Among the highlights is a two-page letter from Washington to an Anglican clergyman.
Another top item is a signed van Gogh letter, written in 1890, to Joseph and Marie Ginoux, who were proprietors of the Cafe de la Gare in Arles, France, where the Dutch post-impressionist artist lived for a time.
Each of those letters is estimated to bring $200,000 to $300,000.
A handwritten letter from John Lennon to Eric Clapton has a pre-sale estimate of $20,000 to $30,000.
The collection will be exhibited Dec. 3-9 at Douglas Elliman's Madison Avenue art gallery.
Washington's letter was written on Aug. 15, 1798, to the Rev. Jonathan Boucher, amid an undeclared naval war with France. Washington thanks Boucher for sending him his "View of the Causes and Consequences of the American Revolution," a book of 13 discourses Boucher preached.
"Peace, with all the world is my sincere wish, I am sure it is our true policy — and am persuaded it is the ardent desire of the Government," the former president and Founding Father wrote.
In a Jan. 20, 1890, four-page letter, handwritten in French to his friends Monsieur and Madame Ginoux, van Gogh wishes the ailing proprietress a speedy recovery.
"Illnesses are there to make us remember again that we are not made of wood," the artist wrote. "That's what seems the good side of all this to me. Then afterwards one goes back to one's everyday work less fearful of the annoyances, with a new store of serenity." Van Gogh died less than seven months later.
He suffered from acute anxiety and bouts of depression throughout his life. Madame Ginoux and the cafe were frequent subjects of his work.
The eight-page letter from Lennon is a draft he wrote to Clapton on Sept. 29, 1971, and signed "John and Yoko." The whereabouts of the final version is unknown.
Lennon writes candidly about his admiration for the great British guitarist and suggests forming a "'nucleus' group (Plastic Ono Band) . — and of course had YOU!!! In mind as soon as we decided." He writes that drummer Jim Kelnter, artist Klaus Voormann, pianist Nicky Hopkins and producer Phil Spector "all agreed so far" to join.
"Anyway, the point is, after missing the Bangla-Desh concert, we began to feel more and more like going on the road, but not the way I used with the Beatles — night after night of torture. We mean to enjoy ourselves, take it easy, and maybe even see some of the places we go to! We have many 'revolutionary' ideas for presenting shows that completely involve the audience ."
Other luminaries whose papers will be sold include Lou Gehrig, Louis Pasteur, Sigmund Freud, Charles Darwin, Marie Curie, Giuseppe Verdi, Peter Tchaikovsky, Cole Porter, King Henry II and Napoleon I.
The December auction is the first of several sales that will be held over two years. The entire collection contains 3,000 items.