Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - February - 2010 Issue

Rare Americana of the 18th and 19th Centuries from David Lesser Antiquarian Books

Lesser112

Rare Americana from David Lesser.


By Michael Stillman

David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books has issued their 112th catalogue of Rare Americana, and as expected, it is another collection of fascinating looks at American life in the 18th and 19th centuries. Most of Lesser's works are short-form, pamphlets rather than full-length books. As such, they tend to focus on immediate news and concerns of the day, as pamphlets could be written and printed up on short notice. In many cases, the topics involve the political issues of the day, and politics could be every bit as nasty back then as it is today, hard to believe as that may be. Here are some of the items from this latest Lesser catalogue.

Some political figures become so engrained in our minds as heroes that it is hard to imagine that they were seen by many of their contemporaries in a lesser light. Sam Houston is one such figure, especially in Texas, but he had his share of detractors in the Republic/Lone Star State, especially in the days leading up to the Civil War, when Houston was strongly pro-union. However, those views must have caused him controversy even earlier, as evidenced by this 1849 publication, Gen. Hunt's Letter to Senator Sam Houston. General Hunt was Memucan Hunt, Jr., a general in the Texas Army who came to Texas in 1836 with troops he had organized to fight for that state's independence. After the revolution, Houston appointed him as Texas' first Minister to the United States, and other positions later on. Evidently they had a split, as by 1849, Hunt had his share vitriolic comments to direct at Houston. He denounces Houston's "late repudiation of your old and formerly cherished principles of nullification," and condemns his "overabounding ambition, added to your jealousy and selfishness," while claiming Houston has "reviled, traduced, calumniated, or threatened, as in your judgment you thought most politic, the character of almost every man who has obtained any favorable reputation for himself." Eventually, the pro-union views Hunt alluded to in his comment about nullification would get Houston removed as Governor after Texas seceded from the Union is 1861. Item 61. Priced at $1,750.

A man who was very controversial in his day, and to some extent still is, is President Andrew Jackson. There's no question where Mary Barney stood in this debate. Item 8 is a Letter from Mary Barney, of Baltimore, to Andrew Jackson, President of the United States. This "personal" letter was published in 1830. Mary Barney was the wife of Major Barney, who Jackson declined to reappoint as naval officer for the Port of Baltimore when he became President. Jackson had stated that his "rules" prevented Barney's reappointment, those "rules" being essentially that Barney had supported John Quincy Adams in the election. Mrs. Barney writes that her husband "preferred Mr. Adams for the Presidency, because he thought him qualified and you unqualified for the station." Of course, if Mr. Barney thought Jackson unqualified for his office, it's not all that surprising that Jackson may have felt the same about Barney. $250.

Now, here's one more political attack. Item 101 is a Memoir of General Scott, from Records Contemporaneous with the Events, published in 1852. Winfield Scott served as a general and as a commander of U.S. forces longer than any other man, leading troops in every conflict from the War of 1812 to the Civil War. Scott had something of a reputation for pompousness and a healthy ego, which this piece plays upon, but he didn't command the military for so long without having more than his share of skills. The Union might well have done better in the Civil War were Scott still able to command (he was pushed aside as he was then 75 years old and no longer able to mount his horse as he weighed 300 pounds). In 1852, General Scott was nominated as the presidential candidate of the incumbent, but disintegrating Whig Party. The writer of this pamphlet, a supporter of Democratic opponent Franklin Pierce, claims, "Scott's egotism has grown like Aaron's serpent," and says his career was marked by "envy and hostility" to superior officers. Scott was unable to hold the Whigs together, and they were decimated in the election by Pierce and the Democrats. And, while we can never know what type of a president Scott would have been, it's safe to say he couldn't have been worse than Pierce, and probably a whole lot better. $175.

