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Jefferson letters mark city dealer's 'Roadshow' debut

Monday, January 10, 2000

By Patricia Lowry, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

When the woman with the leather-bound books first approached him on the set of "Antiques Roadshow," Pittsburgh antiquarian book dealer John Schulman wasn't all that excited.

  Pittsburgh antiquarian book dealer John Schulman appraises a letter and legislation in Thomas Jefferson's hand during the "Antiques Roadshow" visit to Columbus, Ohio.

They seemed, after all, to be only the first two volumes of a set of documents relating to American history.

But as he opened the books, "these letters and documents started falling out," and soon Schulman knew that something special had found him.

The books were published in 1790 by Ebenezer Hazard, second postmaster general of the United States, who secured a grant from Congress to publish a set of books reprinting documents relating to the founding of the Colonies up to that time.

The woman who brought the books to the "Antiques Roadshow" in Columbus, Ohio, is a direct descendant of Hazard, and she hoped that Schulman could tell her how much they were worth.

Among the loose papers sandwiched among the printed pages was the original contract for printing of the books, and a letter from John
  TV Preview

"Antiques Roadshow"

When: 8 tonight on WQED/WQEX.


Adams asking to hold copies for him.

There was, finally, a letter from Thomas Jefferson, dated 1783, which enclosed another document -- a copy of the Act of Congress that annexed the land northwest of the Ohio River and the Virginia territories.

"Jefferson was not the full author of this legislation, but it's in his hand, in brown ink," Schulman said. "It's one page of maybe 40 lines."

In the accompanying letter, Jefferson tells Hazard he believes the legislation is appropriate for his book, and that he has copied it "in a fair hand" to assure its legibility.

"When I read through this document, I was astounded at its import," Schulman said.

He approached the show's other experts from Christie's and Sotheby's, and together they agreed on an appraisal figure. He also told the production crew he had something worth shooting. With the cameras rolling, Schulman told the woman he thought the letter and legislation in Jefferson's hand were worth about $100,000.

The scene airs at 8 tonight on WQED/WQEX, in the first program of "Antiques Roadshow's" 2000 season on PBS.

"We figured it could be worth as much as half a million if it could be proved this were the only copy," Schulman said. "And it could be worth even more, depending on the way the wind blows at an auction."

Sotheby's later learned the document is not unique.

Schulman, who with his wife, Emily Hetzel, owns Caliban bookstore on South Craig Street in Oakland, has done appraisals at four "Roadshows," although tonight marks his first appearance on camera.

Appraisers pay their own travel and lodging expenses and are forbidden to actively solicit business, but they may place their business cards on a table for anyone to pick up.

In an e-mail, Schulman said he thinks appraisers travel with the "Roadshow" for one of two reasons: "Either it increases their business or it satisfies on some level that primal hunter-gatherer urge to travel around and see these treasures and to be on hand for those astonishing and addictive moments of discovery, even when chances are they'll never profit from the sale of those discovered objects.

"It's also good for the total business, as it convinces people more than ever that the Age of Discovery is not over, that there is still an amazing amount and quality of material out there in the attics and basements across the States waiting for daylight."

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