Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2003 Issue

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

Bk2a

Poughkeepsie


By Bruce McKinney

As a long term collector of Hudson River Valley material I have learned not to have my heart set on any particular acquisition. Buying on the net in particular is an uncertain process, not because the material is uncertain (although it sometimes is) but because you simply don’t know what you are going to find. You have to be open to possibilities.

This past month I made two interesting buys in this field. The first is described in the book review section where I review, as a book report, “A Sketch of the Life and Voyages of Captain Alvah Dewey Comprising A Period of Twenty-Six Years” that is mercifully condensed into 113 small pages with large margins that make this book an easy, if also very interesting, read. Finding this book on the internet certainly repays the current AE subscription price 30 to 40 times over. This very rare book was purchased on ABE for $656 delivered and it’s probably worth $4,000 or more. If there is any interest to read this book I think we can post it on the site.

I also bought an Almanac printed in Poughkeepsie, New York for the year 1833 and therefore probably printed late in 1832. It cost $15.00. I should tell you that the cover is missing a portion of the upper right hand corner, a significant portion in fact. The booklet is held together in the front with old thread and in the back with a string that looks original.

This piece of ephemera gets off to a difficult start as the first of January, 1833 is marked “circumcision.” Hopefully, everyone who needed this had it done in advance as few would want to mark their calendars with that reminder. As it is not repeated again during the year it probably refers to a full year’s revolution of the sun. Let’s hope so.

There is then a rather obscure schedule of events for each day which suggests that every day is a holiday somewhere. There is also a day by day listing of the sun’s and moon’s positions that look to me strangely like today’s television listings. I suppose people anchored themselves to this fleeting meteor they called earth by daily noting exactly where they were in space, just in case the cosmic glue gave way and they needed to find their way back. Einstein, with just a little help, could also figure this out. For mortals I suspect this compilation was meant to impress if not to inform.

Sociology then begins on the leaf marked C as we really get into it. Those who have waited a full year for this next installment will be immediately sated with “Improvement of the Bog Meadow” which is then followed by “Bearing of Apple Trees” and “Receipt for making Pickle.” To let us know that some of today’s problems were problems then we have “How to Choose a Good Husband,” “Nitrous Acid Mixture for the Cure of Cholera Morbus,” “The Devil in the Buttermilk,” and “How to Detect a Rogue.” Some things simply do not change.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Abraham Lincoln, <i>Emancipation Proclamation by the President of the United States,</i> pamphlet, 1862. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Family papers of the distinguished Ruby-Jackson family, Portland, Maine, 1853-1961. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Family papers of the Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens & the persons who served him, 1866-1907. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Autograph book with inscriptions by orators Moses Roper & Peter Williams, 1821-54. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Archive of letters, postcards, and greeting cards sent by Romare Bearden, 1949-87. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b><br>E. Simms Campbell, <i>A Night-Club Map of Harlem,</i> in inaugural issue of Manhattan, 1933. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Papers of the comedian Nipsey Russell, including a letter from MLK, 1929-2000. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Early German-American anti-slavery broadside, <i>Sclaven-Handel,</i> Philadelphia, 1794. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Edmonia Lewis, prominent sculptor, carte-de-visite by Henry Rocher, c. 1866-71. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b><br><i>The Black Panther: Black Community News Service,</i> 44 issues, San Francisco, 1967-1971. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Withers, <i>I Am A Man, Sanitation Workers Strike,</i> silver print, 1968. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> <i>March For Freedom Now!,</i> poster for the 1960 Republican Convention. $4,000 to $6,000.

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