Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - July - 2005 Issue

A Look into America's Unusual Past from David Lesser Antiquarian Books

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Catalogue 85 from David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books.


By Michael Stillman

David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books
has released their 85th catalogue of "Significant and Unusual Imprints Relating to America." Another appropriate adjective for the collection is interesting, as Lesser's books usually provide a fascinating look into the times in which they were published. The political and religious arguments of early America come to life again, and for those who think the vitriolic politics of today is something new, a Lesser catalogue is an eye-opening look at history. Here are just a few of these unusual and intriguing items Lesser Antiquarian Books has to offer.

Reverend Samuel Spring, a Congregational minister from Newburyport, Massachusetts, published A Thanksgiving Sermon, Preached November 29, 1798... This may be a sermon of thanksgiving, but what the good reverend seemed to be most thankful for was that he wasn't French. He speaks of "...that Gallic, disorganizing poison which has proved more fatal to Europe than a thousand plagues." He then states that the toxin has been imported to the United States, where "...it has actually seized some of our towns, counties, districts, and even Congress itself; and strangely deranged the minds and bewitched the hearts of many Americans. For, the subjects of the infection refuse information, court disorder, despise government, speak evil of dignities, and disregard the public interest." Spring then urges military readiness to combat this threat, and provides statistics on the number of American ships available and under construction and their number of guns. This is certainly an unusual Thanksgiving speech for a minister. Item 117. Priced at $250.

Albert Brown was a Mississippi senator who was bitterly opposed to California's constitution. Why would a Mississippi senator care about California's constitution? The year was 1849, and California had outlawed slavery. To add insult to injury, California wanted to join the Union. The South was ardently opposed to adding more free states, and Brown was particularly upset that President Zachary Taylor, a southerner and slave owner himself, supported California's petition. Despite those attributes, Taylor did not see a future in expanding slavery further. In his Letter of Albert G. Brown, to his Constituents, the Mississippi senator urges rejection of the California constitution, states that the territory is well-suited for slavery, and challenges Californians to set up an independent republic. Item 13. $250.

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