Friday, June 22, 2007

Rare Piece of Canadiana Sold ... to American

The headline in today's Halifax Daily News reads "Historic Document Lost." I admit, "damn thieves" was the first thing that crossed my mind when I read it (look at how cynical they've made me). Then I thought fire ... flood ... shipwreck ... but in this case it's a little bit different: "A rare piece of Canadian history was lost to the country yesterday after an auction in New York, where an elaborately hand-written, 385-year-old legal document - described as the contract for 'Canada's Mayflower' - was sold for $90,000 [$84,000 USD] by a Canadian collector to an American antiquities dealer, who then flipped the relic to a second private buyer in the U.S."

The document, on parchment, "outlines a 1622 agreement to send 'the good shipp called the Planter' to the newly created colony of Nova Scotia," and is "accompanied by a letter from King James I authorizing payments to the Scottish nobleman [Sir William Alexander] who founded the first English-speaking settlement in mainland Canada." The contract for the ship is between Alexander and others (including New Hampshire founder John Mason) and Planter owner Thomas Hopkins.

Hopkins' descendants had retained ownership of the contract, which was unknown to historians until it was sold in London in 1989. Sotheby's called it "one of the most significant documents relating to the early history of Canada to have been discovered in the 20th century."

Seth Kaller, a New York documents dealer who purchased the contract from the high bidder at Sotheby's, told the paper "I specialize in documents that changed the world." Presumably the document will soon appear in his catalogues at a significantly higher price.

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