Sold for $170,000 (£155,215) at Sotheby’s New York, this broadside reward poster was issued just six day’s after John Wilkes Booth’s assassination of Abraham Lincoln in April 1865. Booth was shot later that month and one accomplice, Herold, captured in that same action, was later hanged, but no rewards were paid until late 1866. Then, after various competing claims were settled, some 30 soldiers and detectives shared the bounties on both men.

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Six-figure bids were very much in evidence in a US sale of April 13-14 that offered 560 lots of printed and manuscript Americana from the collections of Barbara and Ira Lipman.

Top of the bill at Sotheby’s New York (26/20/13.9 % buyer’s premium) was a very rare, first book-form printing of the Declaration of Independence that made $400,000 (£289,855).

Issued on July 8, 1776, this was a disbound example of a 5pp announcement of the momentous news that had been added at the very last moment to a political tract called The Genuine Principles of the Ancient Saxon, or English Constitution. Copies of that work are held in many major library collections but auction appearances have been very few.


Published in London in 1774, The Bostonian’s Paying the Excise-Man or Tarring & Feathering, a mezzotint engraving by Philip Dawe realised $38,000 (£27,535) at Sotheby’s New York. For dramatic purposes it takes a few modest chronological liberties in depicting the Boston Tea Party going on in the background at the same time and the victim, John Malcomb, a King’s excise-man, being forced to drink tea.

The $320,000 sellers

Not so very far behind in the price lists – and way above estimate in both cases – were two lots sold for $320,000 (£281,885) each.

One was a copy of earliest obtainable printing of Lincoln’s ‘Emancipation Proclamation’ of 1862. Only six examples of the original State Department printing of what came to be recognised as a key document in US history and a vital step towards the emancipation of slaves are now recorded. Estimated at $60,000-80,000, it was said to be the only one still in private hands.

The other $320,000 seller, and against what was only a slightly higher estimate, was one of very few recorded copies of the 1790 first printing of the Assumption Act, signed by Thomas Jefferson.

Billed as one of the more essential laws ever passed by the US, and a cornerstone of Alexander Hamilton’s economic programmme, it authorised the federal government to receive the outstanding debts of the individual states and to issue federal securities in exchange.


Bid to $48,000 (£34,780) at Sotheby’s New York was a rare first issue of Surveyor General Thomas Holme’s Mapp of ye Improved Part of Pensilvania in America Divided into Countyes Townships and Lotts of c.1687-88. Intended by William Penn to be used for promotional purposes and depicting the boundaries, as well as naming the owners of every settled tract of land in the colony, it also features the first plan of Philadelphia.

Sold at $300,000 (£217,390) was a single page document of 1777 that runs to just five lines that are executed in a neat clerical hand in imitation of printing. Bearing the bold signature of Alexander Scammell, Adjutant-General of the Continental Army, it marked the launch of Hamilton’s political career.

Docketed in his own hand to the reverse, it appointed him ‘Aid de Camp’ to George Washington.


Attributed to Jean-Nicolas Desandrouins, ‘Plan des environs de Williamsbourgh, York, Hampton et Portsmouth’, a manuscript map of 1781 that made $280,000 (£202,900) at Sotheby’s New York was prepared for the Comte de Rochambeau, C-in-C of the French Expeditionary Force during that year’s Yorktown campaign. Washington and Rochambeau, having waited nearly a year to co-ordinate their armies, turned their attention away from New York City to begin the momentous march to Virginia that culminated in the siege of Yorktown and the surrender of the British commander, Lord Cornwallis.

Paine rarity

Other highlights included, at $260,000 (£188,450), copies of the first three issues of Thomas Paine’s The American Crisis – the first of which, published in December 1776, is of great rarity – and a rare original printing of the Journals of the Proceedings of Congress for the first five months of 1776. The latter made $190,000 (£137,680).

Among printed maps in the Lipman collection, the most costly was a finely preserved and coloured example of Henry Popple’s British Empire in America… of 1733-34. A large wall map on 15 engraved double-page and five single-page map sheets, it sold for $110,000 (£79,710).