50 Giants Of Western Civilization<br>From The 19th Century Shop
By Michael Stillman
The 19th Century Shop celebrates its 100th catalogue with a short list of titles that truly lives up to its name: “50 Giants of Western Civilization.” The names you will find in this catalogue include Shakespeare, Washington, Galileo, Einstein, Darwin, Lincoln, Rousseau, Spinoza, Melville, Plutarch, Whitman, Joyce, and more. There’s an early King James Bible, first printing of a portion of the Book of Mormon, an 11th century Exodus scroll and Herzl’s first call for a Jewish state. For those of a nonreligious mind, there’s Marx’s Das Kapital. For map collectors, there’s Apianus’ map from 1520, the earliest obtainable map including the name “America.”
The 19th Century Shop treats these giants with the respect they deserve. This is a 116-page 9” x 12 1/2” profusely illustrated catalogue devoted to just 50 works. Here are a few samplings from this catalogue which is a work itself.
We’ll start with music. There is a first edition of what may be the most famous piece of music ever, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Everyone knows at least the first four notes of this masterpiece. This is a very rare copy in its original wrappers and the 19th Century Shop estimates that this “is likely the finest copy in private hands.” Priced at $35,000.
Timothy Pickering was a close advisor of George Washington during the Revolutionary War, whom America’s first president would later appoint to three cabinet posts: postmaster general, secretary of war, and secretary of state. Despite the praise and confidence in him shown by Washington, Pickering was not the hero-worshiper of his benefactor the way so many others were of the nation’s first leader. Offered here is a 42-page unpublished manuscript written by Pickering to a friend in 1824. In it, he speaks of Washington’s caution and slow decision-making as a general and attributes much of his success as a general to the advice of others. Some may look at this less worshipful view of Washington as diminishing the general’s image, but I don’t think so. What I see is a man willing to listen carefully to others, even if their opinions differed, and more interested in adopting the right choices for his country than proving his own opinions to be right. If anything, Pickering’s comments confirm the willingness of this man to place his own ego and assumptions behind the needs of his country. Can this be said of most of today’s politicians? It may not have been his intent, but Pickering seems to confirm the greatness of this truly unique man who gave his country the gift of freedom. $90,000.