Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - July - 2003 Issue

Catalogue Review

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By Mike Stillman


Three Catalogues from Reese, Brown, and Truepenny


The three catalogues up for review this month come from the William Reese Company of New Haven, Michael Brown Rare Books in Philadelphia, and Truepenny Books of Tucson. The first two cover early Americana, in one case including much, the other all, manuscript material. The last offers a smorgasbord of primarily more recent material, including some very interesting items from the bookseller’s home in the Southwest.

William Reese Co. Catalogue #223 – American Financial History

The first catalogue is the William Reese Company's #223: American Financial History. It seems that so much of what we learn about history is centered around wars. Few people think of Alexander Hamilton’s efforts to save the nation financially as carrying the same significance as Lincoln’s efforts to save the Union physically. And Hamilton is probably the best remembered figure of American public finance. Still, it’s money, not war, that makes the world go ‘round. And war requires money, while the reverse is not true. Here in the Reese catalogue, you will find many economic documents, from signed copies of major congressional papers to simple notes due to soldiers and investors in the Revolution.

One thing that jumps out from many of these items is how many things never change. Item #1 contains a recommendation from Abigail Adams to her niece encouraging her to invest in government bonds paying 5 ½%. Sage advice. Who wouldn’t jump at 5 ½% government bonds today? She also mentions that husband John will be sitting for a portrait by Gilbert Stuart. There’s an artist known to anyone who’s ever had a dollar to his name. Price: $15,000.

Item #3 comes from John Adams, where he praises Congress for a resolution praising the troops for putting down Fries’ rebellion. This “rebellion” came from Pennsylvanians unhappy with new taxes. Nothing new here. The taxes were being raised to defend against an undeclared coastal war by our allies the French. Even then we managed to get under each other’s skin. Price: $39,500.

Item #4 could have been written today. Ex-President Adams vents his anger at some of his fellow Federalists, notably Alexander Hamilton, for earlier attempts to deprive him of the presidency. He also expresses caution about going to war with either France or

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