Heritage’s Historical Platinum Auction in July, Spanning Centuries of Human Achievement, Is One For the Ages
Museum-quality event features the 1791 congressional resolution authorizing the creation of the U.S. Mint signed by Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State.
DALLAS, Texas (June 27, 2022) – This belongs in a museum.
Each person who has seen the more than 50 lots that make up Heritage Auctions’ July 16 Historical Platinum Session Signature® Auction has said that very thing, whether gazing upon Enola Gay co-pilot Robert A. Lewis’ logbook documenting the bombing of Hiroshima, the handwritten manuscripts of Mozart and Beethoven, the single leaf from the Gutenberg Bible or the numerous other historic artifacts offered in this once-in-a-lifetime event. Never before in Heritage’s history have so many items of such consequence been offered in a single auction.
Here, bound in one event, are touchstones of music, wellsprings of literature, launching pads for technological achievement, ideas that shaped the modern world, things you learned about in history class. They are the very items that were there as history was being made — that were made by, signed by, touched by, worn by the men and women who created and codified the human experience. It is not hyperbole to say that each item offered here is a marvel and an essential chapter in a story that spans several centuries.
And where better to begin this tale than with the book that changed the world: the earliest full-scale work printed in Europe using movable type. In the beginning, indeed.
Before Johann Gutenberg created his printing press in Germany in the middle of the 15th century, it would take years for a single scribe to copy the Bible by hand. But upon its completion, the Gutenberg Bible became the first major book printed with movable type in the West – an innovation that changed civilization forever. The remarkable single leaf featured in this auction comes from the first volume of Gutenberg’s revolutionary debut printing of the Bible. It records several religious laws, including commandments for the Sabbath. Tipped into “A Noble Fragment: Being a Leaf of the Gutenberg Bible” and containing Exodus 34:20-36:14, the circa 1455 leaf chronicles the end of Moses’ time on Mount Sinai, committing God’s word to stone, and his subsequent descent, marking the beginning of a new chapter for the people of Israel.
Also available in the auction is Pope Francis’ custom-made cassock and zucchetto, both worn and signed by His Holiness. The all-white and unadorned garments, intended for daily use, are perhaps the most recognizable look of the modern Pope. Only the Pope is permitted to wear the all-white version of this ensemble, and each is handmade for the pontiff, in this case by Mancinelli Clero, a shop whose proprietor, Raniero Mancinelli, has been a tailor for nearly six decades and has created garments for three Popes. The cassock and matching silk skullcap are boldly signed “Francesco,” the Italian version of Pope Francis’ name.
The auction features two incredible musical manuscripts, one by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the other by Ludwig van Beethoven.
Here one will find an excessively rare working handwritten manuscript of a portion of “Le Nozze di Figaro” ( The Marriage of Figaro), one of Mozart’s greatest achievements. Comprising an early form of chambermaid Susanna’s aria in Act Four, the circa 1785-1786 manuscript contains part of the draft for the “Scena con Rondò” that Mozart originally wrote for Susanna to sing in the final scene in the garden. Dressed as the Countess, she sings this aria to arouse the jealousy of Figaro. The opening line: “Non tardar amato bene” (“Do not delay, my beloved”). In the final version of the opera, this rondo was replaced by “Deh vieni non tardar,” a ravishing principal solo aria sung by Susanna. The present manuscript contains the largest known surviving part of the rondo, showing the complete poetic text.
Also offered in the auction is an extraordinary autograph manuscript for the first movement of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in Eb major, Op. 73 (“Emperor Concerto”). The circa late 1808-early 1809 working handwritten manuscript exhibits how Beethoven shaped the motives and textures of the music at a seminal stage of composition of what would become one of the greatest piano concertos of all time. The reverse side of the sketch leaf shows fully harmonized gestures marked for trumpet and drums and ingenious musical textures as Beethoven works out ideas for one of the most brilliant movements in all his works.
The auction’s Americana lots hail from some of the most significant figures in American political history, including Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Stephen F. Austin and more.
Perhaps most exceptional is the 1791 congressional resolution authorizing the creation of the U.S. Mint signed by Jefferson as Secretary of State. A fitting companion piece to the creation of the U.S. Mint document is this autograph letter signed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, replying to the Director of the U.S. Mint, accepting the commission of “new designs for the [gold] coinage. A stunning pair of documents from the origin of the Mint to the iconic designs so easily recognized today.
Also on offer
is a partial autograph manuscript draft of George Washington’s
undelivered first inaugural address. According to Nathaniel E. Stein’s The Discarded Inaugural Address of George Washington, most extant
leaves and fragments of the 1789 speech, which was set aside for a more
perfunctory address, are now held in institutions and libraries, making
this piece an exceptional scarcity.
