In Freeman's Books and Manuscripts Auction, pieces of American history exceed estimates
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In Freeman's Books and Manuscripts Auction, pieces of American history exceed estimates
A very rare New Haven printing of the first acts of the first congress of the United States, printed ca. 1789, sold for $22,680 (Lot 11; estimate: $10,000-15,000).

PHILADELPHIA, PA.- Freeman’s announced the results of its September 23 auction, a 140-lot sale that achieved a 95% sell-through rate and underscores Freeman’s strength in presenting material across a wide range of disciplines and time periods. Thursday’s auction saw strong results for documents of American history from the Revolutionary War to the 1960s counterculture. “American history is in our wheelhouse, and today was further evidence of that,” says Darren Winston, Head of the Books and Manuscripts department. “We had some very strong results and happy consignors—ultimately, great material sells itself.”


Following a record-breaking $4.42M sale of a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence in July, Freeman’s Books and Manuscripts specialists continue to confirm their place as premier presenters of 18th-century American material. Lot 16, a second edition of The American Atlas, widely considered the most important 18th-century atlas of America, sparked a lively bidding war between buyers and achieved $69,300 (estimate: $30,000-50,000). A very rare New Haven printing of the first acts of the first congress of the United States, printed ca. 1789, sold for $22,680 (Lot 11; estimate: $10,000-15,000), and Printed Privateers Bond Form, a rare printing from Benjamin Franklin’s official printing press in Passy, France, achieved $11,970, more than doubling its pre-sale high estimate (Lot 4; estimate: $3,000-5,000).


Thursday’s sale underscored the enduring market appeal of fine examples of classic literature, leading with a handsome first and limited edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses, which achieved $27,720 (Lot 71; estimate: $20,000-30,000). A first American edition of Herman Melville’s masterpiece Moby-Dick; or, the Whale likewise garnered significant buyer enthusiasm, selling for $16,380 (Lot 74; estimate: $12,000-18,000).


Posters performed particularly well at Books and Manuscripts, led by a group of 43 screenprints, Berkeley Political Poster Workshop Portfolio, a rare collection that sold for $13,860, far surpassing its pre-sale estimate (Lot 96; estimate: $6,000-9,000). Countercultural material sparked significant interest across the board—a group of primarily music-related counterculture posters achieved $2,520 (Lot 98; estimate: $600-900) after competitive bidding. Two posters by Alphonse Mucha from the turn of the 20th century exceeded their estimates: both Eveil du Matin, which sold for $6,300 (Lot 104; estimate: $2,000-3,000), and Flirt, Biscuits Lefèvre-Utile, which achieved $8,190 (Lot 105; estimate: $2,000-3,000). WWII material also had a strong showing, including a group of 75 WWII posters that nearly doubled its pre-sale high estimate to sell for $5,985 (Lot 109; estimate: $2,000-3,000).


A signed United States loan-office certificate from 1800 sold for $32,760 after an extensive bidding war, exceeding its pre-sale high estimate by a remarkable forty times (Lot 117; estimate: $500-800). A signed autograph letter by Mark Twain—marking a unique moment in history, at the onset of the Civil War and before Samuel Clemens took on the nom de plume of Mark Twain—sparked a spirited bidding war, driving the sale price up to $21,420 (Lot 78; estimate: $10,000-15,000). And a spate of early Pennsylvania material elicited significant buyer interest, driving up sale prices: a chart of the Delaware Bay and River achieved $4,410 (Lot 91; estimate: $1,200-1,800), and a Province of Pennsylvania loan certificate sold for $2,772 (estimate: $800-1,200)—strong results befitting Philadelphia’s auction house.

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