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Interesting Findings And World Unfolding Through My Eyes.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Launderry Letters Worth Millions

One of the word's greatest collections of historical letters, including a note written by Napoleon to his lover Josephine, has been found in a filing cabinet tucked away in a Swiss laundry room.

The treasure trove of almost 1,000 documents, collected over 30 years by a wealthy Austrian banker, includes letters written by Winston Churchill, Peter the Great, Mahatma Gandhi, Alexander Pushkin, John Donne and Queen Elizabeth I.

One of the rarest and most touching of the collection is a passionate letter written by an apologetic Napoleon to his wife to be, Josephine, the morning after a furious argument.

"I send you three kisses -- one on your heart, one on your mouth and one on your eyes," wrote the chastened lover in a spidery scrawl full of corrections and crossings out.

The letters, which cover more than 500 years and range across art, science, literature and philosophy, are to be auctioned by Christie's in London on July 3 and are expected to raise up to 2.3 million pounds ($4.6 million).

"It really is an incredibly dense, very carefully researched collection," Thomas Venning, director in Christie's books department and a specialist in signed letters, told Reuters.

"To get a collection of letters like this nowadays is really a one-off, it's almost unheard of."

The owner, Albin Schram, began amassing the archive in the early 1970s, steadily building up one of the largest and most comprehensive collections outside a major museum.

Though an inveterate collector, Schram wasn't interested in conservation or display -- the letters were kept in an old metal cabinet in the laundry room of his villa in Lausanne, Switzerland, ordered by size rather than author or date.

When he died in 2005, his family barely knew they were there.

Schram's interests spanned Russian poets, Argentine authors, French philosophers, English politicians and Italian sculptors.

One of the most prized lots, with an auction estimate of up to 120,000 pounds, is a note written by metaphysical poet John Donne to Lady Kingsmill a day after the death of her husband in October 1624.
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