Nelson & His World

Discussion on the life and times of Admiral Lord Nelson
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 Post subject: Nelson letter for sale
PostPosted: Wed Feb 12, 2014 8:27 pm 
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Location: mid-Wales
A Nelson letter for sale (relax, Mark, it's genuine!)


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-26149764

(corrected link. Thanks, Vicki!)



The letter was written with his left hand not long after Nelson lost his right arm. It is remarkably legible, and only a trifle uneven. His first, scribbled note, written in the aftermath of the battle, betrays his struggle to use a pen; he must have been traumatised too. But how quickly he accommodated to develop the distinctive left hand script we are all familiar with.

The estimate is £4000. Any bets on the outcome? I'll say £8000+.

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 Post subject: Re: Nelson letter for sale
PostPosted: Wed Feb 12, 2014 8:49 pm 
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Incredible Anna.


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 Post subject: Re: Nelson letter for sale
PostPosted: Thu Feb 13, 2014 10:18 am 
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Hi Anna,

Did you maybe link the wrong article? This is the more recent one that popped up yesterday:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-26149764

:)

This quote made me chuckle

Quote:
It dates back to 1798 and, as letters written by Nelson are so rare, has been valued at £4,000.


Rare? Erm, really?! And £4000 is pretty cheap compared to most letters that I've seen sold, I think. I'm going to bet £10,000.

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 Post subject: Re: Nelson letter for sale
PostPosted: Thu Feb 13, 2014 4:24 pm 
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Thanks, Vicki - I've corrected the link.

Yes, I think the estimate is low but they often are - to attract interest, I think. I bet £8,000+. I think you might be nearer the mark.

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 Post subject: Re: Nelson letter for sale
PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2014 3:44 am 
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Just a quick note from one who is not an expert, merely an enthusiast

For what it's worth, my first impression is that it's an imitation of Nelson's (lefthanded) handwriting - not the real thing.

It's so tidy, smoothly written and easy to read.

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 Post subject: Re: Nelson letter for sale
PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2014 6:41 am 
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Wow! There's a thought! I'd assumed the letter had been subjected to the usual scrutiny.

Here's an image of Nelson's first letter after losing his arm.

http://tinyurl.com/paabtup

Compare it with the one for sale written a year or so afterwards, and this one written with his 'mature' left hand:

http://tinyurl.com/qypfzk3

Any comments?

I occurs to me, though, that the quality if his handwriting would perhaps also be affected by the circumstances in which he was writing, i.e. in rough seas, calm seas or ashore.

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 Post subject: Re: Nelson letter for sale
PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2014 7:44 am 
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For what its worth the letter looks genuine to me...
David.


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 Post subject: Re: Nelson letter for sale
PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2014 2:31 pm 
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Here's the page on the auctioneer's site, they have a couple more images:

http://data.bidmaster.co.uk/halls/bidcat/detail.asp?SaleRef=4106&LotRef=90

I wouldn't like to say for sure, not without comparing it to a known genuine letter written at that time. It's definitely very different from what Anna called his 'mature' left handed writing. To my eye it looks like the letters aren't as joined up as they are in either the first letter nor the later ones. But I'm no expert either!

Also would a genuine letter be written on tracing paper like this one is, and not on the much thicker paper used at that time? I could imagine that a draft might be, but one that was actually sent?

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Last edited by Starhawk on Fri Feb 14, 2014 9:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Nelson letter for sale
PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2014 2:46 pm 
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Despite my reputation ( :D ) I don't see anything about this letter that makes me suspicious about its provenance.

If you were going to forge a Nelson letter surely you would make it at a later date when you could get in some mention of Emma or the Victory etc. etc.

The paper is obviously an issue. I'm not sure if I have seen anything that old on that type of paper. Depending on how the rest of my day goes I might be able to have a word with a couple of the Birmingham archivists later. If so I'll mention it and see if they are aware of this type of paper being in common use at that time.


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 Post subject: Re: Nelson letter for sale
PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2014 3:18 pm 
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James Watt, the great engineer, invented a copier that used tissue paper, but the image produced was a reversed one, so that's not much help; interesting, though!


http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld ... PXnf0QnuDg


All the Nelson letters I have seen, including my own, were written on thickish paper with a dated watermark. Mine is by Portal and dated 1797. Portal still exists, though was taken over by another company some years ago: they make the paper for Bank of England banknotes.

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 Post subject: Re: Nelson letter for sale
PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2014 6:51 pm 
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Time to tense back up again everyone!

The letter in question has been quoted in quite a few biographies and chronicles in the past, including Nicolas, Oman, Mahan, David Howarth and John Sugden.

Sugden's notes (in Sword of Albion) cite the following:

Quote:
Nelson to Lloyd, 29/1/1798, John Rylands Library. The letter survives in multiple copies.


I'm assuming the Rylands archive is home to the original.

Are the sellers offering this as a genuine, handwritten letter by Nelson?

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Last edited by Mira on Sat Feb 15, 2014 8:45 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Nelson letter for sale
PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2014 7:53 pm 
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Mira wrote:
Time to tense back up again everyone!

The letter in question has been quoted in quite a few biographies and chronicles in the past, including Alfred Morrison, David Howarth and John Sugden.

Sugden's notes (in Sword of Albion) cite the following:

Quote:
Nelson to Lloyd, 29/1/1798, John Rylands Library. The letter survives in multiple copies.


I'm assuming the Rylands archive hosts the original.

Are the auctioneers selling this as a genuine, handwritten letter of Nelson's?


I really can't win can I? As soon as I start to believe something somebody else throws doubt on it. :D

But yes. What is this all about? What on earth is meant by "multiple copies"? I can't remember multiple copies of any other Nelson letters. Or even forgeries of Nelson letters. But my memory is not that good so if anyone else can - let us know.

One thing I have just noticed is that it appears to be the BBC website, not the auction house, who call it "tracing paper". So it could be a sort of tissue paper where the ink has seeped through. But I have seen examples of "James Watt" copies and I'm not convinced that this is one.

I am intrigued as to whether the one in the James Rylands library is on "normal" paper - but unfortunately I don't have the time to follow up on this myself.

MB


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 Post subject: Re: Nelson letter for sale
PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2014 10:27 pm 
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Oh dear.

Sold at Sotheby's in New York in 2009.

http://www.invaluable.com/auction-lot/nelson,-horatio-207-c-536882ee02

There's something amiss here.

MB


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 Post subject: Re: Nelson letter for sale
PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2014 11:19 pm 
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It probably isn't tracing paper - but if it is the French company Canson claims that they invented tracing paper in 1809!!

http://en.canson.com/inspirational-papers-1557/our-history

This is getting worse before it gets better . . . . . .


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 Post subject: Re: Nelson letter for sale
PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2014 11:24 pm 
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... And Nicolas' 'Dispatches and Letters' volume 3 (page 4), states:

Quote:
[From a Fac-simile.]

I'm wondering if the Rylands Library holding is also one of these fac-similes.

The 2009 Sotheby's NY sale you quote, Mark, states:

Quote:
Not examined out of frame

I'm surprised at that.

I've seen quite a few of Nelson's fair copies, loose and from letter-books in various archives, and tissue paper would be a fair description. But the catalogue for the latest (up for sale) version of the letter states it's written on 'greaseproof paper.' (!!! Sorry, but I'm boggled.)

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