Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2009 Issue

A Long and Winding Road

Pj.cr

An extraordinary survival.


By Bruce McKinney

An almost two hundred year old bound volume of Poughkeepsie newspapers that once was the property of the local Adriance Library, then owned for decades by a Poughkeepsie person, was sold at auction in Hyde Park, New York in January, purchased by an eBay reseller, posted on eBay and purchased by me shortly thereafter for $640. I live in San Francisco. It was a wonderful acquisition.

Paraclete Potter, the Poughkeepsie printer [1784-1858], lived most of his life in Dutchess County before heading west to Wisconsin in the late 1830s. In his years in Poughkeepsie he was the publisher of the Poughkeepsie Journal, a newspaper that continues today as a daily. Beginning in 1802 he was associated with the Journal and a few years later became its publisher. He lost control of the paper three decades later and shortly after moved west. During his years as publisher, the Journal was a weekly. Issues from this period occasionally come up for sale. Bound volumes are uncommon. So it was, with great interest that I ran across an 1810 bound volume of the Journal on eBay. A week later, with the clock expiring, I made the winning bid.

From experience, I know such volumes are difficult to come by but show up occasionally because they are almost never thrown away. They look irreplaceable although no one is quite sure who wants them. They simply look too important to throw out. That's a very good thing. Finding them when they come up though is a combination of art and luck but mostly luck.

History is transmitted from generation to generation between the covers of books but most accounts tend to minimize the seaminess of everyday life in the 19th century. It isn't that life was so bad, only that by ignoring reality, it's next to impossible to understand life in that period. Human beings are imperfect and life the continuing act of improving. Idealizing the past is a terrible mistake although it continues to be far more popular than looking back objectively. To better understand the past I buy runs of newspapers and read them the way another person might read War and Peace. I also know that someday every issue of every newspaper is going to be fully searchable on line. At that time the importance of interpreting history will begin to fade, to be replaced by our growing ability to see for ourselves first hand what life was like. We'll find out that much of what we have read in books isn't true.

A few years ago I ran across a twenty year run of the Poughkeepsie Telegraph from its first issue in 1822 to the end of 1842. It also came up at auction near Poughkeepsie. The auctioneers had an online site and online bidding but almost no visibility. I offered to cover their lots in AE's upcoming auction search. They declined and I bought the lot for $50. The shipping was more than $100.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.

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