Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - February - 2007 Issue

New Material from Bauman Rare Books

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Some new gifts from Bauman Rare Books.


By Michael Stillman

We find ourselves a bit late with this catalogue, a December Holiday Catalogue, so we will pretend it was really meant for Presidents' or Valentine's Day and review it anyway. It is an outstanding assortment of top shelf material from Bauman Rare Books of New York and Philadelphia. Bauman is more of a generalist, offering material across a wide spectrum of fields with excellence in condition and importance being the common threads which run through the material they offer. These are books fit for a president or a very special Valentine. Here are a few of the new items Bauman is offering.

Robert E. Lee managed to come out of the Civil War better than most who lead the defeated side. He was treated with dignity and respect by the victorious Union forces. Though surrendering at Appomattox in the spring of 1865, by fall his concerns were focused on such things as ordering furniture. Item 102 is a signed letter from Lee dated November 1, 1865, and there is some real irony here. In it, Lee writes about furniture he is ordering, "The difficulty with me is not that it is not handsome enough, but I fear it is too handsome for my present condition, judging from the price... I do not want furniture too handsome or costly for my position...but wish it good and genteel. Neither do I think it right to spend too much money on furniture right now." It is odd to hear Lee, whose decisive military leadership kept the much larger Union forces at bay for so long, sound so indecisive when it comes to ordering furniture. Even McClellan probably could have ordered furniture more decisively. Lee's letter is priced at $14,000.

Now for balance, item 10 is the Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant. This is the two-volume set from 1885-6, completed shortly before the General and former President died. The biography did much to restore his tarnished reputation. While Grant established an excellent reputation by finally confounding Lee, that reputation was seriously tarnished by the corruption which surrounded him during his presidency. If his presidential career was bad, his post-presidential career as an investor was worse yet, forcing the dying Grant to complete this book so that his family would have enough money to get by. In this he did succeed, the book being very popular while reminding people of what had made Grant great in the first place. This copy comes with a note from Grant's physician concerning his health approximately two months before he died, and page 16, with hand corrections, of Grant's December 5, 1870, State of the Union speech. $16,000.

Item 90 is another Grant document, but an odd one. It is a lengthy manuscript pardon for a horse thief, signed by Grant as President in 1871. Evidently, presidents had more time for relatively trivial matters in those days. It's hard to imagine a president signing pardons for car thieves today. $5,500.

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