Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - June - 2008 Issue

Historic American Documents from Seth Kaller

Kaller

Some important documents from Seth Kaller.


By Michael Stillman

We received a pair of pamphlets recently from Seth Kaller, Inc. Kaller specializes in important historic documents, often handwritten or signed. These items fit that description well, most in the writer's hand, all but one signed. The names here represented all made their way to the White House, all but one being one of the early presidents. Each letter provides an insight into some of the burning issues of its time. Here are a few.

On October 22, 1780, when General George Washington wrote this letter to George Mason, the patriots' cause must have looked almost hopeless. Now encamped near Passaic Falls, New Jersey, Washington surveyed a desperate situation. The military campaign was not going well, food was scarce, his troops had neither proper supplies nor clothing, and he had no money to pay them. Washington would soon face mutiny from some of his soldiers. General Benedict Arnold had just turned traitor and was leading some of the enemy's troops, while the British were now sending forces south for what would initially be a successful campaign. Writes Washington, "We are without money...without provision...without Cloathing; and shortly shall be (in a manner) without Men. In a word, we have lived upon expedients till we can live no longer, and it may truly be said that, the history of this War is a history of false hopes and temporary devices..." It would have been hard for Washington to imagine on this day that just a year later, he would be leading his troops in the decisive battle at Yorktown which would result in the British withdrawing and a victory for the patriots. Priced at $300,000.

John Adams was not a happy man in the years after his defeat for reelection as president in 1800. He had been attacked by Alexander Hamilton's faction within his own Federalist Party, unhappy that he had not acted militarily against France. Meanwhile, Thomas Jefferson's Democratic-Republicans were particularly angered by the undemocratic Alien and Sedition Acts. Adams went down to defeat an embittered man. Years later, he began to vent some of that anger in a series of letters to the Boston Patriot newspaper. In this letter, dated April 20, 1809, he states that his cause was to preserve the Union and its independence against both France and England, leading him to do his best to avoid war with either. However, because of his unwillingness to side with England, he claims "...the Federalists in New York with Hamilton at their head in Secret Caucus agreed to sacrifice Adams..." Carrying the paranoia a bit further, he says that French influence drove him from office, "...but it would not have had the Power if it had not been essentially assisted by the Pharisaical Jesuitical Machiavilian Intrigues and Influence of the leading Federalists." In explaining his policy of avoiding war, though both England and France, at war with each other, had not respected the neutrality of American shipping, Adams writes, "England and France have both given us just Cause of war. But neither has yet made it necessary..." $160,000.

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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