Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - July - 2016 Issue

American Beginnings from the William Reese Company

The Bay Psalm Book on the cover of William Reese's Americana – Beginnings.

The William Reese Company has issued a catalogue of Americana – Beginnings. Cortes to Lewis and Clark, 1524-1814. Everything in here is exceptional. These are truly foundational items in American history. These books and related paper are not for the fainthearted collector. They will require a significant budget, but for those so fortunate, with an interest in Americana, this catalogue is a must. For others, it is still a fascinating read, filled with history lessons, and perhaps something to aspire to one day as a collector. Here are a few examples.

 

We begin where Reese begins, with the first Latin edition of Hernan Cortes' second letter. If you think his first letter would be better, you are right, but that letter has been lost to history. This is as original as it gets. In his letter, Cortes describes his conquest of Mexico, especially his journey to Tenochtitlan, today part of Mexico City. He writes about the spectacular city he found, its buildings, its institutions, and the people who inhabited it. He also describes his battle against forces of his old boss and rival Velazquez. It was in this letter, composed on October 30, 1520, that Cortes gave the land its name of New Spain. Sadly, Cortes not only discovered the Aztec empire, he also destroyed it, hungry for its riches. Cortes letter was first published in 1522, this first Latin edition coming in 1524. As is commonly the case, it is bound with Peter Martyr's De Rebus... also published in 1524. This book is a description of recently discovered islands in the West Indies. Item 1. Priced at $40,000.

 

Next up is the best source for information about New England prior to the arrival of the Pilgrims. Item 8 is John Smith's A Description of New England: Or the Observations, and Discoveries, of Captain John Smith... published in 1616. It was Smith's book that provided a guide for the Pilgrims looking to settle in the area. Smith described Plymouth as, "an excellent good harbour, good lands, and no want of anything but industrious people." The Indians probably would not have appreciated the last part of that remark. Smith visited the area twice, in 1614 and 1615. He was taken prisoner for a while by the French on the second visit, affording him time to write this book. It was Smith who gave the land the name "New England." It previously was called northern Virginia. $125,000.

 

The book displayed on the cover of this catalogue represents a milestone in American printing. While the title is The Psalm Hymns and Spiritual Songs, of the Old and New-Testament... it is commonly referred to as the Bay Psalm Book. It was the first book printed in America. Not this particular copy, as it is a 1693 seventh edition of the book first published in 1640. However, it is the earliest edition of this first American book that is at all practically available. There are eleven copies of the first edition still known to exist. Nine are held by institutions unlikely to ever relinquish their copies, one by the Old South Church in Boston, and one in private hands. The one in private hands was recently sold by the Old South Church, which once owned five copies, but is now down to just one. If the privately held copy ever becomes available again (not likely), it may be out of your price range as it sold in 2013 for $14.2 million, the most ever paid for a printed book. Reese points out that there are no known copies remaining of the second, fourth, fifth, or six editions. There are two copies of the third edition, both in institutions and unlikely to ever return to the market. That leaves this seventh edition as the oldest one still available (it is the only surviving copy of the seventh edition). There are a few survivors among editions 8-12 but all of these are held by institutions. Item 16. $750,000.

 

The first permanent English settlement in America came in 1620. By 1774, the relationship between England and its colonies had totally broken down. Angry Boston colonists, upset by British taxation without representation, threw British tea in Boston Harbor, the Boston Tea Party. Rather than trying to diffuse the tension, the British responded with harsh reprisals. Though some attempts at reconciliation were later made, the relationship was essentially over when in the spring of 1774, England imposed five new laws on the colonies, known as the Intolerable Acts. Of course, that was not the British name for them. They thought them just reprisals for the spilled tea. The Americans saw it differently. The first act closed Boston harbor until the colonists repaid the East India Company damages for the lost tea. The second allowed for the suppression of riots by sending American defendants off to England for trial, where courts were likely to be far less sympathetic. The third placed regulations on the Massachusetts government that reduced the power of the colonists. The fourth required Massachusetts residents to quarter British soldiers in their homes. Naturally, these soldiers would not have been welcome. The fifth gave Quebec control over certain western American lands, along with greater tolerance toward French Catholics, intended to cause greater loyalty on their part to the Crown in disputes between the American colonists and the colonial power. Rather than succumbing, the colonists instead called together the first Continental Congress. The battle was on. Item 28. $35,000.

 

That spring, England appointed General Thomas Gage as the Military Governor of Massachusetts. It was not a popular choice among colonists. Rather than trying to ease the tensions, Gage just threw more fuel on the fire. In June of 1775, he issued A Proclamation. He would describe it as the imposition of martial law. This came two weeks after Lexington and Concord, and Gage accused the patriots of being cowards, hiding "behind Walls and lurking in Holes." Gage describes the "infringements" upon the Crown as "too many to enumerate," and "too atrocious to be palliated." He follows with much similar hyperbole, but then magnanimously offers to pardon all those colonists who agree to immediately lay down their arms and return to peaceable behavior, except for Samuel Adams and John Hancock, whose behavior was unforgivable. Several printings were made of this proclamation, some by printers sympathetic to Britain, some not. This one comes from Benjamin Edes, who was not. He faithfully prints Gage's words, but above the Proclamation, Edes provides the following introduction:

 

"The following is a copy of an infamous thing handed about here yesterday, and now reprinted to satisfy the curiosity of the public. As it is replete with consummate impudence, the most abominable lies, and stuffed with daring expressions of tyranny, as well as rebellion against the established, constitutional authority of the American states, no one will hesitate in pronouncing it be the genuine production of that perfidious, petty tyrant, Thomas Gage."

