Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - August - 2008 Issue

A Summer Miscellany from Gert Jan Bestebreurtje

Gert135

Image of Hall Sisters' captivity on Bestebreurtje catalogue.


By Michael Stillman

Gert Jan Bestebreurtje Rare Books has issued their Catalogue 135 - A Summer Miscellany. This certainly is a miscellany, with all types of nonfiction works covering all corners of the globe. What we found surprising was the large number of American works offered by this Dutch bookseller. Many deal with political issues of the 19th century, with a large number concerned with America's most confounding issue of the time - slavery. We don't know exactly how these books made their way to the Netherlands, but undoubtedly some American collectors will want to bring a few home. Therefore, we will focus a bit more on the pieces of Americana, but with the caveat that there are many books herein pertaining to other lands, and written in European languages other than English. Now, we will take a look inside.

Bestebreurtje offers copies of two major speeches given in the American Senate in the year 1850 from two of her most famous orators, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. Each spoke out in favor of the great yet doomed Compromise of 1850. Item 43 is the Speech of Henry Clay, of Kentucky, on taking up his compromise resolutions on the subject of slavery. Delivered on February 5 and 6, the comprise proposed consisted of several different parts, eventually admitting California into the Union as a free state and banning slave sales in the District of Columbia, favored by northerners, while opening the new territories in the west to slavery through popular sovereignty, and imposing enforcement of the fugitive slave laws on the north, positions favored by southerners. Priced at €65 (approximately $103 in US dollars). Item 227 is Daniel Webster's Speech upon the subject of slavery; delivered in the United States Senate on March 7, 1850. This is Webster's famed "Seventh of March" speech, and it destroyed the outstanding reputation he had built over half a century with his neighbors in the North. Webster's guiding light throughout his career was preservation of the Union, and in this speech he declared he was an American before a Northerner. He thereby accepted the hated Fugitive Slave Law, because he believed this compromise would preserve the Union. That it did, but only temporarily, and at the cost of Webster's reputation. €75 (US $118).

Item 82 is one of those terrible Indian Captivities: Narrative of the Capture and Providential Escape of Misses Frances and Almira Hall, Two Respectable Young Women (Sisters) of the Ages of 16 and 18 Who Were Taken Prisoners By the Savages, at a Frontier Settlement, Near Indian Creek, in May Last, When Fifteen of the Inhabitants Fell Victims to the Bloody Tomahawk and Scalping Knife; Among Whom Were the Parents of the Unfortunate Females. That sums up the gruesome tale, mitigated somewhat by the dubious accuracy of the story. Howes attributes the anonymous book to William P. Edwards, who wrote other similarly gruesome tales about Indians, and notes that the Hall sisters names were Rachel and Sylvia, not Frances and Almira. This might throw the quality of Edwards' research into doubt. The book also includes "the Sufferings of Philip Brigdon," in case those of the Hall Sisters isn't enough to make you angry with the Indians. While much of the accuracy herein is in doubt, the book does provide some insight into the Sac and Fox War in Illinois at the time of this publishing - 1832. A woodcut from this book is pictured on the catalogue's cover (click the thumbnail image above to see). €1,250 (US $1,975).

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