Samuel Gedge Ltd. has issued Catalogue XX. No, this isn't a collection of pornographic works. That "XX" is roman numerals. This is catalogue #20. Samuel Gedge offers a variety of material, a few books but more documents of various sorts – very old items, often surprising survivals. There are many, unusual, surprising things to be found here. These are a few of the odder ones we found.
We start with a vellum manuscript containing the Ten Commandments, Lord's Prayer, and Apostles' Creed, all in micrographic text, surrounded by an architectural border. This is a remarkable feat for anyone, but that Matthias Buchinger could create this is amazing. Buchinger was born without hands of feet. He had stumps with no more than somewhat fin-like appendages. Nevertheless, he could wow audiences with his many skills. Along with artworks, including a self-portrait with seven psalms in tiny text woven into his hair, he was a magician. He could make things disappear and reappear. Other skills included playing half a dozen musical instruments and building ships in bottles. Born in Germany, Buchinger performed before three German Kings and England's King George I. Along the way, he managed to marry four times and father 11 children, plus possibly a few others out of wedlock, though these are things regular people can do as well. This particular item was created in 1723 on behalf of John Thomson, an Edinburgh merchant. Item 8. Priced at £2,500 (British pounds, or roughly $3,879 U.S. dollars).
We go from the sublime to the ridiculous. Item 38 is a collection of documents pertaining to what is known as the "Snuff Box Affair." A bizarre dispute at a party led to a tragic ending between two close friends. The two men were young attorney William Dalton and his 22-year-old friend Horace Paul (later Horace St. Paul). They were at a party with Mr. Paul's two sisters, Mr. Dalton's fiancee and her sister, and a few others. A dispute arose over a snuff box Mr. Dalton had given Miss Green, his fiancee, but apparently temporarily retrieved because she was using it too often. I am not sure of the details as there are differing versions, so this extensive collection will be useful. It seems that Miss Green asked Mr. Paul for some of his snuff, tried it, declared it was not as good as hers, whereupon Paul asked Dalton to try some of her snuff. Dalton gave Paul Miss Green's snuff box, whereupon Miss Green asked to have it back. So poor Horace Paul was caught between Miss Green wanting her snuffbox back, and having received it from Mr. Dalton, who did not want her to have it back. Paul held onto it, a scuffle with Dalton ensued, Dalton became enraged, Paul went home, and then wrote a letter to Dalton, issuing a challenge to a duel. Dalton went to Paul's house, they agreed that honor dictated they go through with this, they embraced, drew swords, and Paul stabbed Dalton to death. Seriously. This actually happened. Paul took off for France to avoid punishment in England. Fourteen years later, he returned to England after securing a pardon and became an English diplomat in France, reporting on early cooperation between France and America during the beginning of the American Revolution. Dalton, obviously, had no future career. This archive includes contemporary accounts by people at the party and later material relating to Paul's pardon. Item 38. £2,750 (US $4,266).
Next is a handbill for what must have been an amazing contraption, scheduled for exhibition in Bristol in 1762: ...An extraordinary curious Machine, Eight Feet high, and Eleven Feet broad; Showing all the different Works of the Miners, Above and under Ground, As it is practiced in His Majesty's Mines... The automaton displayed various working parts of a mine, such as washing the ore, raising it from the mine, smelting, and such. It also contained 100 figures with all in motion. Lectures were provided from 10:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. so long as there were at least four persons present. The price to view it was two shillings. Presuming this is not a gross exaggeration, it sounds like this must have been an amazing machine to watch in action, yet Gedge has been unable to find any other records pertaining to this seemingly spectacular automaton. Item 1. £750 (US $1,163).
Item 45 is Fifty Anecdotes on Various Subjects. In T. M. Lucas's Embossed Stenographic Characters, by J. W. Gowring, published in 1867. In the days before Braille, there had been attempts to create books for the blind using raised characters. Thomas Mark Lucas was a shorthand teacher, so rather than using an alphabetical system, he employed something more like stenography. This would allow the blind to read much faster. Lucas' system had some success in his native England. It was adopted by the London Society for Teaching the Blind to Read in 1838, the year Lucas died. It continued in use until the 1860's, when it was superseded by the more universally adopted Braille system. This must have been one of the last works published using Lucas' system since 1867 was at the end of its run. £1,750 (US $2,715).
The Distin Family was a touring troupe of musicians who made a stop in Bristol during August of 1845. Item 31 is a notice which announces ...Mr. Distin & His Four Sons, the original and only performers on the newly-invented instruments, The Sax Horns! The Sax Horn was developed by Adolph Sax in the 1830's, and was patented in 1845. The Distins were not exaggerating in describing it as "newly-invented." The saxhorn is not so well known today, but another of Sax's inventions certainly is – the saxophone. Item 31. £350 (US $543).