Rare collection of Alexander Hamilton’s unpublished letters headed for auction

November 2, 2016

Auction house Sotheby’s has announced the sale of a rare collection consisting of hundreds of Alexander Hamilton’s letters and personal manuscripts held by his family at auction on Jaunary 18. Alexander Hamilton: An Important Family Archive of Letters and Manuscripts will offer a trove that contains, among others, love letters from the first United States Secretary of the Treasury to his wife, Eliza, and the condolence letter, sealed with black wax, that his father-in-law sent to her after Hamilton was killed in the infamous duel with Aaron Burr, the New York Times reports.

Alexander Hamilton, Auction, Sothebys
Alexander Hamilton, autograph notes for President George Washington’s third annual address to congress, October 25, 1791 (estimate $15,000–25,000)(l); Philip Schuyler, condolence letter signed, to his daughter Eliza Hamilton, following Alexander Hamilton’s death in the duel with Aaron Burr (estimate $15,000-25,000) (r); images courtesy of Sotheby’s.

The papers–some of them previously unknown–have been in the possession of the Hamilton family for 200 years. The collection has not been fully catalogued, but Sotheby’s international senior specialist of books and manuscripts, Selby Kiffer, has said the letters also include correspondence both to and from Hamilton discussing colleagues–who just happen to be John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Benedict Arnold–and manuscripts connected to his law and political careers.

Kiffer calls the archive “highly unusual,” in that so much of it was preserved simply by being handed down by family rather than having been collected artificially. Kiffer also said most of the letters hadn’t yet been published, though some of them had. “There are definitely unknown letters from Hamilton here.”

The archive is expected to sell for a total of between $1.5 and $2.5 million; more valuable items include Hamilton’s appointment letter for his service as aide-de-camp to George Washington, which is expected to fetch as much as $250,000. Not limited to letters, the collection also includes a lock of Hamilton’s hair (estimate: $15,000-$25,000) as well as items that will likely cost far less. Some of the items will be on public display before the auction, which represents a something-for-everyone range of Hamilton-abilia for the dedicated collector of American manuscripts as well as, as Kiffer puts it, the “not-yet collectors who have become entranced with the story of Alexander Hamilton through the musical.” Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway phenomenon “Hamilton,” adapted from Ron Chernow’s 2004 prize-winning book “Alexander Hamilton,” won eleven Tony Awards earlier this year.

Find out more about the collection and the auction here.

[Via NYT]

Lead image: General orders appointing Alexander Hamilton Aide-de-Camp to General George Washington, “To be respected and obeyed as such” (estimate $150,000–250,0000)(l); lock of Alexander Hamilton’s hair with a letter of presentation from his wife, Eliza (estimate $15,000–25,000) (r); images courtesy of Sotheby’s.


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