Lot 49 of 202:
Lenny Bruce pleas to defend self at obscenity trial  

Click image to enlarge
Lot closed - unsold
$500 - $800

Letter from Lenny Bruce to Trial Judge John Murtagh, substituting himself as counsel in order to submit new evidence against the advice of his attorney

Bruce, Lenny

Los Angeles


September 10, 1964


13 leaves, mimeographed typescript on rectos only. Retained file copy, unsigned. 28x21.5 cm (11x8½"), stapled. 

Related to his April 1964 arrest at the Café Au Go Go, Greenwich Village, and subsequent trial for obscenity. Bruce writes to Judge John Murtagh, Presiding Magistrate of the New York Criminal Court.  Bruce has fired his attorney, Ephraim London, because he “withheld from the Court” some “very important evidence.” He then takes Judge Murtagh on a tour of Webster’s Third International Dictionary.  A lengthy missive for which certain passages could be construed as obscene themselves. Bruce had studied the meanings of each word in the list of “purple vocabulary” in the complaint against him and now discusses the distinctions between their literal meanings and their use in contemporary slang.  Since the First Amendment protects expression consistent with contemporary community standards, Bruce argues, it follows that public usage of slang words can never be obscene. 
This is not a customary legal brief filed with the Court. The letter is addressed directly to Judge Murtagh and was written several weeks after the close of testimony [but before his verdict.] We have found no references to this letter in any of the trial records and summaries available online nor published histories of the trial. [We have not examined the official court records in New York.]  A fascinating document.

Lot Amendments

A bit darkened at top edge of first leaf; very good or better.

Item number:
Shipping info:

We have a full service shipping department to ensure proper packing and safe delivery of purchases at reasonable cost. We are specialists at packing and shipping books and works on paper.   All lots purchased by the same client are combined for shipping in order to keep the cost as economical as possible.  Our preferred method for domestic shipments is UPS Ground but we can also ship via FedEx or USPS Priority Mail. We do NOT ship USPS Media Mail under any circumstances.For international orders we select the most appropriate carrier depending on the value and weight of the items purchased.  We are happy to accommodate special arrangements by request.

Invoices are sent out the day following the auction and include a minimum $10 handling fee plus actual shipping and insurance charges.

Shipping estimates can be obtained  by contacting [email protected] prior to the auction.


Terms and conditions


All accepted bids are contracts and are considered final and non withdrawable.


A buyer's premium of 20% will be applied to all purchases.


The person posting the bids online has to be the person who has registered for the auction.