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Micah Dornfeld
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Published: 22 June 2017

Divine Intervention: Religious Lots Soar at Freeman’s Books & Manuscripts Auction

Philadelphia, PA – On Friday June 16th  Freeman’s presented the Books & Manuscripts sale, whose catalogue included more than 350 lots spanning everything from sacred texts to autographed letters, and even photographs of the moon taken by the Surveyor probe. The sale achieved a 90% sell-through rate and totaled over $800,000. 

The two top-selling lots of the day were both sacred texts. Lot 156, a Single leaf Hebrew Bible pericope, printed by Gutenberg in 1455, sold for $53,125. As the first major book produced using moveable type, the Gutenberg Bible remains one of the scarcest books conceivable. The next lot, a Portable Manuscript Latin Bible composed in 13th-century France (Lot 157) sold for $50,000. The historic significance of both of these texts extends beyond any religious affiliation.

There was a palpable excitement in the room when bidding for a lithograph of the interior of the Hebrew Synagogue of Charleston, South Carolina (Lot 212) skyrocketed, eventually selling for $25,000, one hundred times its initial estimate of $250-400. The building was destroyed by a fire in 1838 and was rebuilt several years later. One of the oldest Jewish congregations in the country, the synagogue is also the oldest in continuous use, since its founding in 1749. The lithograph was printed in Philadelphia, and shows the vaulted interior of the original structure, which is now known as the Congregation Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim.

Another historical document from the south captured the attention of bidders that afternoon. A letter written by Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee (Lot 195) during  the 1864 Second Battle of Deep Bottom, from his headquarters in Virginia, sold for $27,500 against an estimate of $8,000-12,000. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant just eight months after writing this letter to General Charles W. Field, in which he ordered him to ramp up troop presence against “the enemy.”

Freeman's dedicated team of specialists in the Books & Manuscripts Department, led by Department Head Ben Truesdale, has established an international reputation for their many notable sales and thorough cataloguing. Freeman’s next Books & Manuscripts auction is scheduled to take place on September 28, 2017. 

Consign to our next Books & Manuscripts Auction

    
Featured Lots:

•    Lot 157: Sacred Texts, Portable Manuscript Latin Bible. [Paris, mid-13th century] Complete, comprising Old and New Testaments. Sold for $50,000.
•    Lot 156: Sacred Texts, Bible in Latin. [Mainz: Johann Gutenberg and Johann Fust, 1455]. Sold for $53,125.
•    Lot 212: Americana : Social History, Lithograph. (Bowen, J. T., publisher) Interior of the Hebrew Synagogue of Charleston S. C. [ca. 1840]. Sold for $25,000.
•    Lot 195: American Autograph, Civil War. Autograph Letter Signed. Lee, Robert E. Sold $27,500.

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