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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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LINCOLN LEGACY: COLLECTORS WANT BIT OF A TRULY GREAT AMERICAN HERO

LINCOLN LEGACY:  COLLECTORS WANT BIT OF A TRULY GREAT AMERICAN HERO
Anthony Berger/Matthew Brady portrait of Abraham Lincoln sold for $6,900. Photo courtesy of Swann Galleries
The stoic gentleman pictured with noticeably large ears, shrinking hairline, gaunt facial features and noble manner was Robert Lincoln’s favorite likeness of his father, Abraham Lincoln.

The deep lines around his eyes speak of tremendous responsibility. A year after this photo was taken, he was dead. The same haunting photo shows up on the $5 bill we carry in our wallets.

Saving the Union and freeing the slaves guaranteed Abraham Lincoln a lofty place in history. Many historians consider Lincoln to be the greatest American president.

Fame and the scope of literature and documents on Lincoln make him a wonderful attraction for collectors. He and Napoleon rank as the two historical figures with the most written about them.

Books and pamphlets make up the bulk of the collecting, but the field of Lincolniana is huge, covering the professional historian as well as the adolescent who collects Lincoln cents with rare mintmarks.

To give you an idea, a one-page manuscript fragment in Lincoln’s handwriting containing one of his most passionate criticisms of slavery sold in 1993 at Sotheby’s for $992,500.

“Made so plain by our Father in Heaven, that all feel and understand it, even down to brutes and creeping insects...So plain that no one high or low, ever does mistake it, except in a plainly selfish way; for although volume upon volume is written to prove slavery a very good thing, we never hear of the man who wishes to take the good of it, by being a slave himself.”

The complete Lincoln speech is lost, except for this fragment. It is important because it showed his thinking at a pivotal stage in public life. Experts anticipated the fragment would sell for $300,000 to $500,000. It came from the famous carpetbag of Lincoln’s papers left at the home of his wife’s cousin, Elizabeth Grimsley, when Lincoln went to the White House.

Speaking of his purchase at the 1993 sale, Seth Kaller of Kaller Historical Documents said, “The two most fundamental documents embodying the spirit of America are the Declaration of Independence and The Gettysburg Address. The Lincoln manuscript we purchased today is a bridge between the two, showing Lincoln’s effort to make “self-evident” rights in the Declaration apply to all Americans, as it was originally intended.”

Not everything related to Lincoln goes for top dollar. A miniature booklet of the Proclamation of Emancipation, with 1 million copies originally printed, sold back in 1987 at Christie’s auction house for $1,760. It would be interesting to see what the same booklet might fetch today on the block.

Swann Galleries in New York offered the 1864 Lincoln photo by Anthony Berger/Mathew Brady at their Oct. 3, 1994, photography sale. The oval albumen print, 8 1/4 by 6 1/4 inches on the original mount with the printed Brady & Co. studio credit on the reverse, sold for $6,900.


Q. I was wondering if you have information on cloisonné? I have several pieces and would like to know more about it. Bernard Baecker, Pittsburgh.

A. Cloisonné is a method of decorating metal with enamel wires. The most common examples you see in vases, jars, plates and bowls. Small wires are soldered into the metal to form a design. The channels are then filled with varying colors of enamel and the object is fired. The last step is a smoothing process that gives an even exposure to the wire pattern and reveals an intricate design.

Known in China as far back as the 14th century, research books differ as to the dates of origin. Chinese cloisonné is generally recognized by its use of primary colors, thick gilded bronze, brass or copper wires and the presence of pitting in the older enamel pieces.

The Japanese cloisonné resembled the Chinese form until the end of the 19th century. Then the Japanese employed a technique of using very fine wires, developed their own motifs and refined the enameling process so that the pieces appeared glassy.

Cloisonné made in the 20th century is inferior to similar examples made between 1865 and the turn-of-the-century. The quality, workmanship and attention to detail in the newer pieces are just not the same as those made prior to the 20th century.

A good resource is the "Orientalia Journal." The bimonthly newsletter deals with all types of Chinese and Japanese art forms. You can write to them at P.O. Box 94, Little Neck, N.Y. 11363.

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