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“Holding an original letter, or manuscript, in your hands, is an incredible connection with the writer and their times. You are seeing what they saw, holding what they held, as if you were sitting beside them, witnessing the flow of words from their pen to this paper. This is both humbling and inspiring. They are a real person, with hopes, ideas, concerns and aspirations. Original letters and manuscripts bring them to life. Here is a human story.”
The most fundamental issue in the field of historical letters, documents and manuscripts is knowing what is original and authentic. Kenneth Rendell has more experience in determining authenticity than anyone else in the field. Over the six decades of his career, he has handled more historical documents and, in every case, expertly and accurately authenticated them.
He has also uncovered more forgeries and frauds than anyone else in the field. He determined the Hitler Diaries were forgeries when many European experts had authenticated them. He declared numerous Mormon related letters and documents were fraudulent, leading to the Mormon bombings and murders. He alone uncovered the Jack the Ripper diary fraud. In the course of his business, he has uncovered hundreds of other forgeries. His reference collections (facsimiles of genuine handwriting) and examples of actual forgeries are now permanently available to researchers at the library of the Grolier Club in New York City.
In 1994, his pioneering study, Forging History, the Detection of Fake Letters and Documents, was published by the University of Oklahoma Press. It was the first reference book to document, with systematic analysis and exhaustive illustrations, the forensic examination of historical letters and documents, and is the standard reference book on forgery detection.
Kenneth Rendell has regularly appeared as an expert witness in federal and state courts. He was awarded a special recognition —
“For your invaluable assistance to the FBI”
– by the U.S. Department of Justice for his assistance to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Second only to authentication, the financial evaluation of historical letters and manuscripts is of great importance for collectors. A key indicator of a dealer’s understanding of fair market value is the importance and volume of what they have handled.
If they value material too highly, they won’t be able to attract collectors to buy it. In this business, it is the survival of the most competent in understanding fair market value. No dealer has ever bought and sold more historical letters and manuscripts than Kenneth Rendell.
He starts with an equation, analyzing the historical importance of the writer in general, their significance to the field, the importance of their field, and the relative rarity of material written and signed by them (frequently based on their life span, whether their career caused them to write and sign many pieces, and whether they were well enough known after their death that people saved their signed material). Other factors include the general interest and appeal of the person or the subject (music, for example, is collected all over the world) and intense collecting by an institution or individual. An experienced and knowledgeable dealer will have an important perspective on how rare or common something is in private ownership versus in institutions, and also how rare it is for the writer to discuss a particular subject.
Kenneth Rendell has undertaken thousands of appraisals to determine the fair market value for tax donations, sales and arbitrating legal disputes. He has represented both the IRS and individuals in the only U.S. Tax Court cases that determined fair market value without compromise. In 1974, the U.S. Tax Court determined his analytical methods were so accurate, they were subsequently adopted by the IRS and the Society of American Archivists as their standards.
For decades, Kenneth Rendell has undertaken virtually every major appraisal case, including Martin Luther King’s papers, Richard Nixon’s White House papers, and the Watergate tapes. His opinion was never influenced by whether the appraisal was for the taxpayer or the Internal Revenue Service. He never settled a case.
“In the late 1950’s, I discovered the world of historical letters and documents and began collecting interesting letters of American Presidents. By 1959 I realized I would rather be the temporary owner of many more letters than I could afford to collect and decided to become a dealer. My first catalog was published that year.
“During the following decade I expanded my knowledge and expertise and my catalogs steadily offered new areas of culture and history to collectors. The 1970’s might be called my “European decade” as I opened offices in London and Paris and expanded deeper into European manuscripts and documents and developed many collectors in England and on the Continent. Our large format catalogs became classics: “The Medieval World,” 285 pages; “Renaissance Europe,” 354 pages; “French Authors & Artists,” 205 pages; “American Civil War,” 190 pages; three volumes on “The American Westward Expansion”, 800 pages. These, and others, were the most comprehensive ever published and could never be done again – the original documents and manuscripts no longer exist in private collections.
