Schulson Autographs has issued their Catalog 159 Spring 2014. This is, naturally enough, a collection of autographed material. However, they are not simply autographs, but primarily documents that tell a story. Many are personal letters, others contracts, some manuscript writings, a few inscribed photographs. The personalities are leaders in their field, and you will know most of the names. This is a great way to get up close and personal with some noted people from the past. Here are a few.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, is probably the most notable writer of detective fiction. In real life, he investigated a much deeper sort of mystery – spiritualism. Doyle deeply believed it was possible to contact spirits from the other world. His belief was undoubtedly spurred on by personal tragedies in his life, the death of his first wife, son, brother, and other family members. Spiritualism gave him hope. At least some of the spiritual contacts in which he believed were later proved to be faked. Doyle believed that Harry Houdini could perform miracles, despite Houdini protesting that all he did was tricks. It led to a split between the two. Around 1928, he was given a book to review, Communications with the Next World, by W. T. Stead. It was a posthumous work, Stead having died many years before (he went down with the Titanic in 1912), but Stead was a fellow spiritualist, and he and Doyle had been good friends. Not surprisingly, Doyle gave the book a good review, but as this accompanying letter to the Editor of the New York Times Book Review shows, he was quite annoyed by the task. Writes Doyle, “This has taken a whole day of my time when a day could very ill be spared. Here it is – the best I could do.” Priced at $17,000.
Here is another notable detective/mystery writer whose comments make Doyle’s annoyance seem tame. At least in private, Raymond Chandler was a bit acerbic in his opinions, as written in this 1956 letter to fellow mystery writer William Gault. Speaking of another detective writer, Chandler says, “As for Mickey Spillane, I have no opinion on any point because I never got beyond page 4 in any book of his I tried to read.” He continues, “The same, I might say, goes for Agatha Christie and several others of the Sacred Sisterhood of Ladylike English mystery writers.” Neither Mike Hammer nor Hercule Poirot would be amused. Chandler laments, “One of my girlfriends just got herself married to a lunkhead whom I found quite repulsive, and I’m afraid the poor girl has made a mistake.” Indeed, marrying a repulsive lunkhead generally is a mistake. He is also unhappy that his secretary has “abandoned” him for school teaching, then recalls a favored secretary from when he lived in London. “She had more brains in one finger than most girls in that line have in both legs…” We’ll leave it to the reader to decipher that one. $4,750.
This next letter ties two of the greatest French impressionist painters of the turn of the last century, though the unifying event was very sad. Claude Monet’s stepdaughter had died two days prior to the writing of this letter on February 8, 1899. Monet’s longtime friend, Pierre Auguste Renoir, expresses his condolences, writing, “I am truly sad that I may not come to console you myself. I can only pray that this sorrow will be the last one…” $8,300.
Why would the inimitable Dr. Seuss’ manuscript and original artwork for The Lorax be in the LBJ library? This letter, signed “Ted” (Theodor Geisel), explains this oddity. Seuss/Geisel writes to explain his “mystifying presence” at a party held by Lyndon Johnson in 1970 or 1971 by noting that the original artwork is in Johnson’s presidential library “at his request.” It seems that Lady Bird Johnson, who was devoted to cleaning up the environment, noted the environmental message in The Lorax and asked Seuss if he would contribute it to the library. Seuss called LBJ who said yes, he would like the material at his library. $2,800.
Next is a printed document signed by the first man in space, Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. Gagarin was shot into space on April 12, 1961, orbiting the Earth and returning 108 minutes later. It followed the Soviets’ other first in space four years earlier – the first unmanned vehicle to orbit the Earth. This second pioneering mission by America’s archrival was too much of an embarrassment for President Kennedy, who a few weeks later authorized the program to send a man to the moon by the end of the decade. This document, celebrating May Day 1967 in the Soviet Union, is also signed by several other Soviet Cosmonauts who followed Gagarin. $650.