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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sotheby's to Sell Rare Writing by Famous People




LONDON -- In 1875, Alexander Graham Bell asks to meet "any well-educated ladies or gentlemen" who could help teach the deaf, a concern that led to his inventing the telephone.


In 1957, Stan Laurel laments the stroke that paralyzed his comedy partner Oliver Hardy, whom he describes as "unable to move or talk."


And in 1794, a statement of accounts relating to the ship Ascention from Havana records a payment for "8 1/2 slaves at $100 each.''


This odd assortment of documents is from a collection of manuscripts and letters going back seven centuries, which moviemaker George Pan Cosmatos has offered for auction next Tuesday at Sotheby's in London.


Also included in the 488 lots are a 1914 penciled note from the sinister Russian monk Grigory Rasputin, an FBI wanted notice for gangster John Dillinger, an unpublished composition by George Gershwin, a 1959 bullfight ticket containing the signatures of writer Ernest Hemingway and a bullfighter, and a 1503 letter from Spain's Queen Isabella about payments for gold and coral toys for her grandson.


"This is a phenomenal collection, and the Rasputin item is incredibly rare and mysterious as well," said Susan Wharton, a manuscripts expert for Sotheby's.


Napoleon Bonaparte, Thomas Edison, Theodore Roosevelt, Shirley Temple and the Flintstones also are represented among the lots, which Sotheby's estimates should realize up to pounds 464,000 ($756,000).


The highest price, of pounds 20,000, is expected for an 1801 letter from Spanish artist Francisco Jos? de Goya, but there are many items priced as low as pounds 150.


Cosmatos, the director of such films as "Rambo: First Blood Part II," "The Cassandra Crossing" and "Tombstone," began collecting 30 years ago when friends gave him a book signed for him by "It's A Wonderful Life" director Frank Capra.


"We felt these things that we bought at sales and from dealers gave us glimpses of thousands of secret worlds," Cosmatos said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles, where he currently resides.