Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - June - 2010 Issue

18th and 19th Century American Documents from Joe Rubinfine

Rubinfine165

Joe Rubinfine looks at early America.


By Michael Stillman

Joe Rubinfine has prepared his List 165 of American Historical Documents. Anyone with a love for American history will greatly appreciate Rubinfine's catalogue. It is filled with documents written by the people who made America's history, from presidents and generals, to someone on the absolute bottom of the nation's social ladder - a slave woman. The documents in this latest collection primarily cover a century in time - from the late 18th to the late 19th century. From Washington and Lincoln to Kitty the slave, they are all here to recall America as they knew it.

For America's first 30 years of independence, the greatest conflict with, and most egregious wrongdoing by its previous colonial master was the impressment of American merchant seamen into the British Navy. Eventually this nefarious practice would be a major cause of the War of 1812, after which England finally abandoned it. British naval vessels would stop American merchant ships and round up anyone they believed to be a British citizen and conscript them into the Royal Navy. Since they considered anyone born in America before independence still a British citizen, this effectively meant that anyone who spoke English was likely to be taken. Item 25 is a January 28, 1801 letter from John Marshall, then Secretary of State, soon to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, to David Lenox, U.S. Agent in London for impressed seamen. In it he encloses proofs of citizenship for several American sailors. When America could prove to British authorities that seized seamen were born in America, they would reluctantly let them go. Priced at $7,000.

Item 21 is a 1785 letter from John Jay, future Chief Justice and all around American diplomat, to John Adams, future U.S. President. The topic was the weakness of the federal government under the Articles of Confederation and the need to strengthen it. It may sometimes be forgotten today when talk of the Constitution often represents an argument for a weaker federal government, that it was written to provide for a stronger national government. Writes Jay to fellow supporter of a strong federal government Adams, "Your letters are I am sure useful and inforce those federal ideas which cannot be too forcibly inculcated or too strongly impressed...it is the duty of her leading Characters to cooperate in measures for enlarging and invigorating it" [federal government]. $15,000.

George Washington was also a great supporter of the new constitution, though publicly he said very little. He felt he should adopt the role of neutral statesman, but in private letters, he voiced his strong support. Item 2 is a lengthy 1788 Washington letter to William Smith expressing his thanks to a group which had presented him with a gift, a miniature (15 foot) boat named the Federalist. Washington offers his profuse thanks and recognition of "American ingenuity," and then notes that Smith's Maryland and Baltimore's views "expressed in their recent decision on the subject of a general Government, will not...be without its due efficacy on the Minds of their Neighbors..." Maryland was strongly supportive of the new Constitution and the government it would create, and he was hopeful this would spur similar support among his less enthusiastic fellow Virginians. Ultimately, the Constitution was passed and survives to this day, but the Federalist sunk in a hurricane a few weeks later. Item 2. $150,000.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Charles Loupot, <i>Les Cigarettes Mekka,</i> 1919. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Plinio Codognato, <i>Cicli Fiat,</i> circa 1910. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> L.N. Britton, <i>Warning! Consider the Possible Consequences,</i> c. 1917. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Leonardo Bistolfi, <i>Première Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs Modernes,</i> 1902. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Leonetto Cappiello, <i>Paquet Pernot / Biscuits Pernot,</i> 1910. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jul 15:</b> Jessie Tarbox Beals, archive of signed photographs, 15 silver prints, c. 1930. $6,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Francesco Nonni, <i>Font Meo / Acqua Minerale Naturale,</i> 1924. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Frederick Winthrop Ramsdell, <i>American Crescent Cycles,</i> 1899. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> <i>Be a Tight Wad! Own Something!</i> designer unknown, 1925. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Candido Aragonese de Faria, <i>Chamonix–Mont–Blanc,</i> c. 1910. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> W.E.J., <i>Irishmen Avenge the Lusitania,</i> c. 1915. $2,000 to $3,000.
  • <center><b>Trillium Antique Prints & Rare Books<br>Fine Art<br>Antique Engravings & Lithographs<br>Works on Paper<br>Accepting bids until August 7</b>
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> Maitres Affiches by MUCHA - Papier a cigarettes Job. 202. $5,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> De Bry - Map of the West Indies (including Florida, Cuba, Jamaica, Bahamas, Parts of Central & South America, Sea Monsters, Ships). $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> Gould - Short-billed Toucan (Ramphastos Brevicarinatus). $5,000 to $8,000.
    <center><b>Trillium Antique Prints & Rare Books<br>Fine Art<br>Antique Engravings & Lithographs<br>Works on Paper<br>Accepting bids until August 7</b>
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> Redoute, Folio - Pale Iris - Iris flavescens. 375. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> Gillray - Light Expelling Darkness or The Sun of the Constitution. $200 to $500.
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> Gerard - Wild Hemp or Weed, Cannabis. 708. $150 to $450.
    <b>Trillium, Aug. 7:</b> Shaw & Nodder - Head of The Dodo. 165. $100 to $300.
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Your Own Sylvia:<br>Sylvia Plath’s letters to Ted Hughes and other items,<br>Property of Frieda Hughes<br>9 to 21 July 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Sylvia Plath. Family photograph album ("The Hughes family Album"), 1957-1962. £30,000 to £50,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Sylvia Plath. Typed letter signed, to Ted Hughes, on "my own private doctrine", with a poem, 5 October 1956. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Sylvia Plath. Pen and ink portrait of Ted Hughes, [1956]. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Your Own Sylvia:<br>Sylvia Plath’s letters to Ted Hughes and other items,<br>Property of Frieda Hughes<br>9 to 21 July 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. Joint autograph letter signed, to William and Edith Hughes, March 1960. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Photographic portrait by David Bailey, inscribed by Plath, 1961, and another press photo. £800 to £1,200.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Tarot de Marseille. Deck of cards owned by Sylvia Plath. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Pair of gold wedding rings. £6,000 to £8,000.

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