“Also during the early 1970’s I began to do appraisals of collections for university libraries as well as the Library of Congress, National Archives and other major institutions. These ranged from the archives of the publisher Random House, Northern Pacific Railroad and the settlement of the Northern Plains, Franklin Roosevelt’s family archives, the papers of Mark Twain, Johannes Brahms, George Gershwin, Admiral Byrd, and the archives of RKO Pictures and Paramount pictures. No appraisal value was ever changed.
“In addition to being President of the Manuscript Society and the International League of Autograph and Manuscript Dealers, I was unanimously nominated President of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, and I was a regular speaker at the annual meetings of the American Library Association, the Association of College and Research Libraries, the American Museum Association, and many others.
“The 1980’s saw the opening of a New York City gallery, and another in Tokyo, and becoming involved as an expert consultant to Newsweek magazine on purchasing publication rights to the Hitler Diaries, which I proved was a hoax despite many authentications by others. I wrote Newsweek’s cover story announcing the hoax. Two years later I declared a large number of documents concerning Mormon history a fraud, leading to the trial of the Mormon bomber. Shortly afterwards, the Diary of Jack the Ripper was authenticated and was scheduled for publication. I determined forensically it was a fraud. Our business expansion continued with opening a gallery in Beverly Hills, participating in selected antiques shows such as the Winter Show in New York City and TEFAF Art Fair in Maastricht, and adding rare books to libraries we were building for clients. The end of the decade was dominated by the ultimate library project for Bill and Melinda Gates.
“Recent decades have seen a decrease in the amount of material available as many of the collections we built became part of institutional libraries. Nevertheless, many collections have come back to us and we are able to offer the most extraordinary collections available. The deep enjoyment of being so intimately involved with the great people and times in history, and sharing this excitement with collectors, continues to be the center of my life.” Kenneth W. Rendell
Available for acquisition
“One historical letter with important content is a window into the world of the writer, sometimes a window into their soul. A collection of letters with significant content brings you inside the presence of that world. You feel that you are there, alongside the writer, as their hand commits to paper their thoughts, ideas, concerns. You are experiencing who they really were, in different times, places, and circumstances, and how their mind worked in changing situations. There is no other experience that can create as intense a feeling of knowing the person intimately as reading through a collection of their letters.” – Kenneth W. Rendell
Churchill’s Most Important Decision of the War: He Tells the French President England Will Not Provide More Fighter Planes During the Dunkirk Evacuation:
“The Fighter Squadrons … Are … Our Maginot Line …. If He Should Find Them Inadequately Defended,
“He Would Be Able to Strike a Blow … Irretrievable Damage to the Allied Cause.”
From the Boer War to the Cold War, the “Greatest Englishman Who Ever Lived” (voted by the British public), hailed at his funeral as the “savior of his country,” was intimately involved in British history more than 50 years.
The Collection contains 53 letters, manuscripts, memos, signed photographs and books, approximately 92 pages, 1907-1961. Also included are several photograph and propaganda collections. While covering his whole life, the central focus of the collection is World War II, with important manuscripts and memos saved by his private secretary. It offers a fantastic perspective into Churchill’s life and his decisiveness in World War II, which has come to define bold leadership and hope in the face of overwhelming force and power.
“To build a state where Liberty … can triumph; where compassion can govern and where the people can … prosper because of govt. and not in spite of it.”
“Welfare is another of our major problems. A humanitarian program to help the aged, disabled and unfortunate has instead perpetuated poverty.”
“That the dole can replace a fair days pay for a fair days work without destroying moral fibre, dignity and self respect is a mistaken idea.”
From the Original Handwritten Manuscript of Reagan’s Inaugural Address as Governor.
An extraordinary collection of handwritten letters and manuscripts showing Ronald Reagan personally creating and establishing his political ideas and philosophy on the issues facing America. This collection dramatically illustrates that the Great Communicator was also the Great Creator of the ideas too often credited to others.
