Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2009 Issue

Liberty & the American Revolution

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Homage to a Collector


By Bruce McKinney

Princeton University, the alma mater of Sid Lapidus, has published an exhibition catalogue, Liberty & the American Revolution, to accompany the display of material that Mr. Lapidus is donating to the university on the 50th anniversary of his graduation. The exhibition, which opened on 28 May, continues to 3 January, 2010 on the Princeton campus at the Firestone Library.

"The exhibition features 157 important books, pamphlets, and prints exemplary of the major themes of Lapidus's collecting: the intellectual origins of the American Revolution, the revolution itself, the early years of the republic, the spread of democratic ideas in the Atlantic world, and the concomitant effort to abolish the slave trade in both Great Britain and the United States. These items, presented as gifts to the Library on the occasion of the exhibition, were selected from the more than 2,500 books in the Lapidus collection because each offers a distinctive voice in telling the story of expanding liberty. The books range in date from the seventeenth century to the beginning of the nineteenth. Their authors vary widely: young and old, male and female, black and white, learned and self-taught. Yet, through them all, one can hear these voices returning to themes still very much with us today, such as the characteristics of a just society and respect for the equality of fellow human beings." -

Friends of the Princeton University Library Newsletter No. 28, Spring 2009.

As Mr. Lapidus explains in the introduction to the exhibition catalogue created by Princeton to honor and commemorate the gift:

"Almost from the beginning of my book collecting career, I had an inkling of what I would spend almost a lifetime collecting. The principal theme of my collection was even embedded in the title of the first rare book I purchased, Thomas Paine's Rights of Man, but it took years before I became aware that this theme related to "rights" and "liberties" in the eighteenth century. That realization began to dawn on me as I prepared for the exhibit at Princeton's Firestone Library in October 1991 of twenty-one pamphlets from my collection. The pamphlets were British and American imprints from 1764 through 1776, the period when the American colonists traveled along what I called "The Road to Independence."

The overriding theme, pamphlets and related material primarily from the period 1760 to 1800, continues today, now further elaborated as a coat of many colors; Revolutionary Origins, the American Crisis, Contagious Liberty, and Abolition of the Slave Trade. Stephen Ferguson, Curator of Rare Books at the Firestone Library describes the Lapidus collection as "rare and important material gathered from discriminating sources. In short: a gem."

Much of the collection has been acquired during the past twenty years as Mr. Lapidus has widened his focus, the outcome of which is his gift to Princeton, this exhibition and catalogue.

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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