Jan. 27: Fine Books & Manuscripts including an unknown Truman archive at Potter & Potter Auctions

- by Thomas C. McKinney

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This month, Potter & Potter Auctions is hosting a sale of Fine Books & Manuscripts comprising 563 lots. The sale boasts an impressive range of material including Presidential autographs and documents, science and math, literature, pulp and monster magazines, and private press printings. Of note is a previously unknown archive of documents, books, and photographs related to Harry Truman. Fine Books & Manuscripts is slated for 10am on January 27 at Potter & Potter’s Chicago gallery.

Among the Truman material, perhaps the most iconic is a full front page from the Chicago Daily Tribune announcing Truman’s famous “defeat” at the hands of Thomas Dewey. The paper is matted and framed and is estimated $1,500 to $2,500 as lot 22. A number of signed Truman letters and documents are also up for bidding.

Also under the heading of “Presidential and Political Memorabilia,” Truman’s immediate predecessor, FDR, is well represented in the sale with autographs, photographs, and other documents, as well as interesting material on Japanese internment during World War II. But the highlight of the section is a corrected manuscript page from The Autobiography of Malcolm X, with annotations by Alex Haley as well as Malcom X. The lot originated from the 1992 auction of Alex Haley’s personal belongings and is estimated $5,000 to $6,000 as lot 46.

Within the category of “Illustrated Books and Private Presses,” we have reprints of authors such as D.H. Lawrence’s The Man Who Died (lot 122, est. $1,500-3,000), John Steinbeck’s Zapata (lot 130, est. $900-1,200), and Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes (lot 157, est. $300-500). 

Two modern literature first editions stand out among the others, and these are William Faulkner’s Sartoris, of which fewer than 2,000 copies were printed, and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Faulkner is estimated $2,000 to $3,000 as lot 239, while Kerouac is valued at $5,000 t0 $7,000 as lot 252. 

Having recently visited Chile, my interest was piqued by one of the country’s most famous authors and figures, Pablo Neruda. His Canto General, featuring beautiful pictorial endpapers designed by Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros, is a gem and signed by all three men. This copy is #142 of 500. As lot 272, it is estimated $4,000 to $6,000.

If a display piece is of greater interest, and you happen to be a fan of beer, look no further than lot 347, a color lithograph transfer on glass pre-prohibition advertisement for Anheuser—Busch Brewing Association.

And finally, because of my personal interest and academic background in economics, lot 422 closes out this summary of highlights. John Von Neumann and Oskar Morgensten’s Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, a first edition printed in 1944, would be equally at home on the shelf of an economics professor or hedge fund partner—it’s estimated $3,000 to $4,000.

Potter & Potter’s auction of Fine Books & Manuscripts will take place at their gallery in Chicago on January 27 at 10am. The catalog is available as a PDF on their website here, and online bidding is being handled by Bidsquare

Previews of the sale will be available January 25 and 26 from 10am to 5pm.