Patrick McGahern Books has released their Catalogue 236 Rare, Scarce, and Interesting Books. In other words, we have a variety of uncommon, intriguing books here. McGahern is located in Ottawa, so there is more Canadian material than in most catalogues, but hardly dominating. There is much from south of the border and across the ocean. We even find an item of incunabula, which obviously is not going to be Canadian in origin. Here are a few of the items you will find in this interesting catalogue.
Item 32 is an item from that most difficult period in relations between Britain and the United States after the Revolution. The U.S. found itself close to war at times with both sides in the Napoleonic conflicts. Both England and France interfered with American shipping, trying to prevent the other from conducting trade. Americans believed they should be free to trade with whomever they wished. However, the British had one additional annoyance. They impressed American seamen into the Royal Navy, contending they were born British citizens and therefore were eligible to be drafted. In 1807, this situation was ratcheted up when supposedly British seamen deserted and later sailed on American ships. The British got wind that some deserters were sailing on the American ship Chesapeake. When the Chesapeake, sailing off the coast of Virginia, did not comply with British orders, the HMS Leopard fired upon her. The Chesapeake was not prepared. Three of its crew were killed, many more injured, and Commodore James Barron quickly surrendered. The aftermath was four deserters were captured. Three, American citizens, were ultimately returned, but the one who was a British citizen was hanged. Commodore Barron was court-martialed and suspended for five years. Meanwhile, the American public was angered. It was one more humiliation that would eventually lead to the War of 1812. Item 32 is Papers Presented to the House of Commons, Relating to the Encounter Between His Majesty's Ship Leopard, and the American Frigate Chesapeake, published in 1809. Priced at CN$350 (Canadian dollars, or approximately $285 in U.S. dollars).
Here is an unusual employment opportunity for British young men in 1836. Item 13 is a broadside headed Notice. About Twenty Young Able Bodied Farm Laboring Servants, newly married, (or with not exceeding one child each) are required to go to North America, in the month of May, next. The term is stated as five years with pay at £17 per annum. At the end of the five years the not quite so young any longer men and their brides get a choice. If they wish to return to England, free passage will be provided. If they would rather stay, they may, if their employers were satisfied with their performance, receive a grant of free land. CN $1,000 (US $815, or 30 years worth of labor at £17 per annum).
Did you know T. S. Eliot's mother was also a poet? I didn't either. She was, and here is proof – Savonarola, A Dramatic Poem. With an Introduction by T. S. Eliot, published in 1926. Even with a six-page introduction by her famous son, this first edition was only printed in 300 copies. Charlotte Eliot had been writing poems long before her son, but they mostly appeared in religious periodicals. Her celebrity was quite limited. Still, her influence on at least one notable poet was great. Savonarola was a typical subject for Mrs. Eliot. He was a religious leader in late 15th century Florence. He combined reform and vigorous attacks against corruption in the Church with an extreme rejection of worldly goods and pleasures worthy of the purist of the Puritans. Eventually, his extreme positions and attacks on the Church led to his downfall. He was excommunicated and shortly thereafter hanged, his body burned. Item 24. CN $350 (US $285).
Next is the report of the first thorough geological survey of Newfoundland. It took place in 1839-1840 and was undertaken by the preparer of this report, Joseph Beete Jukes. The interior of the then British colony was virtually uncharted at the time. Item 56 is the General Report of the Geological Survey of Newfoundland...During the Year 1839 and 1840, published in 1843. The report was first published the previous year as part of a separate publication, but this issue contains the first comprehensive map of the interior of Newfoundland. CN $1,500 (US $1,222).
Item 20 is an autograph letter from George Ramsay, Ninth Earl of Dalhousie, or simply Lord Dalhousie. Dalhousie served as Governor General of Canada from 1820-1828, along with numerous other posts throughout his career. Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, along with many other things Dalhousie in Canada are named for him. He tried to bring order and progress to Canada, but it was a tough battle between competing British and French populations and other divisions. It was trying for Dalhousie, who was rather aristocratic and not very tolerant of disobedience. In 1828, the British deemed it best to transfer him to India. In this letter, Dalhousie orders two pipes of wine and a half a cask of sweet malmsey, a sweet wine. I am not sure what these old English measurements come to – perhaps 250 gallons of wine – but whatever it is is not small. It should be noted that this was intended to last for a substantial amount of time, it having to be shipped from England. Dalhousie does, in his polite aristocratic manner, point out his supplier's previous shortcoming, writing, "I am sorry to say that my last wine by the Phaeton was by no means so great as what you formerly sent me." CN $1,200 (US $978).