NEW YORK, NY.-
On May 18, Christies
will offer the sale of Important Printed Books and Americana from The Albert H. Small Collection. This wide-ranging collection features original historical and presidential letters and documents including a hand-drawn survey by the 18-year-old George Washington. In another letter, written in 1789, Washington congratulates James Madison on his election to serve in the first Congress. An early edition of Thomas Paines revolutionary Common Sense is part of the collection, as are letters and documents of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, with several large-format editions of the Declaration. The Small collection contains an excellent copy of a striking print by Paul Revere, depicting the Boston massacre in 1770, an incident which contributed to the rift between the American colonies and Great Britain. Reveres graphic, hand colored print constitutes early political propaganda. London cartographer Thomas Jeffery published The American Atlas in 1776, and its 22 engraved maps constitute the most important 18th century atlas of America, depicting the early battles of the Revolution.
Among presidential items is a letter dated 1804 in which President Thomas Jefferson explains why he has been forced to limit his charitable contributions while serving as president. The collection also contains a very rare ships passport, issued in April 1841, signed by President William Henry Harrison. Harrison served only 30 days in the White House before succumbing to influenza, which makes any item signed by him an exceptional rarity. From the Civil War era is a rare edition of Alexander Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the War (1865-1866), containing some of the most famous and harrowing images of the American Civil War.
In the printed book section, the earliest item is a full-page from Johann Gutenberg's Latin Bible, 1455, the first substantial book printed with movable type. Smalls collection contains an elephant folio copy of John James Audubon's The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America (1845-1854), with superb hand colored depictions of American mammals, several finally bound sets of the smaller size editions of Audubon's Birds and Quadrupeds, and an original painting by John Woodhouse Audubon, for a print in the Quadrupeds. The artist George Catlin is represented by a fine copy of his North American Indian Portfolio, with detailed depictions of the buffalo hunt and other aspects of Indian life. Another fine color plate volume is Maximilian zu Weid-Neuwied, Travels in the Interior of North America, with many finely executed plates after Carl Bodmer.
Some 400 years later, another printer, William Morris, at the Kelmscott Press, printed a celebrated edition of Geoffrey Chaucer, illustrated with striking woodcuts by Edward Burne-Jones, in its original white pigskin binding. Finished in 1896, it is a unique achievement. Albert Small was especially interested in the works of Humphry Repton, a British designer of the early 19th century specializing in landscape architecture. He prepared detailed renderings of proposed gardens, and used movable over-slips to highlight the proposed renovations. These beautifully prepared red books, bound in red leather, are now rare. The Small collection features a remarkable series of manuscripts and imprints of Repton. The artist David Roberts traveled in the near East and published an extensive collection of hand-colored lithographs of The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt and Nubia, (London 1842-1849), comprising six large folio volumes. The collection also contains excellent copies of the second, third and fourth editions of William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories and Tragedies (1623, 1664, 1685), containing all of Shakespeare's dramatic works.
Albert Small, a native Washingtonian, studied engineering at the University of Virginia, and launched a highly successful engineering and architectural firm, Southern Engineering. Over the last half-century, Albert Small has given many impressive collections to public institutions. In 2004, he gave to the University of Virginia his many editions of the Declaration of Independence, highlighted by his copy of the 1776 John Dunlop broadside (and six other early printings). In addition to his extensive gifts, Small has served on many civic and cultural boards, including the Madison Council of the Library of Congress, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian, the National Archives, the National Symphony, and others. In 2009, the nation recognized his many years of generous public service when President Barack Obama, at the White House, awarded Small the Presidential Humanities Medal. Christie's is honored to have been chosen to handle the dispersal of this final portion from Albert Smalls extensive collection.