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They are the opera glasses carried by Abraham Lincoln to a performance of Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865, the night he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth.

The glasses, with several documents of declaration, were offered at the first part of the sale of first part of the Forbes Collection of American historical documents at Christie’s New York on March 27.

Hauntingly, the glasses were described in the catalogue as having suffered a slight chip and a cracked lens “as if dropped”. In fact, they fell from the President’s body as he was being stretchered out of the theatre and were retrieved by one of the bearers, Captain James McCamley.

The matching case, labelled Gebruder Strausshof Optiker/Berlin, is now in a museum.

In 1979 the glasses sold at Sotheby’s for a then record for a Lincoln artefact (as opposed to documents, which often sell for more) of $22,000. Here they held their record, against an estimate of just $40,000-60,000, selling for $380,000 (£265,735) plus 17.5/10 per cent buyer’s premium.