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Charles Hamiltonʼs American Autographs

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A scarce set of renowned autograph expert Charles Hamiltonʼs premier American facsimile reference set

[Charles Hamilton, Jr., 1914-1996.]  Scarce first edition, two-volume set of Hamiltonʼs American Autographs.

For years until his death, Charles Hamilton was the nationʼs—indeed, perhaps the world's—foremost expert on handwriting and historical autographs.  He wrote many books on autographs that form the core of any dealer, auction house, institution, and private collector historical autograph reference library.  Some of his books are collectible in their own right.  Among Hamiltonʼs works are Collecting Autographs and Manuscripts (1961, 1993); The Robot That Helped to Make a President (1965), the essential early work on the signature of John F. Kennedy; Scribblers and Scoundrels (1968); Big Name Hunting (1973); The Book of Autographs (1978); The Signature of America (1979); The Illustrated Letter (1987); Great Forgers and Famous Fakes (1980); and the two-volume Leaders and Personalities of the Third Reich (1996).

This two-volume set of American Autographs, published in 1983 by the University of Oklahoma Press, is perhaps Hamilton's seminal contribution to American historical autographs.  It contains 623 pages of black-and-white illustrations of the handwriting and signatures of the signers of the American Declaration of Independence, Revolutionary War leaders, and Presidents of the United States through Ronald Reagan, the sitting president when the books were published.  Hamilton said in the preface that his purpose was to "help scholars and historians and collectors to uncover fresh and exciting facts about the history of our country.” He explained:

This volume makes full use of my half a century of experience in the manuscript world and, unlike all previous books of facsimile autographs, covers the major figures in great depth, illustrating their variant handwriting at different periods in their careers.  Another innovation is the inclusion of the script of signatures of "wrong" persons—namesakes often confused with the historymakers. 

Further, I have pictured and identified dozens of forgeries that in the past have entrapped historians.  For example, in the presidential section are the fabrications of seven different forgers of Lincoln, together with more than fifty genuine documents which constitute by far the most comprehensive monograph ever done on Lincoln's handwriting.  for the recent presidents I have put together a huge array of authentic, proxy, and machine signatures.

These volumes are stated first editions of this work.  They come from the Smithsonian Institution Libraries, from which they were deaccessioned. 

The books are large format, 9" x 12¼".  The end papers are printed with a facsimile of the bottom portion of the Declaration of Independence, including the signatures.  The hard cover boards are bound in dark blue faux leather and turquoise buckram and are imprinted in gold and blue foil.  Apart from Smithsonian reference shelf stickers on the bottoms of the spines and the usual library markings inside, they are like new.  The bindings are tight and square, and the pages are otherwise bright and clean.

This is an outstanding set that any serious collector of American historical autographs must have.  Because of its scarcity, one should be careful not to let it pass by.


Click here for the autographs of Presidents and First Ladies.

Click here for United States Supreme Court autographs.

Click here for other autographs from American History.





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