A letter from Sam Houston, written when he was president of the Republic of Texas, has sold for $6,180 on AbeBooks.com. The letter, dated April 15, 1844, was one of the most expensive sales on our marketplace last month,
Texas was an independent republic from 1836 to 1846 before joining the United States, and Houston twice served as president. The letter, written and signed by Houston, is a humble affair. It orders a payment of $40 to be made to J.F. Brown, who ran a stagecoach service carrying passengers and the mail between Houston and Washington.
Houston is a key figure for buyers of Texas-related ephemera. His military career helped secure the independence of Texas from Mexico and his political work helped guide Texas into the United States. The city of Houston is named after him as well as a university, an army base, several naval vessels, a park and a museum.
Letters from significant historical figures continue to fascinate collectors. We may all communicate via email these days but historical letters can be valuable… if even the subject is the mail. Another longer letter from Houston is listed for sale on AbeBooks at $95,000. Earlier this summer, a letter from Winston Churchill to a society beauty who had turned down his marriage proposal sold for $12,500. Last year, a letter written by Princess Diana to her driver sold for $3,412. A few years ago, I remember a typed letter signed by Mohandas Gandhi selling for $9,500.
AbeBooks’ top 10 most expensive sales in August 2016
1) To a Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – $16,000
A signed first edition from 1960. Interest in this book never wanes and rightly so. AbeBooks’ record for this book is $25,000.
2) Great Books of the Western World (a set in 96 vols) – $9,775
Published by the Franklin Library in leather in 1970, from Homer to Tolstoy, this is an instant library of classic literature.
3) Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë/Ellis Bell and Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë/Action Bell – $9,029
Two works in one volume, published in 1851 and a second edition.
4) Sports et Divertissements (Sports and Pastimes) by Erik Satie – $8,826
This is a rare collector’s album with beautiful Art Deco illustrations by Charles Martin of Satie’s cycle of 21 short piano pieces composed in 1914.
Sports et Divertissements sold for $8,826
5) Lord Randolph Churchill by Winston S Churchill – $8,750
Two volumes, Winston’s biography of his father. The first volume is inscribed “To David Thomson, and best wishes from Winston S. Churchill. 17 Nov, 1906.” The second volume is signed “Winston S. Churchill, 17 Nov, 1906.” Thomson, a New York attorney, was the husband of Eva Purdy Thomson, an American cousin of Churchill.
6) The Notorious Sophie Lang by Frederick Irving Anderson- $6,938
Published in 1925, a first edition of a novel about a beautiful jewel thief, which became a film in 1934. A scarce novel, only one other copy for sale on AbeBooks.
7) An autograph letter from Sam Houston – $6,180
A letter from 1844 ordering payment for mail delivery services between the cities of Houston and Washington.
8) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – $6,000
A 1953 signed first edition of this thought-provoking novel.
Fahrenheit-451 sold for $6,000
9) Original Leaves from Famous Books – $5,548
A rare limited edition book containing pages from other books, including six manuscript leaves (1122 -1470), five incunabula (1472-1493), 15 leaves from the 16th century (1502-1598); and 14 leaves from books published between 1602 and 1923.
10) Poems on Golf by Robert Clark – $5,500
Privately printed in 1867 for subscribers, this 78-page book contains poems collected by members of the Royal Burgess Golfing Society from Edinburgh, which is believed to be the world’s oldest golfing society. Among the writers are Robert Chambers, one of the founders of the Chambers publishing company; his son Robert Jr, winner of the first open Amateur Tournament held in 1858, and Patric Proctor Alexander, a member of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. An extremely scarce book.