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The brief letter, or note, in Beethoven’s hand sold for $220,000 (£167,940) at Heritage.

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“My Dear Sir, I have to ask you again for my piano trio in B-flat. The same will be returned within a few days together with the violin sonata in G. I regret that I have to trouble you so often. In haste your devoted servant. Beethoven.”

That is, in the Heritage (25% buyer’s premium) translation, the entire content of an undated letter, or note, addressed by the composer to a gentleman named von Baumann. In a November 12 auction held by the US saleroom it more than trebled expectations at $220,000 (£167,940).

It was acquired, said Heritage, by an American musician for whom Beethoven has been a lifelong inspiration and who plans eventually to leave it to the music school at which she studied.

The composition mentioned in this undated note may be the Piano Trio in B-flat minor, Op. 11 of 1797, dedicated to Countess Maria Wilhelmine von Thun, or perhaps the Piano Trio in B-flat minor, Op. 97 of 1811. The latter is commonly referred to as the ‘Archduke Trio’, having been dedicated to Rudolph of Austria, youngest son of Leopold II, the Holy Roman Emperor.

If the piano trio is that of 1797, then the violin work referred to might be the Violin Sonata No. 8 in G-major, but if it is the later work, then his Violin Sonata No. 10 in G is a likely option.

An even shorter note in Schubert’s hand, translated as “I cannot come to lunch. Please excuse me. At ½ 8 in the evening however I will certainly be there.”, realised $22,000 (£16,795).

Queen of Scots

One official document, bearing the signature of Mary Queen of Scots, written in ‘Old Scots English’ and dated 1563, when she was still just 21 years old, was sold at $24,000 (£18,320).

Another, bearing the signature of the physician William Harvey took $30,000 (£22,900).

An 1805 letter from John Adams to his good friend, the Philadelphia physician Benjamin Rush, renewing a correspondence between the two men that had been suspended for several years due to a misunderstanding, sold at $65,000 (£49,620).

One his way to a fortune

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Signed by Steve Jobs for his chauffeur, this front cover only of a 1989 issue of Fortune magazine made $28,000 (£21,375) at Heritage.

Bid to $28,000 (£21,375), the lot illustrated above represents a very different world.

It is the front cover only of a 1989 issue of Fortune magazine, published shortly after Steve Jobs’ launch of his new company NeXT Inc. Featuring his characteristic lower-case signature, it is inscribed by Jobs “To Terry”, who for many years was one of his chauffeurs.