The Jimmy Van Heusen Collection of Musical Autographs

Our November 7 auction of Autographs is especially noteworthy for a collection of musical autographs from the estate of Jimmy Van Heusen.


Jimmy Van Heusen with Frank Sinatra. Courtesy of NPR.


Jimmy Van Heusen was an American composer of popular songs for musical theater, radio, film and television, whose music is best known from performances by Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and others. Among his most-loved songs are Love and Marriage, High Hopes and All the Way, the original musical manuscripts for which are featured in the sale. He won four Oscars over the course of his career and was one of the first ten members inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame when it formed  in 1971.


Lot 213: Jimmy Van Heusen, Love and Marriage, Autograph Musical Manuscript Signed, twice, circa 1955. Estimate $4,000 to $6,000.


According to The New York Times, “Sinatra recorded 76 songs by Mr. Van Heusen, more than by any other composer.” The article adds that Van Heusen “played a significant role in the resurgence of Mr. Sinatra’s career after a slump in the early 1950’s. Love and Marriage, … The Tender Trap, All the Way and High Hopes became major hits for the singer, whose albums include generous selections of Van Heusen material.” In addition, the two were close friends and Van Heusen was buried in Sinatra’s family plot.

The Collection includes not only the original musical manuscripts of his own hits, but also many autograph musical quotations and letters by some of the most influential composers of classical music from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Here are a few of the classical highlights:


Lot 209: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Serenade for String Orchestra in C Major, Autograph Musical Quotation dated and signed, London, 21 March 1888. Estimate $10,000 to $15,000.


Above is an Autograph Musical Quotation dated and signed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, showing nine bars from the first movement of Serenade for String Orchestra in C Majorsigned March 21, 1888 in London, where he would perform the piece at St. James’s Hall the following day. Also available is a letter from Tchaikovsky to dramatic agent Edmund Gerson, declining to meet with him because of a “previous engagement” in New York, which we believe to be the opening of Carnegie Hall. In 1891, shortly after this letter was written, Tchaikovsky traveled to New York to inaugurate the opening of Carnegie Hall, where he conducted his Coronation March on May 5, 1891.


Lot 145: Johannes Brahms, Academic Festival Overture, Autograph Musical Quotation Signed and Inscribed, in German, three bars from Gaudeamus Igitus,
Mürzzuschlag, July 1888. Estimate $7,000 to $10,000.


Lot 150: Frédéric Chopin, Autograph Note Signed, to Mr. Schlesinger, in French.
Estimate $5,000 to $7,500.


Lot 180: Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Autograph Letter Signed, with an Autograph Musical Manuscript of May Song, to Adolf Friedrich Stenzler,
Düsseldorf, 21 June 1834.
Estimate $10,000 to $15,000.


Lot 201: Robert Schumann, Autograph Musical Quotation dated and Signed, four bars from the first act of Genoveva, Leipzig, 29 June 1850.
Estimate $8,000 to $12,000.


Lot 203: Dmitri Shostakovich, Autograph Musical Quotation Signed and Inscribed, to Lionel Okvin, in Russian, the opening three bars from Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Moscow, 17 February 1947. Estimate $3,000 to $4,000.


Lot 207: Igor Stravinsky, Two Autograph Musical Quotations on same sheet, one signed, Rite of Spring and Berceuse from The Firebird, New York, 6 February 1935.
Estimate $2,000 to $3,000.


In 1967, Van Heusen donated his collection to Cazenovia College in Cazenovia, NY, where he was a student when it operated as a high school. Proceeds from the sale of the collection will benefit the College.


Explore more of the Jimmy Van Heusen Collection in the full catalogue.