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  • Battle Hymn of the Republic text to make $50,000?
  • Post author
    Paul Fraser
  • anthembedbrowncivilexcitinghandhowejohnlaylinelyricsoriginalrightssongunion

Battle Hymn of the Republic text to make $50,000?

Sotheby's is offering a transcript of The Battle Hymn of the Republic handwritten by its author, Julia Ward Howe.

The celebrated anthem was originally published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1862.

The transcript features stunning illustrations by 19th century artist Charles M Jenckes, and is the only one of Howe's three handwritten examples to be "illuminated". 

It's valued at up to $50,000 ahead of Sotheby's January 17 Printed Americana sale.

The lyrics are sung to the tune of John Brown’s Body, a union marching song that commemorates the abolitionist John Brown.

Brown, and a handful of other freed slaves, launched a daring and fatal raid on a confederate armoury in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

Battle Hymn Howe

This is the only illustrated example of Howe's text

Howe was visiting a union camp with her husband, Dr S G Howe, when they overheard the tune. A friend suggested she try to fit some new words to it.

Howe explained how the lyrics came to her while asleep that night: “In spite of the excitement of the day I went to bed and slept as usual, but awoke next morning in the gray of the early dawn, and to my astonishment found that the wished-for lines were arranging themselves in my brain.

"I lay quite still until the last verse had completed itself in my thoughts...

“I lay down again and fell asleep, but not without feeling that something of importance had happened to me."

The song would become the most stirring anthem of the civil war.

A century later, it was co-opted by civil rights activists in their struggle for equal rights.

Most famously Martin Luther King finished his legendary final sermon (I’ve Been to the Mountaintop) in Tennesse in 1968 in Alabama with the song’s opening line “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

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  • Post author
    Paul Fraser
  • anthembedbrowncivilexcitinghandhowejohnlaylinelyricsoriginalrightssongunion