I.Lot Details
TypeBooks and Manuscripts
Estimate$5,000 — $7,000
II.Condition Report

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III.Auction Details
Sale 697

Fine Books and Manuscripts Including Americana

Live and Online
November 6, 2019 / 10:00am CT
Sale  697
Lot   440
[LINCOLN ASSASSINATION]. GARDNER, Alexander (1821-1882). Incidents of the War | Sic Semper Sicariis [caption title]. Washington, D. C.: Philip & Solomons, 1865.

Albumen photographs on printed mounts, entitled: "Arrival on Scaffold. No. 1." -- "Reading the Death Warrant. No. 2." -- "Adjusting the Ropes. No. 3." -- "(Thus be it ever with Assassins.) No. 4."

Suite of 4 albumen photographs, each approximately 6 7/8 x 8 7/8 in. (173 x 225 mm), on original printed mounts with Gardner's credit, titles, date, and copyright printed recto. (Pale dampstain on left mounts and portion of images, slight cockling to mounts, some marginal soiling, surface abrasion to first albumen photograph, small crease to fourth albumen photograph, small abrasions to mounts verso.) All mounted on stubs, bound in early 20th-century half green morocco, marbled boards (some overall wear).


The series of images taken by Gardner and his assistant, Timothy O'Sullivan, in the yard of the Washington Penitentiary on the morning of 7 July 1865, is considered to be one of the first examples of photojournalism.  Roughly 1,000 people attended the execution of the conspirators; most were soldiers, but many journalists and members of the public.  The grim images show the accused:  Mary Surratt (who kept a boardinghouse where the conspirators met), George Atzerodt (charged with the attempted assassination of Vice President Johnson), David Herold (who assisted Booth on his flight from Washington) and Lewis Payne (who attempted to assassinate Secretary of War Stanton). Though a Presidential pardon was expected for Surratt, one was never issued, and Surratt became the first woman ever hanged by the U. S. Government.

As Gardner's biographer Mark Katz writes, these scenes "remain the most vivid images from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. It was the longest picture-story recording of an event to date, capturing a complex, significant series of events. Gardner and O'Sullivan's execution series was a 19th-century precursor of the kind of photo-journalism that subsequently became so important" (Witness to an Era, p.192).

Individual images from this sequence of The Incidents of War are scarce, and there is little informed consensus on the actual number of images comprising the complete series. Not present in this group is the rare image of the ropes hanging empty prior to the hanging, and what can be considered adjunct images (the photograph of the executioners and the photograph of the initial grave sites). Only 3 lots containing 4 or more images from the series can be traced at auction in the last 20 years: The Laico set (containing 5 images), sold Christie's East 12 May 1999; another set (containing 7 images) sold Christie's New York, 12 September 2000; and another set (containing 4 images) sold at Swann Galleries, 17 October 2013. 

  • Estimate$5,000 - $7,000

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