The James S. Copley "Library"

Kudos to David Copley for selling the private $15 million rare book and manuscript collection his parents amassed.

The James S. Copley Library served virtually no one in San Diego.

It was a world-class collection locked away inside the headquarters of the Copley Press, the private company that published The San Diego Union-Tribune and other newspapers.

It could have and should have been used to inspire and educate future newspaper readers.

That, apparently, wasn’t in keeping with the spirit of David’s mother, Helen Copley, who commissioned the library as a  monument for her late husband.

Only now is it becoming clear just how incredible a collection it was:

  • One of a few surviving broadside Declarations of Independence printed in the weeks after July 4, 1776 (estimated value $600,000-$800,000)
  • A significant collection of papers and correspondence belonging to Henry Strachey, Secretary to the British Commission for Restoring Peace in America (est. $700,000/1.2 million)
  • Abraham Lincoln instructing General McClellan to either attack Richmond or come back to defend Washington (est. $500/700,000)
  • A listing by Father Junipero Serra on March 1, 1777 of all of the missions he founded in Alta California (est. $250/350,000)
  • Walt Whitman writing his mother in 1864 about Grant, Lee and the Battle of the Wilderness (est.
  • Mark Twain’s unpublished manuscript, “A Family Sketch”; an intimate and introspective memoir of his family and his own boyhood days (est. $120/160,000)
  • Albert Einstein’s autograph speech delivered to the California Institute Associates on 25 January 1932 (est.

Here’s hoping that the future owners of this incredible collection are more public-minded.

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