Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - January - 2006 Issue

Unusual and Intriguing Items from Thomas Cullen

Cullen39

The latest collection from Thomas Cullen.


By Michael Stillman

Thomas Cullen, Rockland Bookman
has issued his 39th catalogue of Fine Books, Manuscripts & Ephemera. Cullen doesn't specialize in any particular field. What he looks for is the unusual - books not readily found through other sources, and one-of-a-kind manuscripts. The result is a catalogue for everyone, as you never know just what will show up in a Cullen collection. Here are a few samples from the offerings he has for us this month.

But first, Cullen notes the recent, pleasant summer in western New York (he is located in Orchard Park, near Buffalo) and how, while they will get snow, it will melt. They don't experience the extreme disasters of hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis. Hah! Sure it will melt. In July. I know western New York well enough not to be fooled. New Orleans will be rebuilt before the snow melts in Buffalo.

Item 28 was one of the most important books in the days leading up to the Civil War, perhaps even more so than "Uncle Tom's Cabin." The latter was a sentimental, emotional appeal to eliminate slavery. However, The Impending Crisis of the South: How to Meet it, was a logical, statistical dismantling of the institution. What's more, its author, Hinton Helper, was himself a Southerner, raised in North Carolina. It infuriated many in the South and eventually was banned in the region. Helper, using census statistics, demonstrated the decline in the South, which he attributed to the use of slave over free labor. He showed how the North grew in so many respects, including industrially and culturally, while the South lagged far behind. He even hammered the region with the coup de grace, that the North was more advanced even agriculturally, assumed to be the South's greatest strength. Helper argued that no compensation should be paid slaveholders for freeing their slaves. To the contrary, he demonstrated that land in the South was worth a small fraction of that in the North, so that slaveholders were actually indebted to small, non-slave owning southerner landowners for the losses they incurred as a result of this institution. Originally published in 1857 (this copy is an 1860 reprint), this slightly successful treatise would become very popular when Republicans reprinted it and distributed copies free just before the War. This use did not provide Helper with much money, but President Lincoln would reward him with an appointment as Consul to Buenos Aires. However, Helper was no friend of the black man. His concern was with poor white subsistence farmers and laborers. After emancipation, he saw Blacks as poor Whites' major competitors, instead of the old slaveholders, and proceeded to publish a string of virulently racist, anti-Black works. He became an embarrassment to Republicans and extreme even by southern standards. He would next promote the building of a transcontinental railway all the way from Hudson Bay to the tip of South America, but he only lost money on it. Many years after his greatest success, in 1909, Helper committed suicide. Item 28 is priced at $85.

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