Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - February - 2003 Issue

John Lawson Redivivus at East Carolina University

Lawsonp1

Contentnea Creek looking towards the Tuscarora town of Catechna, where John Lawson was exectuted.


By Everett Wilkie

Nobody is quite sure exactly what happened to him. Some believe his throat was cut; others, that he was hanged. Yet others think that he was executed by the horrible method he described in his 1709 New Voyage to Carolina. By this method many small slivers of pitch pine are stuck in the victim’s skin and then set afire. The victim would slowly and horribly burn to death, for, as every Southern Boy Scout knows, pitch pine will light easily with a match because it is so imbued with resin. By whatever method the deed was done, the English explorer and naturalist John Lawson lost his life in North Carolina at the hands of the Tuscaroras in their village of Catechna in September, 1711. The Tuscaroras, who are the only ones who truly knew how Lawson died, took their secret with them to their graves.

A new electronic exhibition about Lawson opened at East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, on 2 January 2003, as part of the University’s Eastern Carolina Digital History Exhibits. It is the fourth in the ongoing series, preceded by the “ECU Centennial Exhibit,” “Steamers Exhibit,” and “Tobacco Exhibit.” Available at http://www.lib.ecu.edu/exhibits/lawson, the exhibition, “John Lawson: Imagining a Life,” is well worth an electronic visit and provides many new and interesting views on the life of the man who was the most prominent explorer and interpreter of early North Carolina settlement, her plants and animals, and her Native Americans. Carefully thought out and planned, the exhibit takes full advantage of the powerful imaging and textual capabilities provided by computers and by those means makes available material that would otherwise be difficult to present in any other way. It will be of interest to any Americanist interested in early British colonies in North America and to anyone concerned with botany or plants.

Divided into three thematic sections—“Adventurer,” “Entrepreneur,” and “Naturalist”—the exhibition takes the viewer through the various facets of Lawson’s life, about which very little is truly known. Before 1700, when he arrived in the Carolinas, he is an enigma. Most of what is known about his activities in the New World is relayed by his own book and by the occasional, contradictory comments on him left by others. As the exhibit preface states, “… the facts are often vague.” The exhibit relies on sources from all eras and presents not only texts contemporary with Lawson but also texts that are modern historical interpretations of his life. (The older texts are given in both original and modernized forms.) Thus, in many ways, this exhibition, which was assisted by a group of scholars, is not just a collection of objects but rather an attempt to newly understand Lawson’s life.

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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