Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - December - 2010 Issue

Rare American Pamphlets from David Lesser Antiquarian Books

Lesser116

Catalogue 116 from David Lesser.


By Michael Stillman

David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books is back with a new catalogue of Rare Americana, number 116 for the Woodbridge, Connecticut, bookseller. Lesser specializes in American pamphlets, an important means of communicating ideas in the days long before Facebook and Twitter. They even afforded enough space to convey serious, complex thoughts, though adequate space does not always translate to intelligent ideas. Nevertheless, these pamphlets will provide a healthy insight into American thinking in the period from one to two-and-one half centuries ago. Here are a few examples.

Samuel F. B. Morse was first a notable painter, and then one of the great inventors of the 19th century. He is most remembered for the invention of the telegraph, and the Morse Code that was used to send messages. Morse may also have been one of those combinations of genius and craziness, for his political views were filled with conspiracy theories and plain old ugliness. Morse ran for Mayor of New York in 1836, thankfully receiving only a small number of votes, on an anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic platform. At this time, he even wrote a book about "foreign conspiracies" against America, with the Irish and the Catholic Church prime targets. In time, though being a northerner, Morse would become a vehement supporter of slavery. By the time of the Civil War, Morse was also seeing conspiracies on the part of the British, whom he concluded through some twisted logic had caused America's Civil War. He wrote about his theory in 1862 in item 120, The Present Attempt to Dissolve the American Union, a British Aristocratic Plot. Morse wanted to blame the British for the evil of creating slavery, while also establishing that slavery was good and that their later actions to abolish it were also evil, this leading to the war between South and North in America. Morse gets around this seeming conflict by saying that it was the slave trade which was evil, because of the terrible conditions under which the British transported the slaves, but that slavery itself was okay. Morse had the semi-good sense not to put his name on the book as author, attributing it only to "B," but the vouching for the remarks by Morse's brother, newspaper editor Sidney Morse, kind of gave things away. Priced at $150.

Item 20 is a legal opinion in one of numerous lawsuits by what may have been the most litigious woman ever: Statement of Facts in Relation to the Dismissal of Mrs. Martha Bradstreet's Suits. This decision came from the Federal District Court of Northern New York in 1831. She lost. She appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, and lost again. Mrs. Bradstreet was the step-granddaughter of a hero of the French and Indian War, who had been granted a large tract of land near today's Utica, New York. She also inherited claims from several other relatives. However, by the time she arrived in America, most of those lands had been settled by others, and legal claims were at best murky. So began a lifetime of litigation, countless suits against numerous purchasers of land Ms. Bradstreet believed was hers. The lack of success in her claims never deterred Martha, who fought for the rest of her life. At one point she was represented by Aaron Burr, but her lawsuits were so numerous she had to handle most herself. As such, she is seen as something of a pioneer in women's rights, though I'm sure those whose land she tried to seize had other words for her. At one point, she even attempted to have Congress impeach a judge who consistently ruled against her, but was unsuccessful in this endeavor as well. $250.

Here is an item that might surprise some of today's Republicans who believe that English exclusively should be the language of America. Item 60 is Das Leben Des Obersten Fremont, published in 1856. It is a pamphlet supporting the candidacy of the first Republican presidential nominee, John C. Fremont, and it is written in German. Many Germans immigrated to America during the 1840s and 50s, and the Republicans wanted to reach those voters in the language they best understood. This came at the height of the Know-Nothing Party, an anti-immigrant (which often meant anti-German) party that made a serious run at the presidency with former President Millard Fillmore as their standard-bearer. Meanwhile, the Democrats were primarily concerned with keeping the South happy in an attempt to avoid secession. This left the Republicans room to appeal to the concerns of recent immigrants. Fremont lost anyway, but by the next election, the Republicans would take power. Item 60. $350.

Item 17 is a catalogue for a major industry of its time (1879 or 1880), but one with a limited future. It is the Boston Buckboard Company's Catalogue. Despite the name, this was a New Haven company, but with financial backing from Boston. It was formed at this time to produce higher end carriages, including the "Doctor's Wagon" and "Family Pride." The company fell into difficulties a few years later, but would reorganize itself in 1885, and was still going at the turn of the century. We have been unable to follow its history after this, but one can guess that it was eventually done in by that new-fangled contraption, the automobile. $350.

David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books may be reached at 203-389-8111 or dmlesser@lesserbooks.com. Their website is www.lesserbooks.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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