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In an autograph sale held by the East 25th Street auctioneers on February 4, a letter sent to Cooper by the Marquis de Lafayette just one week after the American victory at Yorktown that concluded the revolutionary war – reporting on events and blaming Sir Henry Clinton, C-in-C of the British army, for that embarrassing loss – was sold for $32,000 (£19,050).

Nothing else could quite manage that sort of price, but three lots reached the $9000 (£5355) mark – the first of them an autograph ‘secret’ letter sent in February 1909 by Churchill, then President of the Board of Trade, to Lloyd George, who was then the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The letter concerned Churchill’s talks with Foreign Secretary, Lord Grey, and his proposals for avoiding a budgetary crisis precipitated by the Admiralty’s demand for more battleships, an expenditure which threatened to consume the funding for social reforms that Churchill and Lloyd George were advocating.

A 1939 TLs from Einstein to Robert Lang, thanking him for his work on behalf of Jewish refugees, was the second lot to reach $9000, and a bit of a surprise at that level, as was the third, an undated photograph of John Kennedy and his cabinet. The latter was stained in one corner and Kennedy’s own signature was water damaged, but his mark and the signatures of Adlai Stevenson, Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, Robert Kennedy, Dean Rusk and others made a mockery of the $400-600 estimate.

Another lot to far exceed the estimate – which was perhaps a bit low – was a 1957 TLs from Raymond Chandler to an unidentified correspondent. A wide ranging letter of four pages, it included comments, sometimes sarcastic, on other writers, a long discussion of how Chandler himself came to be a writer and comments on various national characteristics – the Germans, “a rather stupid type of intellectual snobs”; the English, “an old and wise and well-balanced people”, and the French, “one never speaks well enough to satisfy a Frenchman”. The letter sold for a ten time estimate $7000 (£4165).

Swanns, New York,
Buyers’ Premium: 15 per cent
Exchange Rate: £1 = $1.68