Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - February - 2014 Issue

A 25th Anniversary for David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books


David Lesser celebrates 25 years in the book trade.

David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books has reached a milestone - the bookseller's 25th anniversary in the business. The event is celebrated with the firm's catalogue No. 135 Rare Americana, almost one every two months on average for 25 years. Lesser never wants for material, and it is a most interesting collection for those fascinated by early American history. It includes books, but mostly shorter form pamphlets, broadsides, manuscripts, and such. The immediacy of the issues of the day is seen in these quickly published items, a window on events from before the Revolution to the decades just after the Civil War. Here are some samples.


In hindsight, this appears much ado about nothing, but at the time it was not, and author Charles Brockden Brown could not have foreseen what would soon happen. Item 16 is Brown's An Address to the Government of the United States, on the Cession of Louisiana to the French... published in 1803. Napoleon had forced the Spanish to agree to cede the Louisiana Territory to them in 1800. This caused much concern in America, not only for Brown, but for President Jefferson and many others as well. Spain was weak, but France was strong, and a powerful European power returning to a major presence in America was deeply troubling. Jefferson sent diplomats to France to discuss the purchase of New Orleans. It was not so much the vast territory of Louisiana that concerned Jefferson as France's ability to block an increasing volume of American shipments from its western territories through the port of New Orleans. Brown went even further, urging the U.S. to seize New Orleans from the French. “France is to be dreaded only or chiefly on the Mississippi,” he writes. “The deadliest of blows from that nation must come from that quarter. To prevent their entrance, therefore, is the most urgent measure of defence... The government must not hesitate.” From hindsight, we now know that Napoleon had become focused on battling England and taking control of Europe, not America. He not only was willing to sell New Orleans, but offered the entire Louisiana Territory to America for a cheap price. Priced at $500.


It is doubtful that printed sermons would have a great readership today, but they must have been popular in America a couple of hundred years ago as so many were published. Item 8 is A Sermon Preached September 29th 1771. By John Bacon... He had just been installed as a pastor at the South Church in Boston, and he gave the parishioners a good reason to love God. He explains, “The sum of the law is, to love God with all the heart, and that on the penalty of damnation.” $175.


Charles Sumner was an ardent and important abolitionist, a senator from Massachusetts who once was beaten on the floor of the senate to within an inch of his life as a result of a speech attacking the slave practices of South Carolina. It took three years before he was able to return to the senate. He returned as he left, a vocal abolitionist and later Radical Republican during Reconstruction. Where did he get such strong views? Those who follow Sumner's career will be interested in this item: The Compass: A Poetical Performance at the Literary Exhibition in September, [1795], at Harvard University. Charles Sumner had not even been born in 1795, nor would he be for another 16 years. However, the poet-speaker was Charles P. Sumner, the illustrious senator's father. His father hated slavery too, even back in this era when few objections were being raised. “No sanction'd slavery AFRIC's sons degrade, / But equal rights shall equal earth pervade,” he writes. Like father, like son. Item 129. $600.


Poor Maggie Keppel became a case study for Landon Carter Gray, though it is hard to fathom why he was quite so fascinated by her. Item 57 is Dr. Gray's The Case of Maggie Keppel, The Brooklyn Child-Abductor. Read Before the New York Society of Medical Jurisprudence, January 11, 1883. Gray first became interested in her case when Ms. Keppel was serving a jail sentence for “the heinous crime of stealing a small towel in the house wherein she was boarding.” I'm not sure anyone would classify that as a “heinous” crime except, perhaps, those who operate hotels. Dr. Gray concluded that Ms. Keppel was insane, and when she was released, she promised to come to the good doctor for treatment, but only came twice. Lo and behold, his next encounter with Maggie came when “the whole world was startled by the story of the abduction of a child that had been playing in front of its parents' house.” Alas, the abductor “turned out to be my quondam patient of towel-stealing fame, the unfortunate Maggie Keppel.” Aside - “quondam” means former. Maggie explained that she found the child crying in the street and merely sought to bring her home. Dr. Gray wasn't buying her explanation, describing “the dangerous tendencies of such a lunatic as Maggie Keppel, who in another phase of her malady, might have murdered the child as readily as she had stolen it.” However, the jury believed Maggie, not Dr. Gray, and acquitted her. $500.


