• <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>English Literature, History, Science,<br>Children’s Books and Illustrations<br>1 – 8 December, 2020</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 1-8 Dec.:</b> JAMES OF MILAN | <i>Pricking of love,</i> illuminated manuscript in Middle English [England, fifteenth century]. £60,000 to £80,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 1-8 Dec.:</b> BEARDSLEY | <i>The Toilet of Helen,</i> original ink drawing for Savoy, 1895. £30,000 to £50,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 1-8 Dec.:</b> DICKENS | <i>A Christmas Carol,</i> 1844, seventh edition, presentation copy inscribed by the author. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>English Literature, History, Science,<br>Children’s Books and Illustrations<br>1 – 8 December, 2020</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 1-8 Dec.:</b> DARWIN | <i>For Private Distribution... Extracts from Letters addressed to Professor Henslow...,</i> 1835, original wrappers. £70,000 to £90,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 1-8 Dec.:</b> DEFOE | Autograph manuscript poem, 'Resignation', 1708. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 1-8 Dec.:</b> GRAHAME | <i>The Wind in the Willows,</i> 1908, first edition, dust-jacket. £12,000 to £16,000.
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Livres et Manuscrits<br>7 – 15 December, 2020</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 7 – 15 Dec.:</b> [RELIURE BRODÉE]. <i>Horae beatissimae...</i> Anvers, 1570. Reliure brodée de la Renaissance aux armes du duc d'Anjou. €50,000 to €70,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 7 – 15 Dec.:</b> ARTOIS, comte d', futur Charles X. 75 lettres autographes au comte de Vaudreuil entre 1792 et 1804. €15,000 to €20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 7 – 15 Dec.:</b> [Pascal, Blaise]. <i>Lettres de A. Dettonville ...</i> Paris, 1658-1659. Rarissime édition originale en reliure de l'époque. €30,000 to €50,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Livres et Manuscrits<br>7 – 15 December, 2020</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 7 – 15 Dec.:</b> Aragon, Louis. Ens. de 8 ouvrages avec envois à Jacques Lacan, dont "Blanche et l'oubli", 1967, sur grand papier. €2,000 to €3,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 7 – 15 Dec.:</b> Fermat, Pierre de. <i>Varia opera mathematica.</i> Toulouse,1679. Petit in-folio. Edition originale. De la bibliothèque de Jacques Lacan. €6,000 to €8,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 7 – 15 Dec.:</b> Leduc, Violette. <i>La Bâtarde.</i> 1958-1963. Important manuscrit autographe, premier jet. 20 cahiers, env 2048 p. ms. €40,000 to €60,000.
  • <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>December Sale<br>December 5, 2020</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> SHERBURNE, BRANTZ, and WIRGMAN. The Original Drawings of the First Modern Scientific Survey of the Patapsco River and Chesapeake Bay. $350,000 to $500,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> LAFON, Barthelemy. The Earliest Comprehensive Survey of Louisiana and its Adjacent Regions. $350,000 to $450,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> Giacomo GASTALDI. The Most Important Renaissance Wall Map of Asia Published in the 16th Century – with all four sheets having full margins. $300,000 to $400,000.
    <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>December Sale<br>December 5, 2020</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> CAO, Junyi. The Most Important Map of China to Come to Market in 50 Years. One of only three known copies of the last Ming Dynasty world map. $325,000 to $375,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> ORTELIUS, Abraham. Ortelius Atlas Spanish 1588 Magnificently Rich Original Hand Color in Full. $225,000 to $350,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> An Exceptionally Fine and Historically Important Manuscript Map Showing the Origins of Texas in the 19th Century. $250,000 to $350,000.
    <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>December Sale<br>December 5, 2020</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> PRICE, William and BONNER, John. Map of Boston 1769. $225,000 to $325,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> John James AUDUBON. Audubon’s Brilliant Icon, That Has Never Been Equaled for Drama. $150,000 to $250,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> Pierre-Joseph REDOUTE. Original Watercolor, Red Lily. $175,000 to $250,000.
    <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>December Sale<br>December 5, 2020</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> John James AUDUBON. The Most Famous Image of a Bird in All of History. $150,000 to $200,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> Martin WALDSEEMULLER. The Finest Example in Existence of Martin Waldseemuller’s Map of the New World, with Spectacular Full Original Color. $150,000 to $200,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 5:</b> GORDON, Peter. The First State of the First View of Savannah: The Template for American Urban Planning. $100,000 to $150,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Bernardus Sylvanus, one of the earliest printed maps of the New World, woodcut, Venice, 1511. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Johannes Blaeu, <i>Nova et Accuratissima Totius Terrarum Orbis Tabula,</i> Amsterdam, 1662. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Emanuel Bowen & John Gibson, <i>Atlas Minimus,</i> miniature atlas, London, 1758. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Henry Andrews, <i>The Botanist's Repository for New & Rare Plants,</i> London, 1797-1815. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> John James Audubon, <i>Night Heron or Qua Bird, Plate CCXXXVI,</i> hand-colored aquatint, 1835. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Basilius Besler, group of 30 folio engravings, <i>Hortus Eystettensis,</i> Eichstatt, 1613. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Henri Chatelain, <i>Carte Tres Curieuse de la Mer du Sud...,</i> Amsterdam, 1719. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Arnoldus Montanus, <i>Die Unbekante Neue Welt...,</i> German text edition, Amsterdam, 1673. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> John Woodhouse Audubon, <i>California Gray Squirrel,</i> oil on canvas, c. 1853. $30,000 to $50,000.

