Rare Book Monthly

Articles - November - 2012 Issue

The Gutenberg of clear thinking traced to Poughkeepsie

Liars

Gutenberg on the Hudson

The engaging book L I A R S published by F. W. Wilson of Poughkeepsie in 1911 is a remarkable condemnation and defense of lying.  The author, whose name is not disclosed perhaps for reasons of personal safety, has possibly created an entirely original work but seems at first blush to owe something to earlier authors.  If so, he may have began his book[let] on lies with a lie.  I hope not.  In particular an article in the Atlantic Monthly, Vol. XI February 1863 relentlessly comes up as a best, if not perfect, match in Google search for the article’s first paragraph.  For me it’s a concern because this book has made me aware that life is a cesspool and I am in it.  Perhaps Mr. Wilson is the unnamed author and true to his subject, demure.  It’s a shame for this book reaches into the empyrean to deliver perspective on both personal and business relations and the current presidential election and its author deserves their due.  For this honor I nominate Mr. Wilson.

For those who do not yet have a copy of this Gutenberg in the cradle a link is provided at the end of this article to the full text, all 4,544 words of it.  It is a slim work, grand in comparison to the 272 words in the Gettysburg Address and brief when juxtaposed to War and Peace that in its original Russian and French editions is a svelte 460,000 words while the English version that has tortured American students for generations languorously proceeds to its conclusion north of 560,000.  The author of the Poughkeepsie masterpiece gets in, gets started, gets done and is on his way home before the Little Princess, in Tolstoi’s third chapter utters, at the 1% mark.

“’Charming,’ sticking the needle into her work as if to testify that the interest and fascination of the story prevented her from going on with it.” 

Whew that was close.  For Tolstoi’s captives there would be mountains more of words to plow while for acolytes of the Poughkeepsie Shakespeare only bows to be taken.  Brevity is the soul of wit.
   

More to the point War and Peace, in ponderous detail, details the French invasion of Russia and its impact on Russian society, a small event that without snow becomes mud.  Mr. Wilson by comparison, with rapier sharp prose details the thunderous characteristic that separates men from all other living things, the ability of obfuscate, mislead and lie.  A dog will like you or not, with mankind all the shades of warmth, need, desire and calculation converge to make the simple calculus of “what does he want and what does he mean” endlessly more complex.  Mr. Wilson, with the precise insertion of the surgeon’s scalpel cuts right to the chase – thus saving other potential Tolstois from writer’s cramp and his and their readers from blindness.
  

Plunging in Mr. Wilson allows that “all men are liars” and I cannot, in all modesty disagree.  Personal experience suggests that the line between truth and fiction is a distinction least clearly seen in the present, later obscured by time, forgiven by inheritors, forgotten by the disinterested and retained only by the few who coax grudges to life and water them daily.  You’ve no doubt heard of the seven deadly sins.  Make that eight.
   

In his work the Poughkeepsie seer sets out to help the shy and near-sighted to see their errors and then grades them by purpose and motive.  For many readers a fair examination will clarify the reasons why they won’t be going to heaven, something they already knew but may have forgotten.  The author will remind them.  


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Textile of the Great White Fleet, with portraits of Theodore Roosevelt, Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans & successor Charles Stillman Sperry, 1908. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> William J. Stone, <i>Declaration of Independence,</i> Force printing, 1833. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Shugart family papers including documentation of the Underground Railroad, 63 items, 1838-81. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Records of the Dickinson & Shrewsbury salt works, over 2000 items, with extensive slave labor correspondence, legal records & receipts, bulk 1820-1865. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Gloria Steinem, typescript for her speech <i>Living the Revolution,</i> with related letters and documents, 1941-77. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> <i>Liberty Triumphant or the Downfall of Oppression,</i> depicting the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party, c. 1774. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, <i>Historia naturae, maxime peregrinae, libris XVI distincta,</i> Antwerp, 1635. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Antonio de Mayorga, manuscript map of Mexico City, 1779. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Thomas L. McKenney & James Hall, <i>History of the Indian Tribes of North America,</i> first edition, 3 volumes, Philadelphia, 1842-44. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Samuel Walker, diary of the entire first cruise of the USS Kineo, a gunboat on the Mississippi, 1854-69. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Scrapbook on early Stanford football, with letters from Walter Camp, 1893-95 & 1931. $8,000 to $12,000.
  • <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Roberts, David. Twenty Lithographs of the Holy Land, 19th Century. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Declaration by the Reps. of the United Colonies of N.A. 1775. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Composer Jerome Kern personal Letters, Albums and Other. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Paine, Thomas. <i>Common Sense,</i> London 1776. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Stowe, Harriet Beecher. <i>Uncle Tom’s Cabin,</i> Cleveland 1852. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Hobbes, Thomas. <i>Leviathan,</i> 3rd edition, London 1651. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Anno Regni Georgii III. Intolerable Acts and other Bills, 1774. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Wilberforce, William. An Abstract of the Evidence, 5 Letters, and two books. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Nightingale, Florence. Notes on Nursing and Signed Letters, ca. 1860 $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Tolstov, Leo. <i>War and Peace,</i> 5 volumes, 1886. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Dickinson, John. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1768. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Twain, Mark. <i>Tom Sawyer,</i> 1877 [and] <i>Huckleberry Finn,</i> 1885. $4,000 to $6,000.

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