Antiquarian Books and Ephemera from Samuel Gedge Rare Books
By Michael Stillman
Samuel Gedge Ltd. Rare Books of Norwich, UK, has issued their Catalogue V (as in 5). Gedge provides a variety of material, not just by topic, but by type. So, along with books, you will find such items as the strip almanac shown on the cover, a fan-shaped printed paper, an early 19th century bookseller's pocketbook, and other unusual items. The common thread is that these items are related to books, printing, manuscripts or bookselling, and all qualify as being antiquarian - 19th century or earlier. Here are a few of the items Gedge is offering in their latest catalogue.
Item 19 is the psalm book of a man who surely needed atonement, though he may not have appreciated this point. The 1793 book is entitled A new version of the psalms of David... by N. Brady. The owner was Thomas Staniforth, the Mayor of Liverpool, and his imprint, title, and the year 1797 are placed on the cover. Staniforth's parents died by the time he was 15, but a brother-in-law set him up as an apprentice to a wealthy businessman, Charles Goore. The wise Staniforth married Goore's daughter, and after the latter's two sons died, the daughter became Goore's only heir. Staniforth managed Goore's business, which included the miserable field of trading in slaves. Other aspects of his business, whaling and trading tobacco, would not meet with much favor today either. Staniforth was highly regarded in his hometown and a noted philanthropist and family man, though evidently blind to the sufferings of the souls in which he traded. He died in 1803. Priced at £350 (British pounds, or US equivalent of $512).
Item 1 is a commission from the Company of Merchants appointing John Hope Smith as the Governor of Cape Coast Castle in 1816. Cape Coast Castle, located in what is today Ghana, was one of the most notorious of the "castles" along the African Gold Coast. It contained one of the large dungeons in which slaves captured on the continent would be held until the slave ships arrived. Over 1,000 people could be crammed into the dank cells in its basement - miserable, unsanitary places. Probably the only worse conditions imaginable were what came next for the slaves, the even more crammed and unsanitary slave ships. Fortunately, the British had abolished the slave trade a decade earlier, so the old castle was used as a site for trade by the time Smith arrived. A year later, at the young age of 30, Smith was appointed as the overseer for all of Ghana. £950 (US $1,392).
Item 93 is the strip almanac shown on the cover: An almanac for the year 1688, by John Pack. These manuscript strips, in this case wound into a turned bone casing, were popular in the 16th century. It notes the phases of the moon and important Christian holidays. The later date of this strip almanac is unusual as they were far more popular during the preceding century. £3,500 (US $5,133).
Here is an item of interest to American Civil War collectors. Item 47 is the naval logbook of a tour of H.M.S. Racer, commanded by Algernon McLennan Lyons, during 1861-1862. This British ship was assigned to patrol the Atlantic coast of the United States during its civil war. The logbook recounts its journeys along the coasts of Virginia and the Carolinas, particularly Charleston, and return trips to British bases in Halifax and Bermuda. The British stayed out of America's internal dispute, but needed to keep apprised of what was going on. This log was kept by E.S. Dugdale, a naval cadet. £2,750. (US $4,032).