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2014 Issue

The Jacqueline Kennedy Letters, and Why They Were Withdrawn from Sale

46a40c81-0629-488d-ab7c-a09a3498948e

All Hallows College (photo from their website).

The previous article in this month's issue of AE Monthly recounts the case of an astounding collection of letters written by Jacqueline Kennedy to an Irish priest between the years 1950 and 1964. They revealed the innermost thoughts of America's most famous and glamorous first lady, from the time just after her college graduation, though the terrible assassination of her husband. What was surprising was that this personal archive was being put up for auction. Many questioned the appropriateness of selling these letters. Then, with pressure mounting from all sides, the sale was abruptly canceled.

 

Two days later, the college that possessed these letters for the past half a century, announced it would be winding down operations and permanently closing its doors. This second surprise reveals why the controversial decision to sell the archive was made in the first place, and tells us more about the difficulties declining institutions with valuable collections face. There were no easy choices for All Hallows College in Dublin. Ultimately, they were forced to make the final one.

 

Early this year, All Hallows College began the process of evaluating the worth of a Book of Hours it possessed. It was dated 1460, a date that almost certainly would make it a very valuable item. Bookseller Owen Felix O’Neill was called in to appraise it. That led to O'Neill examining other items possessed by the college, which led to the stack of Kennedy letters kept in a drawer.

 

Jacqueline Kennedy, then Jacqueline Bouvier, first met Father Joseph Leonard on a visit to Ireland in 1950. Fr. Leonard ushered Ms. Bouvier and her step-brother around Dublin. The young woman found him more open and accessible then the priests she knew back in the states. He would be someone she felt comfortable in confiding her inner thoughts. She only saw the Priest one more time, on a visit to Ireland with her new husband, John Kennedy, in 1955. Nonetheless, she corresponded with him by letter for the rest of his life. Fr. Leonard died in 1964. There were 33 of these letters in his possession when he passed on, including some written shortly after her husband was assassinated.

 

What we have only recently learned is that while it was having the value of its archives assessed, All Hallows College was in desperate financial straits. It had been running at a loss for many years, and was unable to make up the difference through contributions or other sources. The decision to sell such personal items was borne of necessity – these letters were possibly worth millions of dollars, and while this would not solve the college's long term needs, it could put off the day of reckoning awhile longer. Perhaps the solution to its financial problems that had eluded the college's administrators for so long could be found if it could buy more time by selling off valuable, but unneeded items from its archives.

