Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - August - 2015 Issue

Rare Americana from David Lesser Antiquarian Books


No. 145 of Rare Americana.

David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books has issued No. 145 of Rare Americana. It contains books, pamphlets, broadsides and manuscripts pertaining to America, primarily during the 18th and 19th century. Most items are uncommon, some unique one-of-a-kind documents. They cover such issues as politics, religion, war, peace, revolution, rebellion, slavery, abolition, crime, prisons, arms, medicine, women's rights, death and taxes, all the big issues of the day. Come to think of it, we are still fighting over these issues. Doesn't anything ever get resolved? Here are a few examples.


We start with a contemporary manuscript copy of a resolution introduced by Alexander Hamilton and adopted by Congress on May 26, 1783. It is not one of our more honorable acts, but displays the founders ambivalence with the institution of slavery, one that most did not like but defended as a current necessity, hoping it would fade away with future generations. This resolution came at the end of the Revolutionary War, and was sent to George Washington as directions for his peace negotiations with the British. The British had promised many American slaves that if they fought on their behalf, they would be granted their freedom. Of course, the British assumed they would win the war. Now defeated, and planning their departure from the continent, the British were faced with either keeping their promises or abandoning those slaves that helped them. This resolution from the American Congress calls on the British to remove themselves "with all convenient speed, and without causing any destruction, or carrying away any Negroes or other property of the American inhabitants..." Hamilton, like many others, shared the ambivalence to slavery, being intellectually opposed, even helping form the Society for the Promotion of the Manumission of Slaves in New York, while participating in slave purchase and sale transactions on behalf of his wife's slave owning family. Ultimately, the British kept their word to the former slaves and ignored this demand, boarding some 3,000-4,000 on ships in New York sailing to England or its colonies in Canada and Jamaica. A manuscript copy of this resolution was prepared for Washington by Congress' Secretary Charles Thomson. This is a copy, evidently prepared at the same time, and while it also indicates being signed by Thomson as was the original, this one appears to have been written by his assistant, George Bond. Item 27. Priced at $12,500.


Politics has become uglier in recent years, but rather than reaching new lows, perhaps we have just returned to the level of invective of earlier years. Item 29 is Letter No. 1 of eight printed letters promised by Hiram Cunningham in 1845, though he never published any more. Cunningham provides his opinion of ex-President John Tyler, and while you might think he would have moved on after Tyler left office, Cunningham had a few choice words to say, summed up by the title: Secret history of the perfidies, intrigues, and corruptions of the Tyler Dynasty, with the mysteries of Washington City, connected with that vile administration, in a series of letters to the ex-acting President, by one most familiar with the subject. Avenging justice, though sometimes slow, yet always sure, will soon thunder down anathemas upon your head. The accumulated misery your perfidy has caused, will yet be seen, like foul spirits, passing before your vision, and make you curse the day that gave you birth. If he wrote that today, he soon would have had a visit from the Secret Service, and perhaps that is why he wrote no more. We have not been able to determine who this Hiram Cunningham was or what his particular beef was with Tyler, though Tyler is certainly in the running for honors as the least popular president in American history. Item 29. $250.


Item 105 is an account of a murder with a certain irony. The title is An Authentic Life of John C. Colt. Now Imprisoned for Killing Samuel Adams, in New York, on the Seventeenth of September, 1841. It was written by Charles F. Powell, who visited Colt in prison, and published the account the following year. Colt was no common criminal. He was a bookkeeper, teacher, and law clerk. Colt wrote the quintessential textbook at the time on double-entry bookkeeping, not part of the profile of the typical killer. Colt owed Adams an amount of money (said to be $1.35) for printing. Colt claimed Adams attempted to choke him with his tie, whereupon Colt grabbed what he thought to be a hammer and struck his creditor four or five times. It turned out he had grabbed a hatchet instead. His quadruple-entry hacheting finished Adams off. Colt then did what anyone would do who had accidentally killed a man in self defense. He salted the body, packed it in a shipping crate, and sent it from his home in New York to a non-existent address in New Orleans. The jury didn't buy the excuse and he was sentenced to death. Numerous appeals and requests to the Governor from important people for a pardon were denied. Colt only avoided the hangman's noose by stabbing himself to death the morning he was to be executed. As for the irony, it was in Colt's choice of a hatchet as the murder weapon. Colt was the brother of the famous gun maker Samuel Colt. $600.


Here is a picture of a man who did use a gun to kill his victim, though it wasn't one of Colt's. Item 77 is a mugshot of Leon Czolgosz, showing head-on and profile views of the killer. Czolgosz was an anarchist. He felt the government was aligned against the interests of the working people and decided to do something about it. In 1901, he shuffled off to Buffalo to attend the Pan-American Exposition. He wasn't there to see the exhibits. Instead, he stood in a receiving line to greet President William McKinley, and when his turn came, he pulled out his pistol and shot the President. McKinley died of his wounds eight days later. Czolgosz, pleased with what he had done, refused to testify at his trial and would not even cooperate with his lawyers. He was quickly convicted and 45 days after McKinley died, Czolgosz went off to join him from his seat in the electric chair. The back of the photo is signed by James F. Vallely, Chief of Detectives for the Pan-Am Exhibition, and Detective Sergeant C. H. Reynolds. It was Vallely who captured Czolgosz and took him into custody. $1,500.


Next is one more item filled with irony. Item 54 is Fourteen Months in American Bastiles by Frank Key Howard, published in 1863. Howard was a Baltimore newspaper editor with southern sympathies. At the time of the Civil War, Maryland was a border state, with many southern sympathizers. When war broke out, there were riots in the city. President Lincoln responded by suspending habeas corpus. Howard attacked the move in his editorial, whereupon he was arrested and incarcerated, the subject of this book. Here is the irony – Howard was detained at Fort McHenry. It was from imprisonment on a ship in the harbor that his Grandfather, Francis Scott Key, observed the bombing of Fort McHenry and wrote the Star Spangled Banner. It should be noted that despite Key's stirring lyrics, and personal abhorrence of slavery, he was also stridently anti-abolition and once, in his role as a federal prosecutor, prosecuted a man for simply possessing some anti-abolition literature. The man spent eight months in prison awaiting trial, and though acquitted, contracted tuberculosis in prison and later died from it. What goes around... $150.


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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