The Collection includes 23 handwritten letters, 29 pages and 8 manuscripts of speeches, almost entirely in his hand, 114 pages.
The Night Before
The Invasion of Sicily:
“Everything that we could think of to do has been done; the troops are fit; everybody is doing his best. The answer is in the lap of the gods! I confidently believe we will do it – but anything can happen. In circumstances such as these men do almost anything to keep them from going slightly mad … I stand it better than most, but there is no use denying that I feel the strain.”
Dwight Eisenhower was the greatest military leader since George Washington to lead his country in war and peace. In World War II, he commanded the largest multinational military force ever assembled, mounted the largest invasion in history, mastered logistical problems on an unimaginable scale and defeated the battle-hardened German army. His ability to simultaneously manage the personalities of Churchill, Montgomery, Roosevelt, Patton, de Gaulle, and dozens of others is legendary.
THE COLLECTION of 88 handwritten letters, 300 pages, 1942-1945, written to his wife Mamie, the only handwritten letters he wrote during the war, intimately show the man behind the competence, stability and his outward confidence. His son John described these letters as his father “thinking on paper” as he expressed his inner most thoughts, ideas, concerns and decency while leading the Allied armies in the most important and cataclysmic event of modern times.
Just after the Battle of the Bulge:
“I cannot remember the time when I was free of these continuing problems involving staggering expense, destruction of lives and wealth, and fates of whole peoples….”
The most important privately owned collection of original manuscripts by the author of Atlas Shrugged, including 20 of the 29 surviving original manuscript pages of Atlas Shrugged, a group of her research books, the manuscript of her speech, “The Fascist New Frontier,” with a blistering attack on the Democratic Party’s philosophy and 24 handwritten manuscripts detailing her philosophy of Objectivism, totaling 261 pages, beginning with Atlas Shrugged and continuing with her analysis of the issues confronting society in 1962.
Audrey Hepburn’s real life was nothing like her life on the screen except that the intrepid characters she portrayed were based on her personal inner survival instincts and skills honed during her horrible time during World War II. Her father had abandoned her to pursue his fascist activities and she witnessed constant atrocities in her mother’s native Holland. She lived in Arnhem, the focus of the battle for A Bridge Too Far, which she witnessed first-hand, hiding a British paratrooper. After the war she focused on ballet dancing, moving to London to find work, and showing the fortitude and intrepidness of her future Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
In an extraordinary demonstration of love and need of a father, she traced him 25 years after the war to Dublin, and wrote the present collection of letters to him, forgiving him for what he had done to her, and financially and emotionally supporting him. These 19 handwritten letters signed, 92 pages in length, are written between 1963 and 1980, the year he died. She also told him about her movie life: in April, 1963 she begins, “It is really quite marvelous to have a ‘family again” and then tells him her other news:
“I am going to do the film of ‘My Fair Lady’…. Never did I dare hope this plum of a character would ever be assigned to me … dreams do come true… the tough part is now to live up to everyone’s expectations… a crown of 22 years of hard work – let’s hope I know how to wear it!”
The outstanding collection of 80 original signed documents, manuscripts and printed pieces concerning all aspects of World War II. The letters and documents concerning the establishment of the Third Reich, by the leading participants, show from the earliest days the unfolding of the major events. The political leaders, Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, and Charles de Gaulle, as well as the military leaders, George Patton, Dwight Eisenhower, Bernard Montgomery, Erwin Rommel, Chester Nimitz, Douglas MacArthur, Georgy Zhukov, are included as well as Charles Lindbergh, John F. Kennedy, Albert Einstein, Edward VIII, Ernest Hemingway, and the Signers of the Versailles Treaty.
The world of the thinkers and visionaries is amazing. Everything in our lives was originally created or discovered by a visionairy who thought “out of the box”, who had the confidence in their ideas to improve life’s experience. This collection of 115 letters and manuscripts brings those incredible people to life. The collection doesn’t just offer a window, it offers the experience of the presence of those who made the world we live in. Electricity, computers, airplanes, telephone, music, art, literature all had to be created. We treat vaccination as a modern savior but it was invented – discovered – by the pioneer Edward Jenner in the late 18th century.