Item 7 is the Life and Adventures of Jeff. Davis. By McArone, published in 1865. “McArone” was George Arnold, who died the same year at the age of 31. Arnold was a humorist who wrote for numerous magazines. This publication includes accounts of Davis' life and comic illustrations as one might expect to be targeted at a defeated foe. Arnold calls Davis' birth “a misfortune alike for him and for society at large.” He describes one of Davis' skills as “negro raising,” and naturally enough, makes illustrated fun of claims that Davis was captured wearing women's clothing. $875.


David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books may be reached at 203-389-8111 or dmlesser@lesserbooks.com. Their website is www.lesserbooks.com

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 7. Ritter's unusual sun-dial world map, 1607. Est. $3500 to $4500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 16. Fascinating Japanese satirical map published prior to WWII, 1932. Est. $1400 to $2000
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 30. Newton's 2" miniature terrestrial globe, 1833. Est. $3500 to $4500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 318. Braun & Hogenberg's first plan of Moscow in contemporary color, 1575. Est. $2750 to $3500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 346. One of the most decorative 18th century maps of Malta, 1680. Est. $1200 to $1500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 412. The first printed map devoted to the Pacific in full contemporary color, 1589. Est. $8000 to $10000
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 425. Rare set of celebrated explorers of the New World, 1592. Est. $1900 to $2300
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 436. Two superb miniature atlases bound in one volume with 98 maps, 1682. Est. $5500 to $7500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 445. Part IV of de Bry's "Grand Voyages" by Girolamo Benzoni, 1613. Est. $2000 to $2500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 447. Tallis' "History of the United States of America" in six volumes, 1850. Est. $1500 to $1800
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 448. Mallet's miniature military masterpiece, 1672. Est. $1400 to $1700
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Malcolm X, Autograph Letter Signed, from prison, 1950. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Letter from Moses Walker, an enslaved Georgia man, to his mother at another plantation, 1854. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Signed cabinet card of Frederick Douglass, albumen photograph, Boston, circa 1879. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Placard from the Memphis Sanitation Worker's strike, 1968. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b><br><i>The North Star,</i> volume 1, issue 27, Rochester, NY, 1848. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Hand-tinted tintype of John Brown, circa 1860. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Poster signed & inscribed by Huey Newton, circa 1967. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Album of aerial views of the march on Montgomery, taken by federal troops, 1965. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Poster for the SNCC, photograph by Danny Lyon featuring John Lewis, circa 1962. $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. $80,000 to $120,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. $200,000 to 300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. $80,000 to $120,000
  • <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>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Jenner (Rev. George Charles). <i>The Evidence at Large...Respecting Dr Jenner's Discovery of Vaccine Inoculation,</i> presentation copy from Edward Jenner to Rev. Rowland Hill, 1805. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Houdini (Harry).- Maggi (Girolamo). <i>De tintinnabulis liber postumus...de equuleo liber,</i> Harry Houdini's copy, Amsterdam, H. Wetstein, 1689. £600 to £800
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Meyer (Henry Leonard). Coloured Illustrations of British Birds, and their Eggs , 7 vol. in 2 plus Illustrations of British Birds, 4 vol., 1842-50 and [1835-51]. £5,000 to £7,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Dickens (Charles). <i>An Entirely New Romantic Drama, in Three Acts, by Mr. Wilkie Collins, called The Frozen Deep,</i> 1857. £3,000 to £4,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Lighthouses and Islands of Ireland, c. 125 drawings, 1867. £6,000 to £8,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Shelley (Lady Jane). Diary, 1853 & 1860. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Scottish Binding.- The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, bound in contemporary brown polished calf decorated with the figure of a Chinese spearman, by ?James Scott of Edinburgh, 1778. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Greene (Graham). <i>The Man Within,</i> first edition, signed by the author, 1929. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Mellan (Claude, 1598-1688). The Holy Face, or the Veil of St Veronica, [c. 1649 and later]. £800 to £1,200
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Desaguliers (John Theophilus). <i>A Dissertation concerning Electricity,</i> W. Innys, and T. Longman, 1742. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Le Jeune (Paul). <i>Relation de se qui s'est passé en la Nouvelle France en l'anné 1636 enuoyée au R.Pere Provincial de la Compagnie de Iesus en la Province de France,</i> 1637. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Stumpf (Johann Rudolph). <i>Gemeiner loblicher Eydgnoschafft Stetten, Landen und Völckern Chronicwirdiger thaaten beschreibung, </i> Zurich, Froschauer, 1586. £3,000 to £4,000

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