 

All Hallows College is not a recently formed educational institution. It has a long history, explaining why it would have some very old material in its possession. It was founded in 1842 as a place to train priests who would in turn become missionaries to far off lands. Fifty years later, operation of the college was taken over by the Vincentian Brothers, followers of the teachings of St. Vincent de Paul. They have operated the college since 1892. However, as the need to train priests to serve in far off lands decreased, it was decided to change the college's mission. It would become a typical college, open to all. Undoubtedly, this choice, made in the 1980's, was necessary for the college to survive at that time.

 

When Father Patrick McDevitt, recently appointed President of the college, and other officials examined the Kennedy collection, they assumed it was the property of All Hallows. Fr. Leonard had left no will of which they were aware, and his letters had remained at the college, where he lived, in the 50 years since his death. Surely there must have been concerns that auctioning the letters might raise some controversy, but they were at the end of their financial rope. They commissioned the Dublin auction, Sheppard's Irish Auction House, to conduct a sale. Sheppard's is not noted for selling documents and works on paper, but they do sell furniture and other antiquities from their location in Dublin. It also appears that All Hallows hoped to keep their name as source of the letters, as well as their specific content, out of the press.

 

Unfortunately for All Hallows, some conflicts arose with bookseller O'Neill. It appears he believed his role was greater than that envisioned by All Hallows. He made photocopies of some if not all of the letters, and appears to be the one who made some of the content known to the Irish Times and the Boston Globe. The Boston Globe had images of some of these letters, which they ran in their newspaper. The source and content was out. Sheppard's then sued O'Neill to stop releasing information about the letters, or depicting himself as being their owner. Perhaps O'Neill was implying his ownership to hide All Hallows' identity, and was publicizing content to help earn a greater price. Boston is home to the Kennedy's, and to the most obvious potential buyer, the John F. Kennedy Library. Shortly before the auction was withdrawn, a court ordered O'Neill to turn over his copies of the letters to them for safekeeping.

 

Besides the negative publicity and messiness of a court dispute, two other things intervened to disrupt the planned sale. One is some sort of objection raised by the Kennedy family. It is not clear whether objections were made directly to the college, or some back channel concerns were expressed. Whichever it was, it became apparent that the Kennedy family was not pleased with Mrs. Kennedy's personal letters to a priest being made the subject of a public sale. Those sentiments are certainly understandable.

 

The second issue was the ownership of the letters. Later on, it turned up that Fr. Leonard had left a will. He left all of his possessions to the Vincentian Brothers. While the Vincentians ran the college, the college and the Brothers are not the same. They are the owners of Fr. Leonard's letters, and their wishes for them are not necessarily the same as those of the college's administrators. President Fr. McDevitt conceded that the sale would have given the college more time, but wouldn't have prevented its ultimate closure. The Vincentians may not feel that delaying the likely inevitable is a good use of the letters.

 

It now appears that the parties, the Vincentians and All Hallows, are in discussion with the Kennedy family as to the proper repository for the letters. Where they will end up is not known. Our guess is that ultimately they go to the JFK Library, as we can think of no more appropriate place for them to be. The letters are deeply personal, and they and the thoughts they reveal should be treated with the respect they, and Mrs. Kennedy, deserve.

