It’s a rare auction where you can you can find not just a letter from Jack Kerouac but his mailbox as well. This month’s sale at University Archives in Westport includes historical treasures from U.S. presidents, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Walt Disney and even handwritten lyrics to Bob Dylan’s most famous song.
Robert Reznikoff, the president and owner of University Archives, said he holds sales “almost every month,” but calls the May 6 event “a very strong one.” All auctions are online.
The current auction consists of 260 lots, and the items, from scientists and monarchs, writers and politicians, span thousands of years. Sir Isaac Newton’s signature is found on a legal document regarding his investment in a slave-trading company. Lot 82 has a document signed by Henry VIII. “This auction covers over five centuries,” Reznikoff notes.
“Not everything has to be signed by a famous person” to make the auction, Reznikoff explains. Among the items is a whaling log, penned by a sailor who ended up in San Francisco and became a part of the Gold Rush.
Here are 10 other highlights from the May 6 University Archives auction. The full catalog can be found at universityarchives.com.
How would it feeeeel … ? to own the lyrics to “Like a Rolling Stone,” written out in longhand by Bob Dylan a few years ago? Nasal twang not included. “He wrote out a very few lyrics, a group of them, for a fundraiser,” Reznikoff says.
Jack Kerouac looms large in this auction, comprising nearly a third of the lots. This is in fact part 3 of an extensive sale of Kerouac memorabilia. The “On the Road” author is represented by a four-page letter that muses on a number of religious topics, the mailbox from his Florida home, a crucifix, some of his favorite clothing (a “carefully mended” sweater and pajama bottoms), his hardcover advance copy of Joseph Heller’s novel “Catch-22,” and many other items.
A pithy, ever-timely epigram — “Truth is the most valuable thing we have. Let us economize it.” — is signed twice by its celebrated author, with both his birth name Samuel Clemens and his pen name Mark Twain. The Clemens signature also appears on a stock certificate for the Freso Mining Company. “It’s one of only three known,” Reznikoff says. “It was originally sold for $50,000 in 2010.” The auction also features a first edition of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
A 1961 sketchbook page from legendary underground cartoonist R. Crumb, distinctive because the sketches seem as realistic as they do cartoony.
An image of Mickey Mouse as an “Argentine Gaucho,” marking Disney Studio’s 1940 Goodwill Tour of Latin America, signed by Walt Disney himself.
Lot 158A features a photo of Abraham Lincoln, signed by the stovepipe-hatted icon himself. Other U.S. presidents represented in the auction include Thomas Jefferson, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gerald Ford and Millard Fillmore.
There’s a letter by Oskar Schindler of “Schindler’s List” fame, written, as Reznikoff puts it, “to the survivors of what he was able to accomplish.” Part of the letter reads: “I am particularly proud that many of you, my dear and longtime friends, express the wish to welcome me in Israel as a guest and friend, which was previously mostly reserved for German government members.”
On his way to meet his Waterloo, Napoleon Bonaparte stopped to rest. The chair he sat in is part of the auction. “I believe it was in the Netherlands,” Reznikoff says.
A Martin Luther King Jr. speech from 1961, “The Church on the Frontier of Racial Tension,” with King’s own handwritten annotations.
The “Big Three” of the World War II era — President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Premier Joseph Stalin — all signed a one ruble bank note when they were at the Yalta Conference in 1945. It’s in Lot 28.