Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - February - 2011 Issue

Some More and Less Eccentricities from Garrett Scott, Bookseller

Bishop Onderdonk's trials highlight the cover of Garrett Scott's latest catalogue.

Garrett Scott, Bookseller, has issued his Catalogue 31, Recent Acquisitions, Early 2011. Scott explains, "This catalogue edges away from the stern eccentricities of my previous effort." Could have fooled me. It is true that not every item in a Scott catalogue was written by a crackpot. There are some government publications and university speeches in here, but by and large, this catalogue is not a place to go to hear the latest in rational discourse. Let's take a look inside, and let you decide whether some of these writers should be lauded or locked up.

 

If you are wondering from whence the Dukes of Hazzard arose, item 9 is Pre-Historic Man in Tennessee. The Problem Solved, by John O. Blanton. Tennessee, he informs us, was first settled by a Hindoo race, which we now refer to as the Mound Builders. So what happened to the Mound Builders? They were wiped out by an invasion of giant Huns from northern Asia working with a race of Vishnu-worshipping midgets.  Yes, this really happened. The book carries an author's presentation inscription to the Smithsonian Institution in 1896. Why the Smithsonian chose to get rid of this piece of archeological history remains a mystery. Priced at $275.

 

As long as we are telling true stories, item 64 is The Life of Ann Moore, of Tutbury, in Straffordshire:  Giving an Account of Her Wonderful Existence Without Food, For Above Three Years Past… This circa 1811 pamphlet by Edward Anderson tells the tale of "The Fasting Woman of Tutbury," whose fast would extend to five years before she was finally nailed. Until then, while the medical community was quite suspicious, the general public, including author Edward Anderson, was for the most part taken in. She permitted herself to be observed for 16 days, but the large rotating group of observers allowed for a bit of cheating. Anderson attributed her amazing survival to divine intervention, but when a more rigorous 30-day watch was imposed in 1813, she broke down in a little over a week. It was not so much the inflow as the outflow that gave her away. She also claimed to pass no urine, a claim contradicted by the awful smell in her room, despite the fact that she insisted the window always be kept open. $225.

 

Physicians are generally known for their compassion, though it may be somewhat hard to discern in this 1902 printing of an address given by Dr. L.B. Tuckerman of Cleveland:  Venereal Disease as a Factor in the Moral Evolution of the Race. Most people, particularly physicians, do not see V.D. as a positive for humanity, but good Dr. Tuckerman was a man of deeper insight. "Venereal disease…plays a very important part in uplifting the race as a whole to a higher standard of morality. It enables the entire class of moral idiots of the sensual type to gradually but steadily eliminate itself by auto-sterilization, together with those who are fools enough to marry into it." Well, there was at least one moral idiot it didn't eliminate, though apparently something else soon did as Dr. Tuckerman died the following year. The kindly doctor had to add a little racism to his diatribe by claiming that the black race was headed toward the "graveyard of nations" as it had become promiscuous since the end of slavery, sort of like the Hawaiians and Indians before them. Item 102. $225.

 

The title page depicted on the cover of this catalogue - No Church Without a Bishop - relates to the 1845 church scandal of New York's Episcopal Bishop Benjamin Treadwell Onderdonk. The Bishop was accused by several ladies of inappropriate touching. Author Alonzo Potter delicately describes one such alleged occurrence as, "The bishop…again inserted his hand into her bosom, this time very low down, and with the palm inward, and toyed with his handful in a way which, Miss Jane naively says, it is out of her power to describe." That sounds like a compliment for Bishop Onderdonk, though it is unlikely it was so intended. Whether the Bishop actually was a bit too touchy/feely is debated to this day. He had taken one side in what was an intense theological debate of the day. It made him enemies. A split decision in a church trial resulted in Bishop Onderdonk being suspended though never removed as Bishop, a post he continued to hold in suspension for the rest of his life. Item 76. $225.

 

Here is a book whose value is somewhat akin to that of a Thomas Wise forgery. It becomes valuable for not being what it is supposed to be. Item 75 is the anonymously written The Philosophy of Animal Magnetism, published in 1837. This book rested in well-deserved obscurity until 1928 when Joseph Jackson wrote a book claiming the title was the work of Edgar Allan Poe. Poe had been fascinated by Mesmerism and with this and a few weak connections, Jackson came to his conclusion. He also was able to sell his copy of this book for the astounding price of $2,500 in 1931. Few believe his claim any longer, and Scott notes that a copy was later found with a "from the Author" inscription not in Poe's handwriting. Nevertheless, the history behind this book adds to its interest and value. $475.

 

Garrett Scott, Bookseller may be reached at 734-741-8605 or garrett@bibliophagist.com. His website is www.GSBbooks.com.

Rare Book Monthly

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