Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - January - 2006 Issue

Western Americana From William Reese Co.

Reese244

Western Americana from the William Reese Company.


By Michael Stillman

The William Reese Company's latest catalogue, number 244, is Western Americana. Reese's material is always top shelf, and this is no exception. Most material is from the 19th century, although a few items squeeze their way into an adjoining one. For Old West collectors, looking for items ranging from very interesting to historically extraordinary, Reese has 166 items waiting your perusal. They are described as all being recent acquisitions, so even those who follow Reese's offerings will want to check these out. Here are a few.

It is perhaps the most collectible of American Indian works (along with McKenney and Hall). Item 25 is George Catlin's, Catlin's North American Indian Portfolio... Published in 1844 or 1845, it is highlighted by 25 hand-colored plates of Indians he drew during the first half of the 19th century. This is a first edition, third issue (first Bohn). Catlin observed the western Indians, whom he found both noble and savage. He described the Indian as "an honest, hospitable, faithful, brave, warlike, cruel, revengeful, relentless, - yet honourable, contemplative and religious being." One can assume Catlin had mixed feelings about these natives. However, what he most saw was a dying race and a dying culture. He found himself in a race to preserve, through his text and drawings, a culture which, he rightly determined, was quickly coming to an end, at least in anything resembling its native state before the invasion of their homeland. His book is of major importance in preserving that culture as it once was. Priced at $150,000.

Item 26 is a very rare Catlin item, and one that he disclaimed and disavowed. It is called An Account of an Annual Religious Ceremony Practised by the Mandan Tribe of North American Indians, privately published by the Philobiblion Society in 1865. Catlin had given a talk about the O-Kee-Pa ceremony of the Mandans to the Philobiblion Society. Catlin had been invited to witness this sacred ceremony, which included young braves voluntarily submitting themselves to some rather gruesome tortures to display their bravery. Other aspects of the ceremony contained sexual overtones probably somewhat shocking to the typical 19th century non-native American. Evidently, Catlin was not willing to fully describe what he had witnessed, but presented a copy of his manuscript on request to some members for their own edification. Instead, they printed up 50 copies for private circulation. When he found out, Catlin retracted any connection with the pamphlet, and demanded all copies be destroyed. They weren't, and this item is one of those that survives. $17,500.

Item 109 was a most interesting attempt at overland travel a few years before the completion of the transcontinental railroad. It is a prospectus headed, Overland Traction Engine Company. Transportation by Steam from Missouri River to the Rocky Mountains. Published in Boston in 1865, and written by Asa P. Robinson and Edward Warner, the scheme was for a train without tracks. The locomotive would haul its load over bare ground, and through rivers so long as they were not too deep, traversing the relatively flat land east of the Rockies. It was a major improvement on the cattle train then used to haul goods, and much simpler and less expensive than building a railroad. However, there were some shortcomings. All in, the engine weighed 54 tons. On its maiden voyage, it got stuck in the mud. Was this really a surprise? While we are not certain of this, it would seem that the writer is the same Asa P. Robinson who was a railroad designing engineer (not the type of engineer who actually drives trains) who came from Boston to build railroads in Arkansas a few years later and founded the community of Conway, Arkansas. $3,500.

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.

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