Monday, April 19th, 2010...4:32 pm

Who’s got the Button? Houghton!

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Button Gwinnett signature, pfMS Am 1300-1 (detail)
The highlight of the recent auction at Sotheby’s of items from the James S. Copley Library was a letter signed by Button Gwinnett. Gwinnett’s is a name that is familiar mostly only to autograph collectors: he was one of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. Because he died in a duel less than a year after signing the Declaration, his signature is the rarest, making him the ultimate prize for collectors who covet a full set of signers.

Only 51 examples of Gwinnett’s signature are known; many, sadly, clipped out of the documents they once graced. Houghton is fortunate to have two very nice (and complete) examples of Gwinnett’s signature, both given by collectors of the Declaration signers, Frederick M. Dearborn and John Hubbard.

The Dearborn item is a bond for 1,000 pounds, partially printed and completed in manuscript, signed by Gwinnett and two others.Button Gwinnett bond, MS Am 1649.3 (12)

The Hubbard item is the real star, however, a large (almost too large for our scanner) manuscript indenture for the sale of lumber and livestock, signed by Gwinnett around his wax seal.Button Gwinnett manuscript indenture, pfMS Am 1300.1

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