A chilling letter by John Wilkes Booth penned just months before his assassination of President Lincoln will be auctioned in New York on Tuesday, November 22. Estimated to sell between $50,000-80,000, the letter is a highlight of the Rare Books & Autographs sale at Doyle.
In the two-page letter written to the son of a southern Maryland innkeeper, Booth requests information regarding a missing item left with a stagecoach driver that was to be returned later. This stashed item, long considered to be a gun, may reference Booth’s treasured derringer with which he may have killed Lincoln.
Booth’s cryptic letter is filled with tantalizing clues. He states that the item had “saved his life two or three times” and that “it’s not worth more than $15, but I’d pay him $20 rather than lose it.” The letter closes by instructing the young man to contact Booth at a house in Baltimore, the home of convicted assassination conspirator Samuel Arnold.
The letter was reportedly hidden behind a brick in the hearth of the innkeeper’s family home for decades and is a rare survival. Most recipients of Booth’s late letters destroyed them to avoid the repercussions of association with his dastardly plot.
Other Americana highlights in the sale include a rare July 10, 1776 printing of the Declaration of Independence in a Pennsylvania newspaper. It is one of the earliest obtainable printings of our country’s foundational document (est. $125,000-$175,000). A manuscript known as The Hillsborough Colonial Returns describes the American colonies in 1775 from the British perspective on the eve of the Revolutionary War (est. $100,000-$150,000). Also of note are the first four editions of The Book of Mormon, the printings of which mirror the early westward journey of the Mormons. The Dr. Julius Dintenfass Collection of Presidential Autographs includes fine examples of Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Lincoln.
Material with international appeal includes an important collection of letters, books and documents relating to El Libertador Simón Bolívar and his contemporaries in the South American independence movement, the most substantial such collection to come to auction in decades.
The public is invited to the exhibition on view at Doyle on November 19 through 21. Doyle is located at 175 East 87th Street in Manhattan. Sale information and the auction catalogue may be viewed at www.Doyle.com.