakley Lettsom, and features Washington’s bold signature at the top of the half-title page.
As books from Washington’s library seldom come to auction, this volume represented a very rare market appearance, with corresponding results: the title exceeded its high estimate of $18,000 by more than 24 times following a spirited bidding war.
Several other lots outperformed their estimates in the May 3 auction, including a fresh-to-market manuscript receipt for the delivery of John Dunlap’s just-printed Declaration of Independence, dated July 10, 1776 and signed and inscribed by Owen Biddle. It achieved $32,760 against an estimate of $3,000-$5,000. Another strong result was posted for an autograph letter signed by Thomas Jefferson, which sold for $27,720 against an estimate of $15,000-$25,000; and a 1787 land grant signed by Benjamin Franklin achieved $17,640 against an estimate of $10,000-$15,000.
Also, a 1593 first edition of George Gifford’s A Dialogue Concerning Witches and Witchcraftes outperformed its $3,000-$5,000 estimate by earning $17,640. A total of 67 of the sale’s lots were from the Children’s and Illustrated Books Library of Nicholas Wedge, and together brought $105,556 against a low estimate of $54,500.
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