Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - April - 2010 Issue

David Lesser Offers Americana for the New York Book Fair

Lesser113

Americana from David Lesser.


By Michael Stillman

David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books has issued their 113th catalogue of Rare Americana. This one includes some books to be displayed at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair, taking place in the city April 8-11. If you're heading for New York, you may want to check them out. Lesser offers an interesting assortment of publications, mostly from 1750-1900, which capture the essence of America in its early days. Those fascinated with American history, from events momentous to obscure, will appreciate the material they have collected.

Item 7 is the Report of the Committee..."An Act Concerning Aliens"... This 1799 report from the House of Representatives concerns the Alien and Sedition Acts, which tried to silence opposition to the government during the administration of John Adams. The argument claiming constitutionality for punishing speech opposing the government was the one regularly made at the time, though it seems hard to believe that's all the framers meant when they guaranteed free speech. The report claims the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech only prevents the government from imposing prior restraint on speech or its publication. Once the speech is made, the report contends, the government is free to punish those who speak with opposing views. Priced at $1,250.

Judge Thomas J. Killen was a bit testy about criticism of his courtroom. Killen presided over a lawsuit by one John Poynter McMillan. McMillan was obviously not pleased with the result, or the conduct of the court, and said so in print. Item 88 is Judge Killen's response, To the Public. In a Handbill Dated April 31, 1854... (are there 31 days in April?). Writes the Judge of McMillan, "Both your tongue and your pen, sir, have lost all power of slander, or detraction; true like the native pole cat, they may occasionally offend and disgust the community yet no one blames it because it is the nature of the beast." My guess is Judge Killen would be censored for intemperate conduct if he spoke of people who appeared in his court thusly today. Item 88. $875.

Political candidates have always had to deal with people's prejudices in their campaigns. Item 65 comes from the campaign of the first Republican presidential candidate, John Fremont, responding to claims that Fremont was a Catholic: Col. Fremont's Religion. The Calumnies Against Him Exposed by Indisputable Proofs. This was the 1856 campaign, and Fremont had been married by a Catholic Priest. The explanation was that no other clergyman was available at the time, and that Fremont was an Episcopalian. "Col. Fremont is not now, nor has he ever been, a Roman Catholic." It would take over a century before a Catholic was elected president. This was a particularly difficult time for this charge as 1856 was the one election in which the anti-Catholic Know-Nothing Party was a serious factor, running former President Millard Fillmore as their standard bearer. $275.

Winfield Scott Hancock was the Democratic nominee in 1880 and he ran against Republican James Garfield. Item 67 is a Hancock broadside headed, Plain Words to the Workingmen! Garfield Their Enemy. Hancock Their Friend. It describes how Hancock is protecting their interests with tariffs and that "He never took a bribe, never committed perjury." But then, Hancock's supporters found it necessary to warn "the workingmen of New Hampshire" that they must elect Hancock "if you want to keep the horde of negroes out of New Hampshire who have been invited into the State to compete with you at your mills and workshops." $500.

Lemuel Sawyer was a North Carolina congressman, and quite a character. He apparently neglected his duties, once declined to seek re-election and twice was defeated, yet twice he made comebacks as well. He was an extraordinarily personable man, which enabled him to defeat some big name opponents despite his own limited accomplishments. He served three sets of non-consecutive terms between 1807 and 1829 before finally being permanently retired by his constituents. He also wrote several pieces, some lost, none considered works of great merit. In 1844, he wrote a biography of Virginia Congressman John Randolph which was described at the time as "false, scandalous, malicious, and libelous." However, Sawyer saved his worst for himself. Item 124 is the Auto-Biography of Lemuel Sawyer, Formerly Member of Congress from North Carolina, Author of the Biography of John Randolph, published in 1844. According to the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, it is "a frank disclosure of his gambling, wastefulness, dissipation, chicanery, and tawdry love affairs. This book must be one of the most self-condemning documents in all American letters." After his first two wives died, Sawyer married a wealthy New York woman and proceeded to waste away her entire fortune. He died in 1852 a minor clerk in Washington. $350.

Item 56 is a Democratic promotion from 1852, Papers for the People. To be Issued Weekly during the Campaign. It describes Democrats as "the inherent progressive force," and calls slavery "a dark gift of European policy." This paper was obviously geared to a northern audience, as Democrats attempted to thread the needle of offending neither North nor South. The pamphlet then goes on to print biographies of the major contenders for the presidential nomination, Lewis Cass, Stephen Douglass (sic), James Buchanan, Sam Houston, and William Marcy. Cass was the nominee in 1848, Buchanan in 1856, Douglas in 1860, but none of these gentlemen received the nod in 1852. After 48 ballots, the Democratic convention selected Franklin Pierce as a compromise acceptable to supporters of the leading candidates when none of them could garner enough support. $250.

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>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. SOLD for $131,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. SOLD for $516,500
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. SOLD for $106,250
    <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. SOLD for $16,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. SOLD for $275,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. SOLD for $118,750
  • <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> E.H. SHEPARD, Original drawing for A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner.<br>$40,000-60,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> BERNARD RATZER, Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767. $80,000-100,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph letter signed comparing Logan, Tecumseh, and Little Turtle to the Spartans. Monticello: 15 February 1821. $14,000-18,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN C. FREMONT, Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in the Year 1842.. Abridged edition, the only one containing the folding map From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ZANE GREY, Album containing 94 large format photographs of Grey and party at Catalina Island, Arizona, and fishing in the Pacific. From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $5,000-$8,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> WILLIAM COMBE, A History of Madeira ... illustrative of the Costumes, Manners, and Occupations of the Inhabitants. produced by Ackermann in 1821; From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ERIC TAVERNER, Salmon Fishing... One of 275 copies signed by Taverner, published in 1931,From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN WHITEHEAD, Exploration of Mount Kina Balu, North Borneo. Whitehead reached the high point of Kinabalu in 1888. Part of a major group of travel books from the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN LONG, Voyages and Travels of an Indian Interpreter and Trader, describing the Manners and Customs of the North American Indians... The first edition of 1791. $3,000-$5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> SAMUEL BECKETT, Stirrings Still. This, Beckett’s last work of fiction with original lithographs by Le Brocquy, limited to 200 copies signed by the author and the artist. From the Estate of Howard Kaminsky.. $1,500-$2,500
  • <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>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, wallpaper sample book, circa 1919. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Archive from a late office of the Breuer & Smith architectural team, New York, 1960-70s. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> William Morris, <i>The Story of the Glittering Plain or the Land of Living Men,</i> illustrated by Walter Crane, Kelmscott Press, Hammersmith, 1894. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustave Doré, <i>La Sainte Bible selon la Vulgate,</i> Tours, 1866. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustav Klimt & Max Eisler, <i>Eine Nachlese,</i> complete set, Vienna, 1931. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>Eric Allatini & Gerda Wegener, <i>Sur Talons Rouges,</i> with original watercolor by Wegener, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>C.P. Cavafy, <i>Fourteen Poems,</i> illustrated & signed by David Hockney, London, 1966. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jean Midolle, <i>Spécimen des Écritures Modernes...</i>, Strasbourg, 1834-35. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>E.A. Seguy, <i>Floréal: Dessins & Coloris Nouveaux,</i> Paris, 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.

Review Search

Archived Reviews

Ask Questions