The existence of slavery in the United States was the result of a compromise, permitted as a necessity to bring the South into the Union. Washington and Jefferson were Virginians, and slaveholders themselves, but neither was comfortable with the terrible institution. Their expectation was that it would fade away, but while it did in the North, it only became stronger in the South. By the time the founders had passed on, most in the South had become vocal proponents of slavery, rather than those who merely tolerated it in the expectations it would in time disappear. Nat Turner's rebellion had awakened southerners to the risks of prolonging slavery, and it was at this time that the last serious attempt by southerners to deal with this issue was made. Item 9 is The Speech of Henry Berry, (of Jefferson), in the House of Delegates of Virginia, on the Abolition of Slavery, published in 1832. Berry supported a plan that would set in place the gradual elimination of slavery the founders envisioned, but did nothing to promote. This plan would have freed all children born to slave parents after July 4, 1840. Berry calls slavery "a grinding curse" and a "cancer on the political body of the state of Virginia." Though he did not consider Turner's rebellion a major threat, he warns, "the time will come, when there will be imminent, general danger. Pass as severe laws as you will, to keep these unfortunate creatures in ignorance, it is in vain, unless you can extinguish that spark of intellect which God has given them." Berry's warnings went unheeded, and eventually, Virginia paid the price. $650.

David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books may be reached at 203-389-8111 or dmlesser@lesserbooks.com. Their website is www.lesserbooks.com.

You will find many of David M. Lesser's books listed in "Books For Sale" on this site. Click here.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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>
  • <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>Aurora Australis.</i> Printed at the sign of 'The Penguins'; East Antarctica, 1908. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>South Polar Times.</i> 1st edition, limited issue. from the library of Michael Barne. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> General Washington's <i>Proceedings of a General Court Martial... of Major General Lee.</i> Philiadelphia, 1778. 100 copies printed for Congress. BOUND WITH: ...Court Martial... of St Clair and ...Schuyler. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>The Voice of the People.</i> Boston, 1754. Rare pamphlet on the Excise Tax. Nathaniel Sparhawk's copy. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens"), offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing, 5 pp, 1881. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> After Fra Egnazio Danti. <i>L'Ultime Parti not:e nel Indie Occid:ntli" [The last known parts of the Western Indies].</i> Painted Map of California, Western Mexico, and Japan. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Ptolemaeus, Claudius. <i>Geographie opus nouissima...</i> 1513. The most important edition of Ptolemy, containing the Admiral's Map. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> De Arellano, Don Alonso. Manuscript, his <i>"Relación mui singular y circunstanciada... Capitán del Patax San Lucas,"</i> manuscript copy from the Sir Thomas Phillips collection. $50,000 to $80,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Purchas, Samuel. <i>Purchas his Pilgrimes.</i> First edition. With John Simth's engraved map of Virginia. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Lewis, Meriwether. Contemporary manuscript true copy of his final power of attorney, 1809. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practiced at Boston in North America.</i> Mezzotint. London, 1774. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>Scientific Base Ball Pitching: A Treatise on the Pitcher, Pitching, Origin and Philosophy of the Curve.</i> Chicago, 1897. $2,000 to $3,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Franklin H. Brown, <i>State Sovereignty, National Union,</i> Chicago, 1860. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b><br>The Aitken Bible, Philadelphia, 1781. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francisco Loubayssin de Lamarca, probable first edition of the first novel set in the Spanish New World, Paris, 1617. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Juan de la Anunciación, <i>Sermonario en lengua mexicana,</i> first edition, first book of sermons in Nahuatl, Mexico, 1577. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Maturino Gilberti, <i>Thesoro spiritual en lengua de Mechuacá,</i> first edition, Mexico, 1558. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Commission of William O. Stoddard as secretary to the president, signed by Lincoln, Washington, 1861. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> <i>Clay and Frelinghuysen,</i> flag banner, circa 1844. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Daguerreotype of a man believed to be Frederick Granger Williams Smith, son of Joseph Smith, circa late 1850s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> John C. Wolfe, <i>Portrait of Abraham Lincoln,</i> oil on board in period wooden frame, circa 1860s. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Family letters from two young daguerreotype artists, 1826-79. $10,000 to $15,000.
  • <b>Leland Little: Important Fall Auction. September 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Published Half Plate Ambrotype of a North Carolina Confederate Officer. $2,000 to $4,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Two 19th Century Books Pertaining to Canada's Red River Settlement. $400 to $800
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Two Books With Fore-Edge Paintings of British Architectual Landmarks. $400 to $600
    <b>Leland Little: Important Fall Auction. September 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987), "Torte a la Dobosch" from <i>Wild Raspberries</i>. $1,000 to $3,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990), <i>Pop Shop II,</i> One Plate screenprint in colors, on wove paper, 1998. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Thomas Rowlandson (British, 1756-1827), Twenty-Two Prints from the <i>Tours of Dr. Syntax</i>. $500 to $1,000

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