Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - December - 2005 Issue

18th and 19th Century Americana from Lesser Antiquarian Books

The latest catalogue of Rare Americana from David M. Lesser.


By Michael Stillman

Americana collectors cannot help but look forward to the latest offerings from David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books. Lesser always presents an intriguing assortment, primarily items from the mid-18th to the late 19th century. Many concern the Revolutionary and Civil War periods, or the troubling times which led up to those confrontations. These were the days which shaped the nation, and Lesser manages to find material which brings the discussions and disagreements that molded this land back to life. It is a fascinating look at the thinking of America's forefathers (and occasionally, foremothers). Some make their descendants proud; others make you wonder what on earth they were thinking. Here are a few examples of what we mean.

On September 5, 1756, when Pastor Timothy Harrington of First Church in Boston gave this speech, the colonists were struggling through the long French and Indian War. The good pastor thought this was a message from God when he published his speech entitled, Prevailing Wickedness, and Distressing Judgments, Ill-boding Symptoms on a Stupid People. Well, those "stupid people" would have their revenge when the French conceded defeat in 1763, but at this time, the British had suffered a major beating in the Battle of Monongahela, and Harrington saw a Divine hand in that defeat. Item 76. $275.

John Adams has been rehabilitated in recent years for the many contributions he made to the young nation. However, the Alien and Sedition Acts will forever be a blot on his administration. This Report of the Committee to Whom were Referred...Certain...Petitions Complaining of the Act, Intitled "An Act Concerning Aliens..." presents a remarkable argument from the House of Representatives justifying these laws. Now that we find ourselves in a time when the primary qualification for appointment to the federal judiciary is to be passive in applying constitutional rights, this argument is most instructive. These congressmen promoted an emasculation of constitutional rights that would make even the strictest of "strict constructionists" proud. The Adams administration had taken the position that it was free to punish individuals for speech it did not like. Herein, the argument is made that the first amendment provides no protection against such behavior. The requisite part of the amendment states, "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press..." In an argument worthy of strict construction, they argue that a literal reading only prevents the government from applying prior restraint to free speech. Nothing in it, they argue, prevents the government from punishing this "free" speech after it is made. Freedom of the press, they say, "consists in permission to publish, without previous restraint upon the press, but subject to punishment afterwards for improper publication." Of course, this type of freedom of speech is available in even the most repressive of nations. You are free to speak your mind, but you had better be prepared to suffer the consequences. Perhaps we too will see a return to such a literal reading of our precious Bill of Rights soon. Item 3. $1,250.

Rare Book Monthly

  • 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
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    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
  • Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [RUTH, George Herman “Babe” (1895-1948)]. Signed photograph. Circa 1930s. 191 x 248 mm. $1,500 to $2,500.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: HARRISON, Benjamin. Document signed (“Benj Harrison”) as governor of Virginia, certifying the service of Daniel Cumbo, a Black Revolutionary soldier. $6,000 to $9,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: ONE OF THE FIRST PRINTED ANNOUNCEMENTS OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. $4,000 to $6,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
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    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: FIRST PRINTING OF LINCOLN’S IMMORTAL GETTYSBURG ADDRESS. $4,000 to $6,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: HIGHLY IMPORTANT MORMON ARCHIVE. ALLEY, George. