Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - March - 2009 Issue

A Wide Mix of Books and Manuscripts from Thomas Cullen

Cullen46

Something for everyone from Thomas Cullen.


By Michael Stillman

Thomas Cullen, Rockland Bookman has issued his Catalog #46 - Books and Manuscripts, along with some financial advice. He explains, "After the government prints trillions of excess dollars, inflation is inevitable and items with intrinsic value such as rare books will ride the wave of increasing prices." Maybe. No one really knows what will happen next in this economy, but we can acknowledge the certainty of Cullen's next point: "It's also more entertaining than investing in static bonds or falling stocks." Anyone who questions the entertainment value of books need only get a copy of Cullen's catalogue. It is an indefinable mix of every type of book and manuscript imaginable, from serious tomes about war and peace to a handwritten manuscript of witchcraft spells. This catalogue is surely a great place to invest some time, and if Cullen is right, some money too.

Here is a chilling reminder of a noble revolution gone bad. Item 36 is a broadside notice (in French) announcing the public execution of 55-year-old Louis Azema. His crime? - "wearing the mask of patriotism." The year was 1793, and the French Revolution had turned ugly. This was the period of the "Reign of Terror," when thousands of Frenchmen were sent to the guillotine for various imagined offenses. As best we can tell, M. Azema was not a man of any particular significance, and the vague charge makes one wonder what, if anything, he did to deserve this fate. Whatever it was, this notice recalls in a most frightening way the horrors of the time. Item 36. Priced at $500.

Item 58 is another significant broadside, one headed Proclamation by Andrew Jackson, President of the United States. It was written by Secretary of State Edward Livingston on November 10, 1832, and is signed in ink by President Jackson. It is a stern warning by Jackson, just days after he was elected to a second term, to South Carolina in response to its claimed right to annul federal laws, and its threats of secession. Says Jackson, "I consider then the power to annul a law of the United States, assumed by one state, incompatible with the existence of the union..." South Carolina had the good sense to back down in the face of the determined Jackson, only to repeat the threat without the same good sense 28 years later with Lincoln. $800.

Everyone has an autograph of President Millard Fillmore. How many of you have one from his second wife, Carolyn Carmichael McIntosh Fillmore? Fillmore's first wife and First Lady, Abigail, caught a bad cold at the outdoor inauguration of her husband's successor and died a few weeks later. Obviously, she had learned nothing from President William Henry Harrison's similar inaugural experience just 12 years prior. In 1858, the Former President married Carolyn McIntosh, the wealthy widow of a railroad executive. Their combined wealth enabled them to buy a mansion in Fillmore's hometown of Buffalo where they lived happily ever after, or at least until Fillmore passed on in 1874. Item 33 is a pamphlet headed Buffalo Orphan Asylum. 1874... It is signed in pencil "C.C. Fillmore." We are not certain of the timing, but since the Former President died in early March, it is likely she was already a widow at the time. $300.

Rare Book Monthly

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