Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - December - 2004 Issue

English & European Books Pre-1800 From John Windle

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English and European Books Printed Before 1800 from John Windle.


By Michael Stillman

John Windle, Antiquarian Bookseller
, of San Francisco, has issued his 38th catalogue. It is entitled "English and European Books Printed Before 1800." While this catalogue has a definite old world orientation, collectors with a focus on the new will also find books of interest. After all, even the U.S.A. was still a colony of the old world almost to the end of this period. Here are a few samples of the items you will find (and with the caveat that we have focused mostly on the English language books in a collection that includes many in French, German and Italian).

In 1764 Benjamin Franklin was still a loyal subject of England. At the time, he was an agent for Pennsylvania, whose legislature was unhappy with the English proprietorship then in place. On their behalf, Franklin petitioned the King to assume control of the colony himself. Franklin still envisioned a great English empire with America a leading force. Over the next few years, he would lose faith in England as a result of its treatment of the colonies. Here is Franklin's earlier plea, Cool Thoughts on the Present Situation of Our Public Affairs. Item 78. Priced at $3,750.

Just 12 years later, the colonies would be in open rebellion. In a letter attributed to Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson, to a dumbfounded British Lord who did not understand why, an explanation is provided in Strictures upon the Declaration of the Congress at Philadelphia. In a Letter to a Noble Lord. Hutchinson, no friend of rebellious colonists, justifies the taxes England imposed, but questions the wisdom of applying them under the current conditions. Item 97. $2,250.

Francis Bacon's Of the Advancement and Proficience of Learning: or Partitions of Sciences was a major step in the formulation of the scientific method. This is a first English edition from 1674 of a book originally published in Latin in 1605. Bacon promotes the scientific method, using experimentation and observation to draw conclusions. This process is a given now, but at this time the standard was to reach conclusions through logic and philosophy, the facts be damned. Item 14. $975. Unfortunately for Bacon, he was convicted of accepting a bribe in his political persona in 1621 and disgraced. In 1622, he published The Historie of the Raigne of King Henry The Seventh. This may have been an attempt to get back in the good graces of Henry's descendant, King James I. Item 13. $1,250.

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