Lahcotah Archive, ca. 1866
Appraised Value: $100,000 - $150,000
IMAGE: 1 of 6
Appraisal Video: (3:54)
Books & Manuscripts
Vice President Department Head, Printed Books and Manuscripts
APPRAISER: You've brought in a very interesting group of material today, and it comes from your great-great-uncle, right?
GUEST: That's correct. This is a photograph taken, I think, towards the end of his career. But he was born in New York and he moved out to Illinois when he was in his teens, went back East to West Point, where he was a cadet from 1860 to 1865. After he graduated from West Point, he was with the U.S. Army and he went out to the Dakotas, Fort Laramie, Fort Kearney, where he studied with the Sioux who were out there.
APPRAISER: Well, his work at Fort Laramie is what really interests me. Fort Laramie was a very important post along the Oregon Trail. It was established as a fur trading post in 1834, and then with the California Gold Rush in the late 1840s, it became a military post. And your great-great-uncle happens to have been there at a very momentous time in the history of printing in America. He printed this book, which is called Lahcotah, and he signed it here on the cover. And what it is, is it's a dictionary of the Sioux language, the rules of pronunciation, et cetera. And if I just turn to the back, to the very last page... We see that the book was printed in Fort Laramie, Dakota, December 1866, and that W.S. Starring was the co-author of the book with J.K. Hyer, and an Indian interpreter, Charles Guerreu. We see that not only is it this printed book, but it's filled with his pencil annotations, correcting it. So it makes it a very significant copy of this book because it's the author's own and it's with his corrections, further revisions to the dictionary of the Sioux language. It's in its entirely original condition, very simply bound with these staples.
APPRAISER: He also has with it what we call two gorgets. And I've talked to the colleagues on the tribal arts table, and it would have been worn around the neck on a breastplate. And it carries these decorations. These happened to be owned by two of the seniormost chiefs of the Sioux nation in the 1870s: Red Cloud and Spotted Tail. They tell me, conservatively, the value on these would be about $8,000 to $12,000 each.
APPRAISER: Each. But let's go to the book. This is the first book printed in Wyoming. And collectors of Americana are so passionate about having the first book printed in any of the territories. Wyoming is in the Great Plains. It happens to also be about the Sioux language, so it has an extremely important ethnographic interest as well.
APPRAISER: This book at auction I would estimate at $60,000 to $80,000.
GUEST: For one book?
APPRAISER: For this copy, the author's copy, with his annotations...
APPRAISER: The first book printed in Wyoming. With the other items, for the whole collection, you're looking at an archive value of roughly $100,000 to $150,000.
GUEST: (chuckles) Wow. That's, um...
APPRAISER: Had you any idea that this kind of very humble-looking book would be worth so much?
GUEST: We... we were trying to guess, and we weren't even close. That... that's, um... That's incredible.
APPRAISER: Well, it's a highly significant book.
GUEST: And I don't know if because of the annotations make it worth that much more.
GUEST: We have two more copies. They're not...
APPRAISER: Only one copy has come up at auction in the last 25 years, and it made $30,000, and that was in 1999. That was for just a standard copy, and it had some condition problems. So I think this is easily twice as good. It's an incredibly rare book.
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