Declaration of Independence, Emancipation Proclamation up for auction at Sotheby’s

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If your pursuit of happiness includes owning a first printing of the Declaration of Independence, the iconic artifact of American history and more are heading to the auction block at Sotheby’s Tuesday.

But start saving your money now, as the large personal library, which also includes documents like an early version of the Emancipation Proclamation and a wanted poster for Abraham Lincoln’s killers, is expected to fetch north of $10 million.

The collection is from the estate of Ira Lipman – the founder of the privately held security film Guardsmark – and his wife Barbara. Dubbed by Sotheby’s “The Passion of American Collectors,” it is made up of 560 lots, ranging from books, pamphlets, maps and atlases. Ira Lipman died in 2019 and Barbara last year.

Ira Lipman “was a true patriot who valued the history of our country, understanding that [history] and how it led to where we are today,” Valerie Westcott, of Westcott Art Advisors, told The Post. “This collection is the ultimate history lesson. It’s an especially full and diverse collection rooted in the history of America and the pieces tell the story of the founding and development of our country.”

Also, “there is a strong theme of African American history that runs through the collection,” said Selby Kiffer, SVP of the Sotheby’s Books and Manuscripts Department.

Some of the highlights include:

  • A first printing of the Declaration of Independence in book form from July 8, 1776, with an expected price of $350,000. “Maybe a total 300 to 400 copies of this were printed,” Kiffer said. “Of those, only 20 to 30 survive and most are in institutions. Since 1967, only three copies have been sold at auction.”
  • The earliest printing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Before the actual proclamation was made in January 1863, President Lincoln issued a preliminary proclamation in September 1862 as a shot across the Confederate’s bow as a final warning. “There is only one other copy of this text, which is in the Library of Congress,” Kiffer said. It is expected to bring $80,000.
  • A wanted poster with rewards for the men accused of killing Lincoln — John Wilkes Booth, David Herold and John Surratt. In this version of the poster, the reward for Booth was $50,000 and the public is warned that Booth may have shaved off his “heavy black moustache.” Expected price: upwards of $60,000.
  • The most expensive piece up for auction is a seventh-edition copy of the “Bay Psalm” book from 1697, the first book printed in British America and the first book to be written here. The book was owned and signed by Jonathan Corwin, a judge in the Salem witch trials. It is estimated to sell for $500,000.

“This is a sale with things in it that people might not get a chance to bid on ever again,” Kiffer said.

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