 

That was not the intro General Gage was looking for. Item 33. $75,000.

 

The William Reese Company may be reached at 203-789-8081 or amorder@reeseco.com. Their website is www.williamreesecompany.com.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Gonnelli:
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    Gonnelli: Cramer, [Picasso, Chagall , Miró], Trente ans d'activité. Starting price 4800€
    Gonnelli: Futurism
    Gonnelli: Avienus, Opera. 1488. Starting price 1200€
    Gonnelli: Vimont, Relation de ce qui s'est passé en la Nouvelle France, en l'année 1642. Starting price 5000€
    Gonnelli: Goedart, Metamorphosis et historia naturalis insectorum. 1662.
    Gonnelli: Il Petrarcha con la spositione di M. Giovanni Andrea Gesualdo.
    Gonnelli: Poblacion, De usu astrolabi compendium.
  • Toronto Book Auctions
    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [ART BOOK MONOGRAPH] DAVID BURLIUK WITH ORIGINAL DRAWING and Signed twice. David Burliuk Rare ACA Gallery exhibition catalogue, undated. CA$400 – 800
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [ART BOOK MONOGRAPH] KAWS: COMPANIONSHIP IN THE AGE OF LONELINESS. Text by Margaret Atwood. National Gallery of Victoria, Australia, 2019. $CA400 - 800
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: SIGNED. LAWRENCE WEINER: POSTERS. Nova Scotia College of Art, Canada,1987. CA$800 – 1,200
    Toronto Book Auctions
    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: WILBUR SMITH: THE DARK OF THE SUN. Heinemann, UK, 1965. Signed First edition. CA$800 – 1,200
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: ROBERTSON DAVIES: LEAVEN OF MALICE. SIGNED Clark, Irwin, & Co., Canada. 1954. 1st edition. CA$400 – 600
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [THE NOTABLE TRAILS LIBRARY]. 8 VOLUMES SOLD TOGETHER. INCLUDING: THE TRIAL OF DR. X; ROE V. WADE; THE GALILEO AFFAIR; THE TRIAL OF BERNHARD GOETZ… CA$300 – 500
    Toronto Book Auctions
    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [MILITARY FICTION]. 8 VOLUMES SOLD TOGETHER. INCLUDING: Canada's Royal Military College. REVIEW, THE STONE FRIGATE, A HISTORY OF THE RMC… CA$300 – 400
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [WW1] CANADIAN (C.S.E.F.) SIBERIA 1918-1919 PHOTO ALBUM. With approximately 303 original official war photographs, photo-postcards, and personal photographs. CA$8,000 – 10,000.
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: HANS BELLMER: THE DOLL. 1995, 1st Ed. CA$150 – 300.
    Toronto Book Auctions
    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: FAN HO; HONG KONG YESTERDAY. ModernBooks edition, 2006. First edition. 4to. CA$300 – 600.
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: TARYN SIMON: AN AMERICAN INDEX OF THE HIDDEN AND UNFAMILIAR. Hatje Cantz, Germany, 2012. Third edition. CA$600 – 1,000.
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: BARBARA KRUGER PICTURE/READINGS. [Self-Published], 1978 First edition. CA$800 – 1,200.
  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
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    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
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    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD
  • Koller International Auctions
    Books & Autographs
    20 March 2024
    Koller, Mar. 20: DADA - Der Zeltweg. Redaktion: Flake, Serner, Tzara. Zürich, 1919. CHF 5,000 – 8,000
    Koller, Mar. 20: Jespers, Floris - Peeters, Jan. Kinderlust. Antwerpen, J. F. Bogaerts & R. R. Dodson, [1923]. CHF 2,000 – 3,000
    Koller, Mar. 20: FARBENLEHRE - Chevreul, M. E. De la Loi du contraste simultané des couleurs et de l'assortiment des objets colorés. Paris, 1839. CHF 4,000 – 5,000
    Koller, Mar. 20: BOTANIK - Schrank, Franz de Paula von. Flora Monacensis, seu plantae sponte circa Monachium nascentes. München, 1811-1818. CHF 20,000 – 30,000
    Koller, Mar. 20: French Bible manuscript. Latin manuscript on parchment. With 81 illuminated, ornamental and figurative initials. Paris, c. 1250. CHF 90,000 – 120,000
    Koller International Auctions
    Books & Autographs
    20 March 2024
    Koller, Mar. 20: Gradual for the use of a Dominican convent. Latin manuscript on parchment, with Flemish rubrics in black and red. Mecheln (?), c. 1520. CHF 25,000 – 40,000
    Koller, Mar. 20: Calendar. French manuscript on parchment. With 12 large colored thorn leaf initials on a gold background. Paris, c. 1380/1390. CHF 40,000 – 60,000
    Koller, Mar. 20: Freud, Sigmund. Collection of 23 handwritten letters to Alphonse Maeder in Zurich. In addition to 4 letter drafts from Maeder to Freud. 2 February 1910 - 21 September 1913. CHF 50,000 – 80,000
    Koller, Mar. 20: Jung, Carl Gustav. Collection of 26 autograph and 3 typescript letters and a postcard to Alphonse Maeder. 1911-1918. CHF 20,000 – 30,000
    Koller, Mar. 20: Nietzsche, Friedrich, philosopher. Handwritten letter signed to Richard Wagner. Basel, September 27, 1876. CHF 20,000 to 30,000

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