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Margaret Tanchuck was cleaning out her late father’s jewelry store about a year and a half ago when she found some old Bibles and books, including a centuries-old manuscript by Benjamin Franklin potentially worth more than $1 million.

The only catch was the New York Public Library call numbers on the spines.

Now, the manuscript—a handwritten workbook of the items printed in Mr. Franklin’s print shop in the 18th century—and seven other rare books are at the heart of a contentious dispute between the 50-year-old Nassau County woman and the library, which alleges the books were stolen from the library decades ago.

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 On Monday, January 26, 2015 at 5PM, Jay Robert Stiefel, a lawyer and well-known collector and historian of American decorative arts, will give a lecture entitled “Leather Apron Men: Benjamin Franklin & Philadelphia’s Artisans” at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. The event is free and open to the public.

The illustrated talk will center on Benjamin Franklin’s work as an artisan as well as his role in fostering the public appreciation of his fellow craftsmen. America’s foremost founding fathers and the country’s first printing magnate, Franklin tended toward self-deprecation, writing in a 1740 issue of his “Pennsylvania Gazette” that he was no more than “a poor ordinary mechanick of this City.”

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On January 26th, Keno Auctions of New York City sold a highly important and historically significant document entitled ‘Letter from the Twelve United States Colonies, by their delegates in Congress to the Inhabitants of Great Britain. After heated competition between several phone bidders in a packed salesroom, the gavel dropped at $912,500 (including Buyer’s Premium), well above its presale auction estimate of $100,000 to $400,000.

The winning bid of $912,500 was by private collector Brian Hendelson who, shortly after the auction, said "I am very excited about adding this amazing piece of history to my collection.  To be able to buy any original manuscript written relating to our independence is an extremely rare opportunity. To have the opportunity to own the original draft of the final plea to Great Britain is even more extraordinary. The only thing I can compare this to would be to own the original draft of the Declaration of Independence”. The price is the highest for any lot sold at auction during Americana Week 2014 in New York.

This document was long thought to be lost, but in July 2013 archivist Emilie Gruchow discovered it in the attic of the Morris-Jumel Mansion inside a folder of colonial doctor’s bills tucked away in a drawer. The document, penned by Robert R. Livingston, was a final plea for peace by the Continental Congress to the people of Great Britain to avoid the Revolutionary War. It was also a prelude to the Declaration of Independence, which Livingston helped draft with Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin less than a year later. This working draft fundamentally changes our understanding of the final document which was printed in July 1775 and is complete with fascinating edits, including entire paragraphs crossed out and rewritten in the margins.  Scholar Michael Hattem of Yale University stated, the document is “…the missing piece from the culminating moments in which the colonists began to think of themselves not as British subjects, but as American citizens.”

Leigh Keno, President of Keno Auctions, said, “I am elated that the manuscript did so well.  All of the proceeds benefit one of the finest house museums in New York City.” Carol Ward, President of The Morris-Jumel Mansion, said after the sale, “I am still in a state of shock. It was so beyond our expectations. This auction quadruples the size of our endowment and ensures that the mansion can serve the public for generations to come.”

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Police in Lower Merion, Pennsylvania have made meager progress in the search for a portrait bust of Benjamin Franklin that was stolen from a home in nearby Bryn Mawr. Also missing is an autographed picture of the German-American composer Victor Herbert, mounted in a shadowbox along with one of his batons and sheet music, valued at $80,000. Though a warrant has been issued for Andrea Lawton, a 44-year-old house-cleaner who was dismissed from her job at a housekeeping service contracted by the sculpture's owners, repeated visits to Lawton's current address have proven ineffectual.

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