Manuscript Digest: March – April 2024 – This complimentary e-digest, now published bi-monthly, covers significant acquisitions and sales, manuscripts lost and found, rare books and ephemera, document conservation, and more news in this digest

In the News

Late Lincoln Letter Discovered in Desk
WHYY, February 19, 2024
If you had four days to live, would you spend time writing a letter about a federal auditing post? That’s what Lincoln did on April 11, 1865. The letter just turned up stashed in a desk.

Lincoln to Congress: Value Immigrants
Smithsonian Magazine, February 8, 2024
In 1863 President Lincoln sent a bold message to Congress: see immigrants not as a drain but as a “source of national wealth and strength.” Historian Harold Holzer explains why.

Presidential Love Letters Rewrite Expectations
West Side Rag, February 17, 2024
Warren Harding wasn’t the only Oval Office occupant to steam up sheets of paper. A new book shows the romantic side of presidents from Washington on. Peek between its covers.

Sketch Reveals Revolutionary Image
Philadelphia Inquirer, March 26, 2024
The collector thought the sketch was something special. Curators shrugged. Then someone from the Museum of the American Revolution took a look. And a history mystery unfolded.

Anatomy Book Makes Healthy Profit
Vancouver Sun, February 17, 2024
In 2007 a collector paid €13,000 for a copy of Andreas Vesalius’s anatomy book from 1555. Turns out it was the author’s copy — annotated. Now it’s sold again, for … more.
• Harvard confronts the anatomy of a book

Steve Jobs’s Signature Means Business
Fine Books & Collections, March 25, 2024
A rare Apple Computer business card signed by Steve Jobs has sold for $181,183. How did a SpaceX card signed by Elon Musk fare? Not that it’s a popularity contest, but …

Tip Leads to Lost Aztec Manuscripts
El País, March 22, 2024
A vacationing historian got a tip about some interesting manuscripts in Mexico City. What did she find? Three Aztec codices, passed down through a family. What happened next.

Museum Returns Manuscript to Peru
PhillyVoice, March 14, 2024
A 1599 contract for the Americas’ first theater company is headed back to Peru’s national archives. Where has it been all these years? Since the 1920s, in the Rosenbach collection.

Original or Digital, Records Face Risk
The Conversation, February 8, 2024
Paper and parchment have their perils, from fading inks to fire. But last year’s cyberattack on the British Library shows that digital documents have their dangers too. Can AI help?
• The BL responds to the attack

WaPo Reviews Safeguarding History
Washington Post, February 2, 2024
Autobiography. Business history. Family saga. An introduction to manuscript collecting. A WaPo review says the memoir of our own Kenneth W. Rendell is all that and a “fun read.”

Upcoming Webinar

Manuscript Mondays: ‘The Original Wikipedia: 18th-Century Chinese Emperor Qianlong’s Siku Quanshu Project’ • May 6, 8 p.m. ET

In 1772 Emperor Qianlong ordered the largest encyclopedia of books in Chinese history. Within 10 years, a team of more than 350 scholars and hundreds of editors had compiled 36,381 volumes of the Siku Quanshu. Only seven copies were made. Four survive. Appraiser Susan Lahey, MA, ISA CAPP, tells the tale of China’s original “Wikipedia.”

Of Additional Interest

Franklin Expedition: New book of lost explorers’ letters > Read a review

Franklin’s Widow: What Lady Franklin wrote (page 129) > Read and weep