Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - January - 2015 Issue

Personal Accounts of Historic Times from the William Reese Company

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Speaking from personal experience.

The William Reese Company has issued a list of 100 items, Speaking from Personal Experience. A Selection of 100 Journals, Narratives, Recollections, Autobiographies, Reminiscences, Diaries, and Other First-Person Historical Accounts. While the names of a few of the writers are well known, most will be unfamiliar. However, while the writers may be obscure, they lived exciting lives in extraordinary times. They provide a window on important events mainly from the 18th and 19th century. Most of these accounts relate to the development of America, from the revolution to the later great westward migration. Others pertain to events overseas, or to journeys by sea rather than across the North American continent. Here, now, are a few of these accounts from personal experience.

 

We start with an exciting adventure, though certainly not a pleasant one. Item 57 is A Narrative of the Mutiny, on Board the Ship Globe...Jan. 1824. And the Journal of a Residence of Two Years on the Mulgrave Islands; with Observations on the Manners and Customs of the Inhabitants... Among the not very good manners of the inhabitants was the killing of all of the Globe survivors still on the islands except the two authors of this book, William Lay and C. M. Hussey. However, in fairness to the islanders, the mutineers were not polite guests which may explain the hostile reaction. The Globe was an American whaler, sailing Pacific waters when several crew members mutinied and took over the ship. They killed the Captain and three other officers, forcing the crew to follow their orders. The mutineers quickly hung one of their own they didn't trust, and after landing the ship on an island, killed their own leader. Six of the crewmen were later able to sneak off on the Globe and seek rescue in Chile, while the remaining crew and mutineers alike were killed by the natives, save for the authors, who were rescued the following year. Priced at $1,500.

 

Here is another exciting, and comparably miserable adventure, by an angry and bitter participant. Item 38 is the Journal of the Texian Expedition Against Mier; Subsequent Imprisonment of the Author; His Sufferings, and Final Escape from the Castle of Perote, by Thomas J. Green, published in 1845. In the Republic of Texas days, despite Mexican leader Santa Anna's agreement to give the territory its independence, he initiated harassing attacks in hopes of regaining the land. One such attack led to the Dawson Massacre, which forced a reluctant President Sam Houston to order a retaliatory raid. Houston's reluctance was based on his fear that the Mexican army was too strong, but he finally found it necessary to authorize Alexander Somerville to put together a troop of volunteers to act in what was then disputed territory between the Nueces and Rio Grande Rivers. Somerville captured Laredo, but sharing Houston's fear of a looming disaster, ordered his troops to disband and return home. Many were unhappy with the order. Instead, several hundred organized an unauthorized attack on the town of Mier, on the Mexican side of Rio Grande. While inflicting heavy casualties, the Texians were way outmanned and had to surrender. There followed a long forced march to prison, a temporary escape, and an order from Santa Anna that all of the escapees be killed. Foreign emissaries helped convince Santa Anna to withdraw the order, but instead, he had one in ten randomly selected prisoners shot. Green survived, eventually escaped, and later the remaining prisoners were freed through diplomatic efforts. Still, Green carried a heavy grudge. Houston, who did not approve the unauthorized attack on Mier, reportedly admitted to a British diplomat that since the action was unauthorized, the men were not legitimate prisoners of war. It was more like a filibustering action. This got back to the Mexicans, in effect legitimizing treatment of the prisoners as criminals rather than prisoners of war. Houston denied the claim, but Green believed it, and his vitriol toward Houston was legendary. He blamed Houston for the deaths of those prisoners who did not survive. Houston later told the U. S. Senate that the Library of Congress copy of Green's book should be “expelled thereform, and given to some of the sewers of the city.” $1,500.

 

Green undoubtedly loved Texas, but Erasmus Manford was less impressed. Manford was a Universalist minister who traveled around what was then the West for many years, eventually reaching Texas in the Republic days. He wrote about it in Twenty-Five Years in the West, published in 1867. He spent much time in New Orleans, but was evidently shocked by the immorality he found in Texas. He described Sam Houston as “a good talker but an awful swearer,” and described the then capital city of Houston as “a moral desert – a hell on earth,” where “vice of most every name and grade reigned triumphantly.” Item 58. $200.

