The Hunt for History (Hardcover)

On the Trail of the World's Lost Treasures—from the Letters of Lincoln, Churchill, and Einstein to the Secret Recordings Onboard JFK's Air Force One

By Nathan Raab, Luke Barr

Scribner, 9781501198908, 272pp.

Publication Date: March 10, 2020

Other Editions of This Title:
Compact Disc (3/10/2020)

List Price: 30.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.


Nathan Raab, America’s preeminent rare documents dealer, describes his years as the Sherlock Holmes of historical artifacts—questing after precious finds and determining their authenticity—and he shows us what the past can tell us about the present.

A box uncovered in a Maine attic with twenty letters written by Alexander Hamilton; a handheld address to Congress by President George Washington; a long-lost Gold Medal that belonged to an American President; a note that Winston Churchill wrote to his captor when he was a young POW in South Africa; paperwork signed and filled out by Amelia Earhart when she became the first woman to fly the Atlantic; an American flag carried to the moon and back by Neil Armstrong; an unpublished letter written by Albert Einstein, discussing his theory of relativity.

Each day, people from all over the world contact Nathan Raab for help understanding what they have, what it might be worth, and how to sell it. The Raab Collection’s president, Nathan is a modern-day treasure hunter and one of the world’s most prominent dealers of historical artifacts. Most weeks, he travels the country, scours auctions, or fields phone calls and emails from people who think they may have found something of note in a grandparent’s attic.

In The Hunt for History, Raab shares some fascinating stories about his professional exploits: spotting a letter from British officials that secured the Rosetta Stone; discovering a piece of the first electric cable laid by Edison; restoring a fragmented letter from Andrew Jackson that led to the infamous Trail of Tears; and locating copies of missing audio that had been recorded on Air Force One as the plane brought JFK’s body back to Washington. Whether it’s the first report of Napoleon’s death or an unpublished letter penned by Albert Einstein to a curious soldier, every document and artifact Raab uncovers comes with a spellbinding story—and often offers new insights into a life we thought we knew.

About the Author

Nathan Raab is one of the world’s most knowledgeable and respected experts in historical documents. His writing has appeared in The New York Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer, and he frequently writes a column, “Historically Speaking,” for The author of The Hunt for History, he lives with his family in Pennsylvania.

Luke Barr is the author of Ritz & Escoffier and the New York Times bestseller Provence, 1970. The former features editor at Travel + Leisure, he lives in Brooklyn with his wife and their two daughters. 

Praise For The Hunt for History: On the Trail of the World's Lost Treasures—from the Letters of Lincoln, Churchill, and Einstein to the Secret Recordings Onboard JFK's Air Force One

“A fascinating glimpse at the day-to-day operations of an unusual profession, and Raab’s exploits will delight lovers of history like himself.”

“A leading dealer in historical documents and artifacts delivers a delightful account of his business….As skilled in satisfying readers as clients, Raab knows how to tell a story, chronicling how descendants of great historical figures invite him to their homes and reveal treasures…Though the anecdotes are unconnected, they are unfailingly entertaining.”
Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

“In another life, I want to be Nathan Raab living with our most celebrated heroes of the past. In The Hunt for History, we get a first-hand look at a time traveler, document detective, and historical harvester as he mines for—and often procures—lost treasures.”
Dan Abrams, New York Times bestselling coauthor of Lincoln’s Last Trial and Theodore Roosevelt for the Defense 

 “For those who collect—or just care about—the artifacts of history, Nathan Raab offers a compelling account of his wide-ranging adventures: absorbing journeys into the past that teach valuable lessons. A terrific feat of storytelling, The Hunt for History will forever change the way you think about the events that have shaped our current reality.”
Daniel Weiss, President and CEO of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

“With his love for rare artifacts and long forgotten treasures, Nathan Raab takes us on a wild hunt and deliciously opens up numerous hidden crevices of history. What a rollicking ride this book is. What a statement about why we love history.”
Jay Winik, New York Times bestselling author of 1944 and April 1865

“A thrilling work of detection through the eyes of an expert, with false leads, forgeries and scoundrels—a fast and fascinating read.” 
—Jonathan Harr, New York Times bestselling author of A Civil Action and The Lost Painting

“A tale of instinct, passion, patient research, and addictive interest—all animated by a son’s admiration for his father.  Like John Hancock writing in large, bold letters, I would mark this book: ‘Highly recommended.’”
Harold Holzer, National Humanities Medal Winner and author of Lincoln at Cooper Union and Lincoln and the Power of the Press

“Forget National Treasure—Nathan Raab’s historical adventures make him the Indiana Jones of rare document dealers….Not content to preserve history, here Raab makes some of his own in a detective story that will fascinate every collector and remind us all why history is too important to leave to the historians.”
—Richard Norton Smith, author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist Thomas E. Dewey and His Times and other works of history

“Worth reading for its tales of buried treasure and dogged detection. It‘s also keenly perceptive on the alchemy by which ink-and-paper relics become portals to the past, bringing history thrillingly alive.”
—Benjamin Wallace, New York Times bestselling author of The Billionaire’s Vinegar

“An absolutely riveting book that will have you experiencing moments of great significance as if they were occurring right in front of you…Perhaps Raab’s greatest talent is showing the importance of history—why it can teach us so much and fire us with inspiration.”
—Andrew Carroll, New York Times bestselling author of War Letters and Letters of a Nation

“Raab’s account underscores the richness of our heritage, adding intriguing footnotes to the history we thought we knew.”
—Susan Eisenhower, President of The Eisenhower Group and author of Breaking Free and Mrs. Ike