This Month&#146;s New Catalogues:<br>Travels, Americana, and More

- by Michael Stillman


Item 160 from William Reese is an 1830 first edition of The Book of Mormon.

The William Reese Co. always comes up with spectacular catalogues, and this month’s “National Pride,” is no exception. It is a catalogue of Americana, in particular, United States items.

Again it’s only possible to mention a few items. You will need the complete catalogue to understand the depth. The majority of items come from the days just before the Revolution, to the very early years of the Republic. There are many items of interest to people who collect specific states, travels through the backwoods then known as the “west,” and quite a few early maps.

A few are famed classics. Item #13 is the octavo version of John James Audubon’s Birds of America, with 500 hand-colored lithographs. $95,000. Item 209 is a first edition, in French, of de Tocquville’s Democracy in America. $13,500. There is a second British edition of Lewis and Clark’s expedition. Item 137; $16,500. And item 160 is a first edition of the Book of Mormon, printed in Palmyra, New York, in 1830. $75,000.

Item 12 is an interesting Sermon on the General Fast… by a British preacher in 1776, who favors the colonialists on the grounds of self-indulgence and other immoralities on the part of the English. $3,000. Not so favorably inclined to the Americans is one Charles William Janson, author of item 116, The Stranger in America. Janson resided in America from 1793-1805 and couldn’t find much nice to say about it. He thought Jeffersonian democracy was the work of the Devil. On that score, John Adams might have agreed. $1,250.

An unusual item is Benjamin Franklin’s Report of Dr. Benjamin Franklin, and Other Commissioners, Charged by the King of France, with the Examination of Animal Magnetism, as now Practiced at Paris. The King had called on Franklin and others to review the claims of Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer, namesake of the term “mesmerize,” that he was using magnetized wands to control the human body. What was apparently going on here was hypnotism. Franklin and the commission concluded what was happening was mere psychological manipulation and Mesmer was disgraced. Item 83. $3,500.

Another strange item is #16, John Banvard’s Description of Banvard’s Panorama of the Mississippi, Painted on Three Miles of Canvas… In the days before movies, Banvard created a three-mile long panorama of 1,200 miles of the Mississippi River up to the mouth of the Missouri. The panorama would be scrolled along since viewing a three-mile painting from one location was hardly feasible. It was, in effect, the first “motion picture,” and the largest painting ever made. It made Banvard a wealthy man for a time. I have not been able to locate what happened to this painting, though it hardly could have been misplaced. $850.