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Item 2099 - Washington Irving Autograph Manuscript Catalog 447 (Feb 2015)

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Description


American author (1783–1859) best known for his stories ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ and ‘Rip Van Winkle.’ Desirable handwritten manuscript, one page, 6.25 x 8.5, no date but circa 1826. Page from a working draft of Irving’s History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus, numbered 450. The body, in part: “Over wild and desert wastes of water without a shore; or as perishing amidst rocks, and quicksands, and whirlpools; or a prey to those monsters of the deep with which credulity, in those days, peopled every distant and unfrequented sea [note]. There was something more awful in such a mysterious fate, than in death itself, under any defined and ordinary form. When the news arrived, therefore, that one of the adventurous ships was standing up the river, the inhabitants were thrown into great agitation; but when they heard that she returned in triumph from the discovery of a world, and beheld her furling her sails in their harbor, the whole community burst forth into a transport of joy. The bells were rung, the shops shut, all business was suspended; for a time there was nothing but the hurry and tumult of hidden exultation and breathless curiosity. Some were anxious to know the fate of a relative, others of a friend, and all to learn particulars of so wonderful a voyage. When Columbus landed.”

Irving strikes through six words, and adds a footnote along the bottom, “In the maps and charts of those times, and even in those of a much later date, the variety of formidable and hideous monsters depicted in all remote parts of the ocean, evince the terrors and dangers with which the imagination clothed it. The same may also be said of distant and unknown lands. The remote parts of Asia and Africa have monsters depicted in them which it would be difficult to trace to any originals in natural history.” Double-matted and framed with a half-length portrait of Irving to an overall size of 17 x 14.75. In fine condition, with light horizontal folds, a small area of toning, and scattered surface creasing. 

When invited to Madrid to translate Spanish-language source material into English, Irving accepted and subsequently used the material to write his own history of the Genoese explorer. Noted for its imagination and ‘fanciful’ sentimentality, the work, in spite of Irving’s patriotic and historic intentions, was influenced by Irving’s inexperience with historical writing and his ‘ambivalence about the character of his hero and the imperialism that established the American colonies.’ Published in 1828, Irving’s multi-volume biographical account of Christopher Columbus exists as one of the first examples of American historical fiction. A fantastic, boldly penned page from what is considered the most painstaking effort of Irving’s life. Pre-certified John Reznikoff/PSA/DNA.

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