An extraordinary collection of 115 letters, documents, and manuscripts representing many of the most creative thinkers in world culture: music, literature, political thinking and leadership, exploration, and science. The overwhelming majority are from the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, America, England, France and Europe.
Kenneth W. Rendell has written nine books, co-authored two, and written the foreword and collaborated on an additional three, for a total of fourteen books. His latest one, available for purchase on October 3rd, 2023, is Safeguarding History; Trailblazing Adventures Inside the Worlds of Collecting.
Safeguarding History, a memoir, is at its core an adventure story – and the inside story – of the world’s most successful dealer in historical letters and documents, as well as the leading expert in handwriting forgery detection.
Safeguarding History chronicles his adventures collecting and dealing in rare coins at age 11, searching for out-of-date coins in the Caribbean as a teenager, and discovering the world of historical letters and documents, once an insular, reclusive field, which he modernizes over his 60-year career.
AVAILABLE ON AMAZON
AND INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORES.
His excitement for collecting transformed his life and the lives of many others. Remarkably, this enthusiasm grew out of a challenging, often painful, early start in life, which makes Safeguarding History also a very human story.
“This compelling memoir is the story of a boy who rises above adversity with ambition, a curiosity that allows him to keep learning his entire life, a powerful work ethic, an ability to think outside the box, and, most importantly, a recognition that reputation and character are the true driving forces of success.”
“We are drawn to historical documents, artifacts and autographs because they represent a portal into worlds and people no longer with us. We feel a secret connection. How fortunate it is then to gain intimate access to the complicated life of one of our greatest collectors of historical artifacts. Ken Rendell courageously shares the triumphs and tragedies of his life. Bravo.”
The fourteen books which Kenneth W. Rendell has authored, co-authored, or written the foreword/collaborated on (including providing the artifacts and manuscripts), including the memoir, all have to do with different aspects of collecting. Many are standard works in the field, for example, Forging History: The Detection of Fake Letters and Documents, and History Comes to Life. Others relate to areas of special collecting interest to him: the American West and World War II. Examples are The Great American West: Pursuing the American Dream with Foreword by Senator Al Simpson, and Politics, War, and Personality: 50 Iconic Documents of World War II with Foreword by John Eisenhower.
Safeguarding History: Trailblazing Adventures Inside the Worlds of Collecting and Forging History, Whitman Publishing, 2023.
History Comes to Life: Collecting Historical Letters and Documents, University of Oklahoma Press, 1995.
Forging History: The Detection of Fake Letters and Documents, University of Oklahoma Press, 1994.
The Power of Anti-Semitism: The March to the Holocaust, 1919-1939, companion book to the 2016 New-York Historical Society exhibition, with a Foreword by New-York Historical Society President and CEO Louise Mirrer. Boston, 2016.
Politics, War, and Personality: Fifty Iconic World War II Documents That Changed the World, with a Foreword by John Eisenhower. Whitman Publishing, 2013
World War II: Saving the Reality, with a Foreword by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Whitman Publishing, 2009.
With Weapons and Wits: Propaganda and Psychological Warfare in World War II:, Overlord Press, 1992.
The Great American West: Pursuing the American Dream, with a Foreword by Senator Al Simpson. Whitman Publishing, 2013.
The Western Pursuit of the American Dream: Selections from the Collection of Kenneth W. Rendell, University of Oklahoma Press, 2004.
The Secret History of World War II: Spies, Code Breakers, and Covert Operations, National Geographic Books, 2016.
Atlas of World War II: History’s Greatest Conflict Revealed Through Rare Wartime Maps and New Cartography, National Geographic Books, 2018.
Ronald Reagan: An American Legend, Q. David Bowers, 2011.
Manuscripts: The First Twenty Years, Greenwood Press, 1984.
Autographs and Manuscripts: A Collector’s Manual, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1978.