Lot 386

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Robert Hooke 1670 Extraordinarily Rare ADS by "England's Leonardo", Perhaps the Only Hooke Signed Document Regarding the Great Fire of London

HOOKE, ROBERT. Autograph Document Signed, “Rob: Hooke”, 1p, July 4, 1670, London, 7.25" x 11.5". Some portions crossed out, uniform toning, foxing mostly at top, shallow folds, some haloing to text, else in very good plus condition given its age. This very item sold on December 10, 2019 at Christie's for over $50,000.

Robert Hooke signed this document in 1670, arbitrating a property dispute between neighbors John Rowley and Wilt Sanders after the "Late dreadfull fire" that destroyed most of London in 1666. Hooke was one of the three surveyors appointed to enforce Parliamentary regulations in the rebuilding of the city. Rowley and Sanders lived on Ludgate Hill, one of three ancient hills in London and the site of St. Paul’s Cathedral. The fourth church on the site, constructed in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, was destroyed in the Great Fire, and the fifth and present church was constructed between the 1670s and 1710s.

This document signed by Hooke is perhaps the only one extant concerning the fire. His autograph concerning any subject is extraordinarily rare, especially considering the extent of his interests as a natural philosopher and polymath, whose 1666 book "Micrographia" was revolutionary in advancing microscopy and cell research. 

The document, in full, "We whose names are underwritten, two of the Surveyors of the City of London, by the Directions of the Right hon[ourab]ble the Lord Mayor. and In pursuance of the Additional Act of Par[liamen]t: for Rebuilding the City have viewed the houses of Mr. Will: Sanders Draper & Mr. John Rowly Skinner situate[d] on Ludgate Hill, and being informed by both the said partys that before the Late dreadfull fire the said Rowly had from the 2d story upward the Room of seaventeen foot from North to South and ten foot in bredth from East to West over the passage and part of the shop of the said Sanders. We therefore find that the said Mr. Sanders hath in Rebuilding his said house carryd the Party wall upright and Intire and inclosed the said Rome of Mr. Rowly to his own house. Now to the ends the said Party wall may remain Intire and upright we doe order and award that the said Mr. Saunders shall Injoy all these Roome of 10 foot in bredth & 17 foot in Length wholy to himself and that the said Rowly shall make such Legall conveyances of the same unto him as cou[n]cill Learned in the Law shall advise if it be necessary, and that the said Mr. Sanders shall make the like conveyance to him, the said Rowell [sic], a parcill of Groun[d] lying next behind the house of the said Rowly which said parcell shall contein fourteen foot in bredth from East to West and twelve foot in depth from North to South. In testimony whereof we have herewith set our hands this 4th day of July 1670. / Rob: Hooke : Jo: Oliver".

Robert Hooke (1635-1703) was an English polymath active as a scientist, natural philosopher and architect, who is credited to be one of two scientists to discover microorganisms in 1665 using a compound microscope that he built himself. Much of what is known of Hooke's early life comes from an autobiography that he commenced in 1696 but never completed. An impoverished scientific inquirer in young adulthood, he found wealth and esteem by performing over half of the architectural surveys after London's great fire of 1666. Called "England's Leonardo", Hooke was an early member of the Royal Society, responsible for curating its lab experiments, and corresponded at great length with Isaac Newton regarding gravity. In fact, some believe that Newton actually appropriated Hooke's ideas about gravity as his own.

John Oliver (1616-1701) was a master mason and glazier by training. After the Great Fire, he was appointed one of the three surveyors of the City of London. Later in life, he became a printmaker, publisher, and dealer in maps.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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March 15, 2023 11:00 AM EDT
Wilton, CT, US

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Bid Increments
From: To: Increments:
$0 $99 $10
$100 $299 $20
$300 $499 $25
$500 $999 $50
$1,000 $1,999 $100
$2,000 $2,999 $200
$3,000 $4,999 $250
$5,000 $9,999 $500
$10,000 $19,999 $1,000
$20,000 $49,999 $2,500
$50,000 + $5,000