A Catalogue of and for the Ages from the 19th Century Shop
By Michael Stillman
The 19th Century Shop has issued their 125th catalogue: Rare Books and Manuscripts of All Ages. They might have called it "Rare Books and Manuscripts for All Ages." This is a collection of important, sometimes unique material from some of the greatest names of the past three centuries. From politics and government we find Washington, Lincoln, Disraeli, Paine, and others; literature and poetry offers Shakespeare, Dickens, Twain, Joyce, Keats and more; science has Darwin, Mendel, Watson and Crick, Lyell and others. This just touches the surface, which is all we can do with such a spectacular collection, but here are few of the items you will find.
George Washington's schematic drawing of the chain of command for his planned siege on New York City in 1780. New York was the British stronghold in the colonies, but after they moved some troops to fight Washington in New Jersey (not as many as he thought) and the French planned to blockade the harbor (but they didn't have sufficient forces), the American leader thought he could take the city, and deal a fatal blow to the British. In his drawing, Washington is listed as "Comm. In Chief," while directly under him are Generals Nathaniel Green, Benedict Arnold, and Lafayette. Various other leaders flow down the chart from these three. Arnold, just a few weeks later, would be found to be a traitor, and the British forces in New York were too strong to attack. Fortunately, all would turn out well the following year with the British defeat at Yorktown. Priced at $250,000.
A handwritten draft by Walt Whitman of the poem Song of Myself, which appeared in Leaves of Grass in 1855. The original manuscript for Whitman's Leaves was lost many years ago, but a few earlier drafts are still in existence (the others in institutions). This heavily revised draft would have been written in 1854 or 1855 as Whitman was preparing his masterpiece. On the verso is Whitman's essay he published in the Brooklyn Star in 1854 opposing Sunday prohibition laws. $375,000. The 19th Century Shop also offers a copy of the rare 1855 first edition of Leaves of Grass. $95,000.
Two original glass plate photographs of American Indians by Edward Curtis. Curtis was an artist and photographer who undertook a massive project to photograph Indian culture before it was irreparably changed by assimilation. The result was The North American Indian, published at the turn of the century, containing 2,200 pictures. Most of the glass plates and glass plate photographs were destroyed, leaving only the less detailed photogravure images surviving. These rare original photographs are Walpi Man ($45,000) and Pipe-stem - Oto ($75,000). The latter is seen on the cover of this catalogue.