High Ridge Books of South Deerfield, Massachusetts, has released their Catalog 66. Rare Books Recent Acquisitions. While no subject is specified, a large percentage of what is herein offered consists of material with a geographic orientation – atlases, city directories, maps, and books containing maps. There are numerous items pertaining to railroads and canals, the major transportation modes of the 19th century. Additionally, there are scattered other items, including several pertaining to Napoleon. Then again, he did quite a bit of geographical exploration as he advanced across Europe and back again. Here are a few samples of what you will find.
We begin with a postal atlas that contains the most amazing endorsement I have ever seen. Item 11 is Larrance's Post Office Chart, and Maps of Ten States, Showing the Locality of the Counties and County Seats in a Moment. It contains two maps for each of the Midwestern states covered – one featuring county names, the other county seats. This edition was published in 1866, though the maps were obviously created somewhat earlier. The states displayed are Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Nebraska. The endorsement is dated November 10, 1858. It reads, "Having hastily examined Larrance's Post Office Chart and considered the Principle upon which it is arranged, I think it will prove a great convenience to Post Masters and others whose business leads them to search out particular Localities upon Maps." Okay, those are not soaring words, like "four score and seven years ago," or "a house divided against itself cannot stand," but they are still the words of Abraham Lincoln. How many people ever accomplished what Isaac Larrance did – get a product endorsement from Abe Lincoln? This testimonial was written just eight days after the Illinois senate election of 1858, which explains why Lincoln now had time to write an endorsement, but had not yet had time to do more than "hastily examine" the maps. Priced at $1,575.
Here is another item with a presidential/pre-presidential connection. In Lincoln's day, traveling from Illinois to Missouri required a ferry. This was inconvenient for passengers, but for trains, it was the end of the line. Item 86 is Proceedings and Report of the Board of Civil Engineers...to Consider the Subject of Construction of a Rail and Highway Bridge Across the Mississippi River at St. Louis, published in 1867. With the Civil War now over, it was possible to focus on internal improvements. Construction on the Eads Bridge, an engineering masterpiece at the time, began in the year of this publication, and was completed in 1874. This copy belonged to, and is signed by, James Garfield, a congressman from Ohio at the time. In 1880, he was elected President of the U.S. $1,500.
There was another way of traveling in the days before automobiles besides live horses and iron horses. Item 15 is 'Good Roads' – The Standard Road-Book of New York State. Complete Road-maps. Showing Quality of Roads. What sort of vehicles were people using just before the dawn of the auto age? The answers is bicycles. This book grades the quality of roads for bicycle traffic in 1897, labeling them either "Good Roads," "Fair Roads," or "Ordinary Roads." The publication covers roads throughout New York State, except for Long Island. It makes up for this absence by adding northern New Jersey. $225.
Item 34 is Kimball & James' large 1844 Business Directory for the Mississippi Valley. It actually includes more than just the Mississippi Valley, as it continues up the Ohio River through Cincinnati, Louisville, Wheeling, and all the way to Pittsburgh. Its 546 pages contain advertisements for businesses all the way from Pittsburgh to New Orleans, including major cities and small towns in between. It also has a section of ads from Chicago. $1,500.
Next is a first from the most famous of active mapmakers – Rand McNally. William Rand and Andrew McNally, who had operated the Chicago Tribune presses for a decade, bought out its printing business in 1868 and established their own firm. They began doing job work, railroad tickets, schedules, and the like. Item 92 is Rand McNally's first separate publication, Western Railway Guide. The Travelers' Handbook to All Western Railway and Steamboat Lines. It was published in July 1871. It does not contain any maps. However, it was the starting point of their publications which 18 months later would begin to feature maps. Item 92. $8,500.
We conclude with a one of a kind, spectacular item for Texas collectors. It is a translation of the 1831 Mexican grant for Stephen Austin and Samuel Williams' Austin Colony, prepared for Sterling Robertson in 1833. Williams was Austin's translator and associate. Robertson had secured an earlier grant for land in Texas. In 1830, prior undeveloped grants had been nullified by Mexico. Part of the 1831 grant received by Austin and Williams was on land covered by Robertson's old grant. There is debate as to whether Austin acted properly in securing this grant for himself rather than attempting to renew Robertson's Nashville Company grant. This is the only known contemporary English translation of Austin's grant and may be the only surviving contemporary copy (the original disappeared from Mexican archives in the mid-20th century). The contract comes with Robertson's letter requesting an English translation of the contract. Item 99. $75,000.