University Archives is thrilled to announce its next sale on May 31, 2023: Rare Manuscripts, Books & Sports Memorabilia. Major collecting categories of the 380+-lot sale include Music, Science, & U.S. Presidential, with outstanding autographed material from Ludwig van Beethoven to George Gershwin; from Albert Einstein and Max Planck to Thomas A. Edison; and from George Washington to Joe Biden. Exceptional items of Civil Rights, Military, Entertainment, Literature, and Sports memorabilia will also pass the auction block. Our lavishly illustrated catalog is up and ready for viewing/bidding!


Ludwig van Beethoven commands an extensive Music category which also includes George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Earl “Fatha” Hines, Motown/R & B, and Woodstock. Beethoven autographed material is extremely scarce, and this undated autograph letter in German signed by him as “Beethoven” also features excellent musical content relating to his only opera, “Fidelio,” a love story about a wife disguised as a man rescuing her husband from a political prison. Beethoven’s letter was addressed to Friedrich Sebastian Mayer, the baritone singer who played Don Pizarro the prison governor in the first two productions of “Fidelio.”


Besides Planck, Edison, Morse, and even Henry Heimlich and L. Ron Hubbard, we have three interesting lots related to Albert Einstein in our May sale. One of these is a remarkable script from the mid-1940s NBC television series “Your World Tomorrow” signed by him as “A. Einstein” on the front cover. In the pilot episode, “The Atom,” Einstein’s discovery of his equation E=MCis dramatized through dialogue between “Einstein” and two fictional characters. The series was slated to air in May 1946, less than one year after U.S. forces dropped atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There are very few examples of Einstein’s inscribing his famous formula in something other than a book and or in something likewise manufactured, and an Einstein handwritten example of the formula recently fetched over $1.2 million at auction!


Our May sale features U.S. Presidents from George Washington through Joe Biden, with Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, and Reagan items being especially well-represented.

George Washington boldly signed an October 21, 1799 letter addressed to a Revolutionary War veteran named Captain Abraham Shepherd in the former’s capacity as Commander-in-Chief of Federal Armies under the Adams administration. Washington assumed command of the military after his second presidential term ended, and he would serve until his death two months after this letter was written, in December 1799.

John Adams wrote an incredible autograph letter signed dated March 31, 1801 addressed to Isaiah Thomas, Jr., the Worcester printer of the old Boston Patriot weekly, “Massachusetts Spy.” In it, Adams inquires whether Massachusetts is being overrun by the “moral and political opinions of Virginia” in a veiled reference to recently ascendant Thomas Jefferson and other Virginia Democrats.

Abraham Lincoln penned a Civil War-dated autograph note regarding a brigade surgeon’s appointment in the Excelsior Brigade. This battle unit had been plagued by political in-fighting between disgraced former New York Congressman Daniel Sickles, and his nemesis, New York Governor Edwin Morgan. Lincoln’s note implicitly acknowledges the strained political climate, and was signed on January 13, 1862, the very day he forwarded his presidential nomination of Edwin Stanton as U.S. Secretary of War.


Civil Rights

Martin Luther King, Jr., Booker T. Washington, and the Black Power Movement headline our Civil Rights category. Martin Luther King, Jr. signed a typed letter on “Southern Christian Leadership Conference” stationery on January 18, 1966 concerning the use of the “N” word. To the inquiring man from Haddonfield, New Jersey, King wrote: “The word ‘n–r’ carries with it a meaning deeply rooted in the debilitating racist caste ordering of our society’s slavery epoch and segregation era.” King explained that he favored the term “dark skinned American” to approach the question of nomenclature as objectively as possible, while emphasizing the shared values of American citizens regardless of race.


Collectors of Military and Naval will be pleased with abundant autographed material from the Revolutionary War, Napoleonic Wars, Civil War, and World War II. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson wrote a 1p autograph letter signed to a neighbor on June 29, 1861, when he was commanding the 1st Brigade of the Confederate Army of the Shenandoah. Earlier that Spring, Jackson had conducted multiple raids against the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, one of the Union Army’s principal supply arteries, destroying tracks and bridges, and confiscating locomotives.

An archive of World War II-dated correspondence from Charles Sweeney, pilot of “Bockscar,” paints a vivid portrait of Air Force life before and after the dropping of the atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Sweeney participated in the Hiroshima raid (in an auxiliary plane, “The Great Artiste”) and dropped “Fat Man” from “Bockscar” over Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.


The May sale features wonderful material relating to Harry Houdini, Marilyn Monroe, the Marx Brothers, and others from the 19th/20th centuries. A 3pp autograph letter signed by Beatrice Houdini on mourning stationery dated November 9, 1926 provides a moving account of her husband’s death less than two weeks earlier, on October 31st. The letter was uncovered in Germany and to the best of our knowledge has never been published. Houdini’s widow describes the exact circumstances of Houdini’s unexpected death from a ruptured appendix, lamenting, “The world has lost a Genius, but I have lost my Man.”


Literature forms a major subcategory of the May sale, with over 40 lots dedicated to authors like James Joyce, Bram Stoker, George Bernard Shaw, Graham Greene, Henry Miller, and Stephen Crane. Of these, a great percentage includes a single-owner collection of autographed material from Beatniks Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Neal Cassady.

James Joyce signed a limited edition first edition copy of “Finnegans Wake” (1939). Considered one of the most difficult books in the English language, “Finnegans Wake” was much more ambitious in literary aims than even Joyce’s subversive “Ulysses” (1922). The partly uncut and unopened book appears to be unread, and is in near pristine condition.

Allen Ginsberg signed a June 8, 1960 typescript draft of annotated notes that would later become part of “Magic Psalm,” a poem featured in “Kaddish and Other Poems” published by City Lights Bookstore in February 1961. The manuscript was inspired by Ginsberg’s experimentation with hallucinogenic ayahuasca during recent travels in Peru.


Highly collectible May sports memorabilia from baseball and boxing includes signed photos, autographed baseballs, game-worn apparel, and vintage posters and other ephemera from the likes of Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Joe DiMaggio, and Muhammad Ali. An archive of six game-worn baseball helmets and jerseys from the Baltimore Orioles, ca. 1990-2016, comes with grading and authentication from JSA and Mears.

We hope you can join us on May 31, 2023. Please view our catalog for further details!