Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - May - 2004 Issue

Rare and Unusual Americana <br>From David M. Lesser

Cassiusclay

This Cassius Clay was a brave fighter, but not a boxer.


By Michael Stillman

David M. Lesser’s “Catalogue 900” is a collection of rare and unusual Americana, primarily from the 19th century. This is an online catalogue, so if you are reading this review, you can view this collection with a click of your mouse. It is also the first catalogue to use FootNotes, the service that gives you access to bibliographic, auction, and bookseller records about many of the titles offered. To see Lesser’s catalogue now, just go to http://www.americanaexchange.com/collectors/newreport.asp?cid=89&R=0.

Item 34 is the Letters of Cassius M. Clay. Some might think these are letters from early in the career of perhaps the greatest boxer ever, before he changed his name to Muhammad Ali, but no, there is no correspondence with Sonny Liston here. This Cassius Marcellus Clay was born in Kentucky in 1810, and after serving a few terms in the state legislature from 1835-1840, would go on to be one of the nation’s leading opponents of slavery. These sentiments caused him to lose his last election and to have the press he built destroyed by a mob, but this did not deter him. He would be involved in the founding of the Republican Party and would develop a following in the North on account of his being a southerner with antislavery views. President Lincoln would appoint him Minister to Russia and Clay would be involved in the negotiations to purchase Alaska.

Among other notable points in Clay’s career were assassination attempts and an attack in 1849 in which he was stabbed and shot at point-blank range with a pistol that misfired. Clay is reported to have said as he lost consciousness “I died in the defense of the liberties of the people.” This may have been true but premature, as he lived another 54 years, succumbing of old age in 1903 when 93-years of age. His attacker, whom Clay chased and stabbed before losing consciousness, was not so lucky and died within a few days. In an earlier altercation, Clay was charged with mayhem in defending himself, but was acquitted with help from his second cousin, Henry Clay, the “Great Compromiser.” Cassius Clay would also serve in the armed forces, both in the Mexican War and briefly in the Civil War, was a friend and confidant of Abraham Lincoln, and was influential in the latter’s decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. He considered his influence on this major decision to be one of the most important achievements of his life. One more thing about Cassius Clay: he voluntarily freed his slaves in the 1840s, at least one of which adopted his name in gratitude. The name was passed down to his descendents, which explains how the famed boxer ended up with the name Cassius Clay. The first Clay’s Letters are priced at $250.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> first edition of the earliest extant manual on modern chess, Salamanca, circa 1496-97. Sold for $68,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Carte-de-visite album with 83 images of prominent African Americans & abolitionists, circa 1860s. Sold for $47,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk,</i> Vienna & Leipzig, 1918. Sold for $106,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Man Ray, <i>[London Transport] – Keeps London Going,</i> 1938. Sold for $149,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Nicolas de Fer, <i>L’Amerique Divisee Selon Letendue de ses Principales Parties,</i> Paris, 1713. Sold for $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Russell H. Tandy, <i>The Secret in the Old Attic,</i> watercolor, pencil & ink, 1944. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Hemingway, <i>Three Stories & Ten Poems,</i> first edition of the author's first book, Paris, 1923. Sold for $23,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Walker Evans, <i>River Rouge Plant,</i> silver print, 1947. Sold for $57,500.
  • <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Ernst, Max. <i>Mr. Knife and Miss Fork</i>. Paris, 1932. DELUXE EDITION. Sold for $15,625
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Einstein, Albert. Signed Passport Photo for his US citizenship application. Bermuda, 1935. Sold for $17,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Verard, Antoine. Illuminated printed Book of Hours. Paris, 1507. Sold for $7,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Wetterkurzschlussel. German Weather Report Codebook - for Enigma use. Berlin, 1942. Sold for $225,000
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Morelos y Pavon, Jose Maria. Autograph letter signed to El Virrey Venegas, February 5, 1812. Sold for $6,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Milne, A.A. Complete set of <i>Winnie-the-Pooh</i> books. 4 volumes. All first issue points. London, 1924-1928. Sold for $5,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> A 48-star American Flag, battle worn flown at Guadalcanal and Peleliu, 1942-1944. Sold for $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Locke, John. Autograph Letter Signed mourning the death of his friend, William Molyneaux, 2 pp, October 27, 1698. Sold for $20,000
  • <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>

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