George Washington's historic letter sells for $3.2m

Christie's sale of fine printed books and manuscripts including Americana which took place this weekend was a great success for some of its key lots.

Far and away its biggest lot was a letter by George Washington to his nephew Bushrod in which he endorsed the idea of a constitution of the United States. It was expected to dominate the auction, with an estimate of $1.5-2.5m, but such was the interest stirred up ahead of the sale that bidders pressed it up even further, until it was finally taken home for an impressive $3.22m, much to the audience's excitement.

Two other letters to the same nephew from a year earlier, criticising the Patriotic Society of which Bushrod was a member, sold on target at $218,500. At Paul Fraser Collectibles we currently have a very early letter of George Washington's available.

Another notable sale was another first edition copy of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species. At $100,000-150,000 the text was given an estimate slightly above the 'Oxford bathroom' copy sold last month (top estimate of £60,000 or $100,000), but still beat it, being taken home for $170,000 in the 150th anniversary year of the book's publication.

However, the most spectacular performer of the sale was Cormac McCarthy's typewriter, on which he has typed all his books to date, including ones still to be published.

Cormac McCarthy Typewriter
Cormac McCarthy's Typewriter

The unspectacular estimate of $15,000-20,000 was completely ignored in a fury of bidding, until eventually the aging device was taken away for an astonishing $254,500 - a testament to how much McCarthy fans wanted to get close to the writing processes of the No Country for Old Men author.

Christie's lively sale shows just how much classic rare books and Americana are desired.


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