 

Now it's time for some pleasant memories, though this writer had to look the other way to avoid the unpleasantness that surrounded him. Item 94 is Jottings of a Year's Sojourn in the South; or First Impressions of the Country and Its People, by A. De Puy Van Buren, published in 1859. Van Buren was a teacher from Michigan who spent a year in the Mississippi Delta region. He was accepted by and spent much time with the wealthy local plantation owners. The result is he gives us a look at the idealistic world of the privileged few of the antebellum South. Van Buren was not unaware that there was another side to southern life, but he deliberately evades the subject. In his preface, Van Buren notes, “...we have certainly written with perfect disregard to political prejudice, as if Slavery did not exist in our Southern Border. We are not like Iago - 'Nothing, if not critical.'” He writes only of the positives, with which he was quite smitten. $500.

 

We will let the title of this next book serve as its description. Published in 1843, it says it all: The Life and Adventures of Seth Wyman, Embodying the Principal Events of a Life Spent in Robbery, Theft, Gambling, Passing Counterfeit Money, &c. &c. Written by Himself. Wyman died shortly before the book was published. Naturally enough, he died in prison. $2,000.

 

The William Reese Company may be reached at 203-789-8081 or coreese@reeseco.com. Their website is www.reeseco.com.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on 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. SOLD for $131,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. SOLD for $516,500
    <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. SOLD for $106,250
    <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on 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. SOLD for $16,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. SOLD for $275,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. SOLD for $118,750
  • <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> E.H. SHEPARD, Original drawing for A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner.<br>$40,000-60,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> BERNARD RATZER, Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767. $80,000-100,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph letter signed comparing Logan, Tecumseh, and Little Turtle to the Spartans. Monticello: 15 February 1821. $14,000-18,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN C. FREMONT, Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in the Year 1842.. Abridged edition, the only one containing the folding map From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ZANE GREY, Album containing 94 large format photographs of Grey and party at Catalina Island, Arizona, and fishing in the Pacific. From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $5,000-$8,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> WILLIAM COMBE, A History of Madeira ... illustrative of the Costumes, Manners, and Occupations of the Inhabitants. produced by Ackermann in 1821; From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ERIC TAVERNER, Salmon Fishing... One of 275 copies signed by Taverner, published in 1931,From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN WHITEHEAD, Exploration of Mount Kina Balu, North Borneo. Whitehead reached the high point of Kinabalu in 1888. Part of a major group of travel books from the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN LONG, Voyages and Travels of an Indian Interpreter and Trader, describing the Manners and Customs of the North American Indians... The first edition of 1791. $3,000-$5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> SAMUEL BECKETT, Stirrings Still. This, Beckett’s last work of fiction with original lithographs by Le Brocquy, limited to 200 copies signed by the author and the artist. From the Estate of Howard Kaminsky.. $1,500-$2,500
  • <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 Apr 26:</b> Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, wallpaper sample book, circa 1919. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Archive from a late office of the Breuer & Smith architectural team, New York, 1960-70s. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> William Morris, <i>The Story of the Glittering Plain or the Land of Living Men,</i> illustrated by Walter Crane, Kelmscott Press, Hammersmith, 1894. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustave Doré, <i>La Sainte Bible selon la Vulgate,</i> Tours, 1866. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustav Klimt & Max Eisler, <i>Eine Nachlese,</i> complete set, Vienna, 1931. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>Eric Allatini & Gerda Wegener, <i>Sur Talons Rouges,</i> with original watercolor by Wegener, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>C.P. Cavafy, <i>Fourteen Poems,</i> illustrated & signed by David Hockney, London, 1966. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jean Midolle, <i>Spécimen des Écritures Modernes...</i>, Strasbourg, 1834-35. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>E.A. Seguy, <i>Floréal: Dessins & Coloris Nouveaux,</i> Paris, 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.

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