Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - September - 2007 Issue

Printed and Manuscript Americana From Michael Brown Rare Books

Brown44

Catalogue 44 of Printed and Manuscript Americana from Michael Brown.

By Michael Stillman

Recently issued was Michael Brown Rare Books 44th catalogue of Printed and Manuscript Americana. Offered are 262 items, primarily early Americana, although we note a few European items are mixed in. The one-of-a-kind manuscripts are some of the most fascinating as they give unique, otherwise unrecorded views of earlier times. Many relate to journeys across the land when travel was very different from what we know today. Michael Brown's catalogues provide a diverse collection of topics related to America, and will undoubtedly appeal to those who collect in the field. Here are few selections.

Item 54 is one of the most recent writings in the catalogue, a manuscript diary by Alice Gehant of some family automobile trips in Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota between 1914 and 1925. By 1925, there must have been some decent highways, but in 1914, traveling by car required much more planning. Ms. Gehant notes they packed "a piece of bacon, about 30 eggs, boiled chicken, potatoes, tomatoes, salt, pepper and sugar, coffee and tea, pickles, bread, a can of condensed milk and some jam." Not only were they not stopping at McDonald's, there were no Holiday Inns along the way either. Instead, as night approached, they would stop at someone's house and ask permission to camp in the front yard or elsewhere on the property. I cannot imagine what people would say if you made such a request today, but in 1914, the answer was usually "yes." Young Alice was hopeful these families would have children, and recounts a lucky stop where the family they camped with had eleven. Priced at $650.

One of the earliest supporters of the highways young Alice Gehant would get to ride many years later was Jefferson's Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin. Gallatin's is not a name the average person in the street is likely to know any more, but he was one of the most important and prescient of the nation's early leaders. He did much to steer the nation through its early financial challenges while reducing its debt. We could use him today. Item 72 is his Report...on the Subject of Public Roads and Canals...published in 1808. Gallatin was a supporter of the federal government providing means of transportation, but there was little enthusiasm for this in an era when this was considered the province of states and private industry. It would take another century before the automobile led to the establishment of a national highway system. This report includes a letter from Benjamin Latrobe, the first printed advocacy for the construction of railroads, and comments from Robert Fulton on canals. $1,000.

While support for public highways was difficult to obtain, Samuel Morse did manage to get congressional support for the building of a telegraph line from Baltimore to Washington in 1843. Item 226 is the Description of the American Electro Magnetic Telegraph: Now in Operation Between the Cities of Washington and Baltimore by Alfred Vail. Vail was a student of Morse when the latter was a professor at the University of the City of New York. He traded his services as a mechanic for an interest in Morse's company. He became a partner in 1837 and offered several improvements to Morse's apparatus. The line was completed and the first message sent in 1844, with Vail publishing this pamphlet the following year. $1,000.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> first edition of the earliest extant manual on modern chess, Salamanca, circa 1496-97. Sold for $68,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Carte-de-visite album with 83 images of prominent African Americans & abolitionists, circa 1860s. Sold for $47,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk,</i> Vienna & Leipzig, 1918. Sold for $106,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Man Ray, <i>[London Transport] – Keeps London Going,</i> 1938. Sold for $149,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Nicolas de Fer, <i>L’Amerique Divisee Selon Letendue de ses Principales Parties,</i> Paris, 1713. Sold for $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Russell H. Tandy, <i>The Secret in the Old Attic,</i> watercolor, pencil & ink, 1944. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Hemingway, <i>Three Stories & Ten Poems,</i> first edition of the author's first book, Paris, 1923. Sold for $23,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Walker Evans, <i>River Rouge Plant,</i> silver print, 1947. Sold for $57,500.
  • <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Ernst, Max. <i>Mr. Knife and Miss Fork</i>. Paris, 1932. DELUXE EDITION. Sold for $15,625
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Einstein, Albert. Signed Passport Photo for his US citizenship application. Bermuda, 1935. Sold for $17,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Verard, Antoine. Illuminated printed Book of Hours. Paris, 1507. Sold for $7,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Wetterkurzschlussel. German Weather Report Codebook - for Enigma use. Berlin, 1942. Sold for $225,000
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Morelos y Pavon, Jose Maria. Autograph letter signed to El Virrey Venegas, February 5, 1812. Sold for $6,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Milne, A.A. Complete set of <i>Winnie-the-Pooh</i> books. 4 volumes. All first issue points. London, 1924-1928. Sold for $5,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> A 48-star American Flag, battle worn flown at Guadalcanal and Peleliu, 1942-1944. Sold for $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Locke, John. Autograph Letter Signed mourning the death of his friend, William Molyneaux, 2 pp, October 27, 1698. Sold for $20,000
  • <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>

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