 

Another wrinkle to this story has been added by Fr. McDevitt, according to the Irish Times. This is another issue institutions in trying situations, and many not in such circumstances, nonetheless are confronting. Reportedly, Fr. McDevitt told the Irish newspaper that “a sizable number” of items were missing. He estimated their value in the “thousands.” However, bookseller O'Neill estimated this more likely to be in the millions of dollars. O'Neill reportedly estimated over 100 books and some very valuable artwork was missing, the college having been “plundered” for a long time, some thefts coming recently. Among the items he listed included prints by Raphael, a first edition by Issac Newton, a 1484 sermon, books sent to Fr. Leonard by Mrs. Kennedy, and correspondence Fr. Leonard had with George Bernard Shaw, including an undated script sent to him by Shaw. Apparently, some valuable items were legitimately sold by the college in the past, during earlier financial troubles. Whether that accounts for the differences in estimates between Fr. McDevitt and bookseller O'Neill, or if it is explained by a deeper familiarity with current values by the latter, is unclear. Whatever the value, something went very wrong, and All Hallows College is hardly the first, nor will it be the last, institution to suffer these problems. Even healthy institutions have a hard time finding the funds needed to adequately manage their collections. How much harder is it for ones like All Hallows, teetering for so long on the brink of extinction?

 

