Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - December - 2005 Issue

18th and 19th Century Americana from Lesser Antiquarian Books

Lesser

The latest catalogue of Rare Americana from David M. Lesser.


By Michael Stillman

Americana collectors cannot help but look forward to the latest offerings from David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books. Lesser always presents an intriguing assortment, primarily items from the mid-18th to the late 19th century. Many concern the Revolutionary and Civil War periods, or the troubling times which led up to those confrontations. These were the days which shaped the nation, and Lesser manages to find material which brings the discussions and disagreements that molded this land back to life. It is a fascinating look at the thinking of America's forefathers (and occasionally, foremothers). Some make their descendants proud; others make you wonder what on earth they were thinking. Here are a few examples of what we mean.

On September 5, 1756, when Pastor Timothy Harrington of First Church in Boston gave this speech, the colonists were struggling through the long French and Indian War. The good pastor thought this was a message from God when he published his speech entitled, Prevailing Wickedness, and Distressing Judgments, Ill-boding Symptoms on a Stupid People. Well, those "stupid people" would have their revenge when the French conceded defeat in 1763, but at this time, the British had suffered a major beating in the Battle of Monongahela, and Harrington saw a Divine hand in that defeat. Item 76. $275.

John Adams has been rehabilitated in recent years for the many contributions he made to the young nation. However, the Alien and Sedition Acts will forever be a blot on his administration. This Report of the Committee to Whom were Referred...Certain...Petitions Complaining of the Act, Intitled "An Act Concerning Aliens..." presents a remarkable argument from the House of Representatives justifying these laws. Now that we find ourselves in a time when the primary qualification for appointment to the federal judiciary is to be passive in applying constitutional rights, this argument is most instructive. These congressmen promoted an emasculation of constitutional rights that would make even the strictest of "strict constructionists" proud. The Adams administration had taken the position that it was free to punish individuals for speech it did not like. Herein, the argument is made that the first amendment provides no protection against such behavior. The requisite part of the amendment states, "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press..." In an argument worthy of strict construction, they argue that a literal reading only prevents the government from applying prior restraint to free speech. Nothing in it, they argue, prevents the government from punishing this "free" speech after it is made. Freedom of the press, they say, "consists in permission to publish, without previous restraint upon the press, but subject to punishment afterwards for improper publication." Of course, this type of freedom of speech is available in even the most repressive of nations. You are free to speak your mind, but you had better be prepared to suffer the consequences. Perhaps we too will see a return to such a literal reading of our precious Bill of Rights soon. Item 3. $1,250.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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 Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.

Review Search

Archived Reviews

Ask Questions