George Washington, Poe Auction Records Set

Friday, 04 Dec 2009 11:36 PM

 

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NEW YORK -- A letter by George Washington has sold for $3,218,500 at auction in New York City, setting a world record for a letter by America's first president, according to Christie's.

Washington's 1787 letter to nephew Bushrod Washington argues for the ratification of the newly drafted Constitution.

The letter had been owned by descendants of Bushrod Washington for more than 100 years, Christie's said. The buyer was not identified.

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The letter's rarity was the reason it commanded well over its pre-sale estimate of $1.5 million to $2.5 million at the auction Friday at Rockefeller Center, said an auction house spokeswoman.

The previous record for a Washington letter was $834,500. It was set at a Christie's auction in 2002.

A volume of poetry and a partial poem handwritten by Edgar Allan Poe also set world records during an earlier auction Friday, Christie's said.

A bidding war over the poem was won by an American collector who bid $830,500, a world record for a 19th-century literary manuscript, Christie's said. The eight verses of the 16-verse poem "For Annie" was estimated to sell for $50,000 to $70,000.

A rare first edition of Poe's first book, "Tamerlane and Other Poems," sold for $662,500 at the same auction, the highest price ever paid for a 19th-century book of poetry.

Only 12 copies of the 40-page volume of poetry, published in 1827, are known to remain. It had a pre-sale estimate of between $500,000 to $700,000.

A Christie's spokeswoman did not immediately have a previous auction record for works by Poe.

The metal Olivetti typewriter Cormac McCarthy used while writing his novels, including "The Road" and "No Country for Old Men," sold at the afternoon auction for an eye-popping $254,500. It had been estimated to sell for $15,000 to $20,000.

McCarthy also invited the winner to join him for lunch at the Sante Fe Institute. The 76-year-old writer donated the auction's proceeds to the nonprofit institute in New Mexico.

The prices include a buyer's premium of 20 percent for items from $50,000 to $1 million and 12 percent for items above $1 million.

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