The Latest Variety from James Cummins Bookseller
- by Michael Stillman
The Latest Variety from James Cummins Bookseller
James Cummins Bookseller has prepared the firm's Catalogue 129. Cummins offers a varied selection of fine material. Items range from books to documents, photographs, and archives. Subjects vary widely and include both fact and fiction. Here are a few samples.
First up is The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony... This is a two-volume set written by Ida Husted Harper published in 1898. Anthony had been at work pushing for women's rights and the right to vote for 50 years by that time, but she was still alive and well. In fact, she has inscribed both of these volumes to fellow suffragette Charlotte A. Thomas of Portland, Maine. One wishes a Happy New Year, the other expresses "love and admiration," from "her sincere friend and co-worker." A third volume was published after Anthony died which, not surprisingly, is not with these signed volumes. Charlotte Thomas came from a family that vigorously supported woman suffrage and abolition in Maine. Their home hosted women's advocates Susan Anthony and Lucy Stone, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, and was a stop along the Underground Railroad for escaped slaves. Item 2. Priced at $6,500.
Next we have another inscribed book, from a contemporary of Ms. Anthony, though his reputation came from fantasy, not cold reality. Item 25 is King George's Middy, by William Gilbert, published in 1871. The inscription comes not from Gilbert, but from the better known author Horatio Alger. Alger was a prolific writer, and his most successful novels followed a predictable path. A poor but hardworking boy does some wonderful deeds and ends up being recognized and rewarded, often by someone rich, and goes on to live a good middle class life. They are the classic rags to riches stories. Alger inscribed this copy to George Seligman in 1871. Alger was hired by young George's father to tutor his five sons. George and his brother Isaac were particularly fond of their instructor, as was their father, on whose recommendation Alger would later tutor future Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo. $2,500.
Item 66 is an unexpected item for 1796 Virginia, A Dissertation on Slavery: With a Proposal for the Gradual Abolition of it, in the State of Virginia. The author was St. George Tucker, a highly respected lawyer and judge in the state. Tucker thought slavery a blight on the state. It was inconsistent with the democratic and free ideals of the state. Europeans had come to America to enjoy these great rights, but Africans were denied them. Tucker consulted with leaders from the North to discuss how they dealt with slavery. Gradual emancipation was applied in some northern states, and Tucker came up with such a plan for Virginia. It had to do with gradual emancipation of the female children of slaves, which would eventually do away with slavery altogether. Tucker was not a racial egalitarian. He admitted to some prejudices, and the freed slaves would have had virtually no rights in Virginia. It was essentially a plan to free the slaves and encourage them to move elsewhere. Nonetheless, his plan was way too sympathetic to the slaves for the Virginia planters who owned slaves and controlled the legislature. It went nowhere. $2,000.
Item 75 consists of a scrapbook with 51 photographs, 15 other photographs, newspaper clippings, a menu, concert program, and other materials from the little-known Sosua community during World War II. In 1938, a conference – the Evian Conference – was held to deal with the plight of Jewish refugees escaping from Nazi controlled territory in Europe. Franklin Roosevelt called the conference in hopes of getting other nations to take in refugees, as the idea was not popular in the U. S. The conference proved a failure from an absence of takers. There was, however, one exception. Dominican Republic leader Rafael Trujillo agreed to take in 100,000 Jewish refugees and provide them with land to settle and farm. Trujillo, eventually overthrown and killed by his own people, was a dictator and generally not a notable humanitarian. Undoubtedly, he was to a large extent motivated by bringing in people he believed would help the island's economy. Nonetheless, it was a remarkable and otherwise solo gesture. Ultimately, only 800 Jewish refugees made it to Sosua, though they were able to operate a dairy and cheese factory. Germany shut off the flow of refugees out of Europe, preferring murder instead. The archive includes a typed signed letter from Trujillo promising more land if more refugees arrived and saying workers must have a place to rest and take holidays. $12,500.
Item 39 is a first English edition of To Kill A Mockingbird, published in 1960. It is in fine condition with an almost fine dust jacket. To those not familiar with the book, it is a prequel to author Harper Lee's recent best-seller, Go Set A Watchman. $1,200.