Published: April 19, 2022
LIVINGSTON, N.J. — Books and manuscripts expert, Christopher Coover, passed away on his 72nd birthday on April 3 at a hospital in Livingston, N.J. His family confirmed the immediate cause was pneumonia complicated by Parkinson’s disease.
From 1980 to 2016, Coover’s 35-year career at Christie’s in New York City saw him sell Leonardo da Vinci’s Hammer Codex, which had belonged to oil magnate Armand Hammer, to Microsoft chairman Bill Gates in 1994 for the then-record price of $30.2 million. In six sales from 2002 to 2007, he presided over Malcolm Forbes’ collection of American historical documents for more than $40.9 million. Other notable sales included $2.4 million for Jack Kerouac’s manuscript for On the Road and $3.4 million for the 1864 election victory speech given by Abraham Lincoln. He helped sell the letter George Washington wrote on the ratification of the Constitution for $3.2 million, as well as Washington’s personal annotated copy of the 1789 Acts of Congress, for $9.8 million.
He was born in Greeley, Colo., on April 3, 1953, to James Burrell Cover, a professor and music librarian, and Georgena Walker, a teacher and specialist in early childhood education. Soon after his birth, the family moved to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where his parents worked for Vassar College. He attended Arlington High School, and later Kenmore West High School in Buffalo, N.Y., after his father took a job at SUNY Buffalo.
In addition to his tenure at Christie’s, Coover was an appraiser on the PBS series, Antiques Roadshow.
Coover donated his collection of literary and historical and manuscripts to Columbia.
Coover is survived by his wife, Lois Adams, son Timothy, daughter Chloe, and two sisters, Mauri and Regan Coover.
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