Another highlight is an autograph manuscript document twice signed by “The Father of Texas,” Stephen F. Austin. Following the Mexican state of Coahulia y Tejas’ passage of a state law implementing colonization in Texas in March 1825, Austin, in his capacity as Empresario, penned this document outlining the conditions upon which 500 families were authorized to settle within his colony. The first three-fourths of the first page is written in Austin’s hand – the rest in an unknown hand, presumably his secretary’s.
The auction offers a wealth of treasures for science lovers, including a thermometer scale signed by Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit. Only three of Fahrenheit’s delicate signed brass instruments survive, including two mercury thermometers held at the Boerhaave Museum in the Netherlands and the stunning circa 1718 example offered here, the only one in private hands. A European physicist, engineer and glassblower, Fahrenheit established the standard for recording temperatures in various industries, and his creation remains the chief system used in the United States today.
Other highlights include the personal handmade telescope of Clyde Tombaugh , the legendary astronomer who discovered Pluto; the only signed copy of Albert Einstein’s Die Grundlage der allgemeinen Relativitätstheorie ever to appear at auction; a rare vintage NASA-made model of the Mercury Friendship 7 spacecraft, the first American craft to orbit the Earth; and a pair of official contractor models of Saturn 1 and Saturn 1B from the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center.
The auction also features three lots from The Armstrong Family Collection™: an Apollo 11 lunar module flown section of the Wright Flyer’s wing fabric , flown as part of the first successful powered controlled flight in history at Kitty Hawk in 1903, as well as the first crewed lunar landing in 1969; an Apollo 11 flown American flag ; and an Apollo 11 crew-signed “Type Three” insurance cover.
This event overflows with the handwritten drafts of masterpieces signed by their authors, among them Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s complete autographed manuscript of “The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter” from The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. After publishing his first 12 Holmes adventures, Conan Doyle had grown somewhat tired of his master detective. But stories featuring Holmes and Watson were in such high demand he followed withThe Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, first published in The Strand in 1893, which included this tale, the manuscript of which is now one of the holy grails of Sherlockiana.
Complete Doyle manuscripts are few and far between. This 34-page document
marks the only remaining full manuscript from The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, which introduced readers to
Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft; the Diogenes Club; and the Holmes’ hereditary
“art in the blood.”
No less significant is Edgar Allan Poe’s handwritten manuscript page from his essay “The Rationale of Verse,” first published in Southern Literary Messenger in October 1848 and later included in The Best Known Works of Edgar Allan Poe. This is a beautiful example of prose from one of American literature’s most collectible authors – and in his hand – featuring the text of an exceptionally scarce essay piece from late in the author’s life.
Another astonishing offering comes from Samuel L. Clemens: a circa-1873 autograph manuscript of the chapter “The Steamboat Explosion” from The Gilded Age, in which the author provides the source of his immortal pseudonym Mark Twain.
James Bond fans will no doubt delight at the various Ian Fleming offerings found in this event: a notebook containing autograph notes for You Only Live Twice , autograph notes for From Russia, With Love and an autograph draft of an article concerning his first Bond novel, Casino Royale, writing techniques and life at the Goldeneye estate in Jamaica. The only thing missing here is the martini and a Walther PPK.
Here, too, are two J.R.R. Tolkien lots sure to delight Stephen Colbert and everyone who has ever dreamed of visiting Middle Earth, including an archive of autographed materials related to the Lord of the Rings index circa 1958. The author provides the extraordinary backstory: “The index is intended primarily for my personal use. I hope to prepare from it some sort of glossary/index such as readers’ letters suggest is most desired...”
This auction likewise features a beautiful genealogy chart and outline of Tolkien’s yet-unpublished work The Silmarilliontitled “Concerning... The Hoard ,” circa 1964, all in the author’s unmistakable hand.
Among the auction’s other highlights is a single-consignor collection of 17 lots related to American aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart, all hailing from the estate of aviator, author and Earhart researcher Elgen M. Long and his wife, fellow Earhart scholar Marie K. Long.
In addition to prized items such as an original LeRoy Neiman oil painting of Earhart aptly titled The Adventuress and the kimono-style jacket she wore just before her record-breaking flight from Honolulu to California in January 1935, the auction includes a typed letter signed to Earhart from Franklin D. Roosevelt. In his message, FDR congratulates Earhart on the historic January 1935 flight in which she became the first woman to fly from Hawaii to California and the only pilot to do so solo.
Other Earhart highlights include the aviator’s
hand-annotated copy of American Practical Navigator, written by Nathaniel Bowditch and published in 1926, and
an archive of U.S. Coast Guard radio reports
documenting Earhart’s final flight and subsequent search efforts. Dated
July 1-16, 1937, the reports tell the hour-by-hour story of Earhart’s
disappearance during her world flight attempt, complete with all the
urgency of scribbled handwritten notes and hastily torn and stowed pages,
directly from a firsthand witness aboard the Itasca, the last ship
to hear from Earhart.
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Source: Heritage Auctions
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