AE Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - January - 2012 Issue

Signed Documents from People You Know, from The Raab Collection

Raab70

Christmas stories by Charles Dickens on the cover of the latest from the Raab Collection.

The Raab Collection has issued a new catalogue, and while that cover might make you think its title was “Christmas Tales,” it is not. That's just a picture of Charles Dickens' Christmas Tales you see. The real title here is simply Catalog 70. Offered are 26 more examples of Raab's specialty – signed documents from important persons. There are presidents and prime ministers, writers and poets, and others of significant importance. There are the greats - Washington, Lincoln, both Roosevelts, Churchill, the not-so greats – Chamberlain, Fillmore, and the both - Napoleon. The pen brings us the likes of Dickens, Byron, Whitman, and Kipling. You will know everyone in this catalogue. Here are a few.

That item you see on the cover is a special collection of Christmas Tales compiled by one Russell “Pa” Browne. It is doubtful any writer is as associated with Christmas as Charles Dickens. There are few better known people who never existed than Ebenezer Scrooge. However, Dickens wrote more holiday material than just A Christmas Carol. He edited a magazine called Household Words, and at Christmas time, he would pen stories for the issue. Browne evidently liked them, and compiled the issues of the magazine and had them bound together. One of them is signed. According to a 1933 note that accompanies this item, “Pa” Browne sent it to Dickens who obliged with his signature. The collection has been in the Browne family ever since. Item 1. Priced at $13,000.

Here is a man forever associated with one of the worst words in politics – appeasement. Neville Chamberlain had a distinguished career, and eventually he led his nation in preparation for, and the initial stages of, the Second World War. However, for too long, he believed that he could preserve the peace by appeasing Hitler, an attempt that only encouraged the German dictator. Chamberlain was a well-meaning and mostly effective leader, but he is mainly remembered for his one giant miscalculation. Item 19 is a letter Chamberlain wrote to Beverley Baxter, a fellow Conservative M.P. and a strong ally of the Prime Minister. The letter is dated June 12, 1939, written after the Munich Pact Chamberlain had negotiated, and after Hitler's invasion of Czechoslovakia, but prior to Germany's invasion of Poland that led Chamberlain and Britain into war. As the letter reveals, Chamberlain was still (unrealistically) hopeful. At one point Chamberlain tells Baxter, “Generally speaking, I should say that Italy is more pacifist than Germany, but neither does Germany want to go to war unless she is obliged.” He was dead wrong about Germany not wanting to go to war. $17,000.

Item 3 is a letter from Abraham Lincoln to General George Meade that makes us realize just how hard prosecuting the war must have been for him. He demanded aggressive prosecution of the Civil War, several times dismissing his generals for proceeding too cautiously and conservatively. Caution may have saved more lives, but to Lincoln, preserving the Union was so vital that the terrible costs had to be expended. However, if anyone thinks that Lincoln's aggressive pursuit displayed even a hint of disregard for human lives, they would completely misunderstand the man. This letter concerned one Allen G. Maxson, a corporal in the Michigan Volunteers. Maxson had been condemned to death for desertion by a court martial in January of 1864, and was scheduled for execution on January 29. They didn't run through a lot of appeals, or wait long in those days. In his letter dated January 14, Lincoln orders Meade to “Suspend execution of the death sentence in the case of Allen G. Maxson...until further order.” Such further order never came. Over the next few months, Maxson's and many other's executions were commuted. Despite the fact that some of his generals did not approve of these commutations, fearing it harmed military discipline, Lincoln could not bear such a penalty for people whose fears overwhelmed them. He hated the loss of life, even though circumstances placed him in a position where he had to send so many out to war at great risk of death. $32,000.

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