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>One of a Kind Collectibles Auctions<br>Rare Autographs,<br>Manuscripts and Books<br>Accepting bids<br>Now until December 17</b>
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles, Now to Dec. 17:</b> Thomas Jefferson (wants to bring his private French chef to Monticello.
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles, Now to Dec. 17:</b> Amazing Marilyn Monroe Signed 1953 Glamour Photo.
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles, Now to Dec. 17:</b> Albert Einstein "refugee intellectuals of the Hitler persecution."
    <center><b>One of a Kind Collectibles Auctions<br>Rare Autographs,<br>Manuscripts and Books<br>Accepting bids<br>Now until December 17</b>
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles, Now to Dec. 17:</b> Man Ray Photographs (1935) signed to Sister.
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles, Now to Dec. 17:</b> John Hancock Signed Document.
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles, Now to Dec. 17:</b> <i>Liber Scriptorum;</i> Signed Stories by Mark Twain, Theodore Roosevelt and Carnegie as well as 106 other authors! Limited to 251 Copies.
    <center><b>One of a Kind Collectibles Auctions<br>Rare Autographs,<br>Manuscripts and Books<br>Accepting bids<br>Now until December 17</b>
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles, Now to Dec. 17:</b> Historically Important Winfield Scott letter.
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles, Now to Dec. 17:</b> Buddy Holly signed "AMERICA'S GREATEST TEEN-AGE RECORDING STARS" PROGRAM.
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles, Now to Dec. 17:</b> Benedict Arnold autograph receipt signed in the text.
    <center><b>One of a Kind Collectibles Auctions<br>Rare Autographs,<br>Manuscripts and Books<br>Accepting bids<br>Now until December 17</b>
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles, Now to Dec. 17:</b> (Michael Curtiz) Amazing archives of 22 letters Written by John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, Ingrid Bergman. Olivia De Havilland, Bing Crosby.
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles, Now to Dec. 17:</b> GIUSEPPE VERDI SIGNED PHOTO.
    <b>One of a Kind Collectibles, Now to Dec. 17:</b> Very Rare Jonathan Swift Autograph (Gulliver's Travels).
  • <b>ANZAAB Joint Catalogue:</b> BULLER, Walter Lawry. <i>A HISTORY OF THE BIRDS OF NEW ZEALAND.</i> London, Van Voorst, 1873. Special De-Luxe edition of this already rare work.
    <b>ANZAAB Joint Catalogue:</b> GIBBS, May. <i>Gum-Nut Babies.</i> Sydney: Angus and Robertson, Ca. 1918.
    <b>ANZAAB Joint Catalogue:</b> SWIFT, Jonathan. <i>TRAVELS INTO SEVERAL REMOTE NATIONS OF THE WORLD.</i> London: Printed for Benj.Motte. 1727.
    <b>ANZAAB Joint Catalogue:</b> JUKES, Joseph Beete. <i>NARRATIVE OF THE SURVEYING VOYAGE OF H.M.S. FLY…</i> London: T. & W. Boone, 1847. First Edition.
    <b>ANZAAB Joint Catalogue:</b> <i>SOMERVILLE, E OE. IN THE VINE COUNTRY.</i> London: W H Allen & Co Limited, 1893.
    <b>ANZAAB Joint Catalogue:</b> MAWE, John. <i>The voyager’s companion, or shell collector’s pilot.</i> London : 1825. Rare.
    <b>ANZAAB Joint Catalogue:</b> PARKINSON, John. <i>Theatrum Botanicum, The Theater of Plants…</i> London, Thomas Cotes, 1640.
    <b>ANZAAB Joint Catalogue:</b> c. 1150 decorated MONASTIC MISSAL LEAF, Southern Germany/Austria.
    <b>ANZAAB Joint Catalogue:</b> LEGGE, Captain W. Vincent. <i>A HISTORY OF THE BIRDS OF CEYLON.</i> London, The Author, 1880.
    <b>ANZAAB Joint Catalogue:</b> AUNT HANNAH. <i>SOME ADVENTURES IN THE LIFE OF A COCKATOO.</i> Published in New York by R. Shugg and Co., 1872.
  • <center><b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers<br>Christmas Rare Books<br>& Collectors’ Sale<br>9 & 10 December 2020</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> Joyce (James), <i>Ulysses,</i> 4to, Paris: (Shakespeare & Co.) 1922, First Edn. €7,000 to €9,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> Of the Utmost Rarity with Swift Association. Harward (Michael). <i>Philomath. A New Almanack for the Year of Our Lord,</i> 1666. €6,000 to €9,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> With Full Complement of Hand Coloured & Other Plates. Rosellini (Ippolito). <i>Monumenti dell Egitto e della Nubia,</i> Vols. I, II, & III Plate Volumes only. €5,000 to €7,000.
    <center><b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers<br>Christmas Rare Books<br>& Collectors’ Sale<br>9 & 10 December 2020</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> With Magnificent Hand Coloured Plates. [Bivort, Debabay, & others] <i>Annales de Pomologie,</i> 8 vols., folio, Brussels, 1853-1861. €4,000 to €6,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> With Very Fine Coloured Plates & Illustrations. Barbier (George) Vogel (Lucien) & others, <i>Gazette du Bon Ton - Arts-modes et frivolities, </i> 1914 to 1922. €4,000 to €6,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> “I have seen War... I hate War," Signed Presentation Copy to William C. Bullitt, Roosevelt (Franklin D.) August 14, 1936. €3,000 to €4,000.
    <center><b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers<br>Christmas Rare Books<br>& Collectors’ Sale<br>9 & 10 December 2020</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> Victorian Hostess & Horticulturist. An Important Collection Relating to Lady Dorothy Nevill (1826-1913). €2,500 to €3,200.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> Fine Original Portrait Photos of The O'Brien Ladies by Margaret Cameron. Two black and white Photos, each 8" x 10". €1,200 to €1,800.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> James Hume Nesbitt Illustrations: A collection of twelve pen and ink Drawings and Etchings intended for publication as book of illustrations for his thriller novels. €800 to €1,200.
    <center><b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers<br>Christmas Rare Books<br>& Collectors’ Sale<br>9 & 10 December 2020</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> Attributed to Kitagawa Utamavo (1753-1806). A pair of attractive colourful woodblock prints, of Court Ladies in decorative robes with numerous stamps and script. €800 to €1,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> Contemporaneous Notes from Captain Cook's Voyage Travel: [Anon] <i>Voyage to the South Sea by Mr. Banks, Mr. Parkinson and Dr. Solender, with Capt. Cooke,</i> a 7 page m/ss document. €700 to €1,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Dec. 9:</b> Very Rare First U.K. Edition with Yellow Paper Band. Herbert (Frank). <i>Dune,</i> 8vo London (Victor Gollancz Ltd.) 1966. €500 to €700.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions