Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2013 Issue

A Map, A Mystery

Mapofnewyorkstate2

Map of the State of New York by Jacob Willets

Map of the State of New York by Jacob Willets, engraved by James D. Stout

Paraclete Potter was a prolific Poughkeepsie printer but he was not artistic.  His printings of the Poughkeepsie Journal between 1804 and 1837 are priceless for the unvarnished story of life they portray.  He also published books, an indeterminate number but probably altogether about 50.  Few if any are anything more than workmanlike.  He labored to be effective but labored under the constraints of poor equipment, poor paper, poor bindings and a poor community.  Money would have been scarce.  Nevertheless he left an impressive mark.

The weekly Poughkeepsie Journal, founded in 1796 with which he became associated in 1804 and its outright publisher for 30 years beginning in 1806, would week by week tell the story of a river-front community on the Hudson emerging as the Hudson River itself emerged, for its limited engagement, as the Broadway of America.  This was not to last but for most of the Hudson’s ascendant period [1800 to 1840] Paraclete Potter was recording its story.  He would, like his city, fail financially in the mid-1830s, they recover and he relocate to Wisconsin in 1837 but leave behind a stellar account of daily life.  His bones are probably sitting beneath a forgotten stone but his spirit is alive in the many examples of his printing that survive.

The Journal, his principal contribution, was not alone in capturing the history of Poughkeepsie and Dutchess County in this era.  No less than 7 other newspapers vied for commercial viability in Poughkeepsie between 1801 and 1840 and they are all useful for understanding life in this period.  The Journal nevertheless was unique, the only paper to survive the entire period.   Not satisfied to publish only his newspaper he would also publish books, most of them reprints in canted forms and awkward bindings.  What he hadn’t printed/published prior to 1815, as far as I can find, are large maps.
  

In that year he published a beautiful example, his Map of the State of New York by Jacob Willets and engraved by James D. Stout.  It is to my inexperienced eye a substantial achievement, an exceptional printing, and particularly unusual given it is well beyond anything he had done before or would do later.  He would, four years hence publish a series of maps for use in schools that are consistent with his printing and binding capabilities as expressed in the other things he published.  He was, in short, a C printer, his 1815 map an A work.

So the question comes to mind.  Did he really publish it?   Lauren Hewes, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts at the American Antiquarian Society, suggested the engraver or the map’s author may have seen to the printing and Mr. Potter simply born the expense and thereby gained the publisher’s credit.

The Potter family were high achievers.  Paraclete’s father twice served in the New York State Assembly and his two brothers, Alonzo and Horatio, become Episcopal Bishops.  Perhaps the underwriting of a beautiful map, in such a family, was simply the expected thing to do.
    

Whatever it is it is a remarkable survival.

And I am left to wonder.  Is there more to the back-story?  If you have some ideas please contact me.

Bruce McKinney

415.823.6678

bmckinney@americanaexchange.com

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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