Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - September - 2009 Issue

100 American Historical Documents from the William Reese Co.

Reese270

One Hundred American Historical Manuscripts from William Reese.


By Michael Stillman

The William Reese Company has issued its 270th catalogue, this one entitled One Hundred American Historical Manuscripts. We always appreciate titles that succinctly describe what the catalogue contains. It makes our job easier. We will just add that these manuscripts range from those of major historical importance to those from obscure people who witnessed interesting events and changes in early American life. Here are a few of the one hundred Reese is offering.

We will start with what we consider the most significant piece in this very interesting collection. Item 52 is a letter from Thomas Jefferson, dated June 8, 1792, while he was serving as Secretary of State, to a good friend in France, Jean Antoine Gautier. It touches on important issues in both America and France. In America, we were just starting to see the split, notably between Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, which led to the two-party system that has ruled the nation to this day. Meanwhile in France, the revolution that promised to bring that nation a democratic and constitutional government similar to America, was just starting to spin out of control, and into the bloodthirsty chaos that would erupt shortly. In a stinging comment aimed at Hamilton and those who shared his federalist sympathies, Jefferson writes, "there are heads among us itching for crowns, coronets, and mitres. But I hope we shall sooner cut them off than gratify their itching." This cutting off of heads comment must have sounded harsh to Gautier for, as Reese notes, the French government had introduced the guillotine a few months earlier as the official means of execution. That device would see a lot of use in the days ahead as the revolution spun into the infamous Reign of Terror (the French King would have his head cut off less than eight months after the writing of this letter). However, it must be noted that Jefferson had no idea at the time how bad things would become in France. He was still hopeful France would adopt a constitution similar to that of America. "[O]ur constitution is a wise one, and I hope we shall be able to adhere to it," writes Jefferson. He then proffers the advice, "If your first assay is unsuccessful as ours was, make a second as we did. When you have got what is good, hold it fast as we do." Priced at $145,000.

Speaking of Alexander Hamilton, he was America's first Secretary of the Treasury, assigned the task of managing the enormous financial problems of a nation heavily in debt from the Revolution. However, in 1782, he was still a private citizen, recently resigned from the military with the Revolution effectively over, in need of money. On February 17, he sent this letter to Jeremiah Wadsworth, who had also served in the Revolution and would go on to be a major banker. Writes the cash-strapped Hamilton, "Having met with some disappointment in a sum I expected to receive, I should be much obliged of you for the loan of an hundred pounds..." Item 40. $5,000.

Item 20 is a manuscript deed/sale of 216 square miles of land in upstate New York, northwest of Albany, along the Mohawk River. The date was December 28, 1738, and the seller was the Mohawk Indians, the buyer King George II. It is signed by six Mohawk chiefs, who "...have bargained, sold released, and for ever quit claim unto our said most gracious sovereign Lord King George the Second..." One imagines the King's representatives helped the Indians with the wording. The price for the land was 180 pounds. That's about one-quarter of a cent per acre. $37,500.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.
  • <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Collection of 131 Herbert Ponting gelatin silver contact prints of Antartica, £6000-8000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of several lots of Henri Cartier-Bresson gelatin silver prints, £200-300
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Vintage gelatin silver print of Diego Rivera by Leonard McCombe, £300-500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Julia Margaret Cameron of Sir John Herschel (April, 1867), £30,000-50,000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Julia Margaret Cameron, Love, 1864 (from the Norman album), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Lewis Carroll of Twyford School Eleven (Summer Term, 1859), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Lewis Carroll of Xie Kitchin as 'Dane' (Oxford, 1873), £500-800
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Calotype print (c1845) by Hill & Adamson of Lady Elizabeth (Rigby) Eastlake, £3000-4000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Group of 12 waxed paper negatives of Scottish scenes by Thomas Keith, mid-1850s, £3000-5000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of 15 lots of Roger Fenton salt prints of his work in the Crimea, mid-1850s, £400-600
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Quarter plate ambrotype (c.1860s) with ethnographic portrait of a woman seated at a table, £400-600
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Rare whole plate thermoplastic union case of the Landing of Columbus (c.1858),part of the John Hannavy collection, £1500-2000
  • <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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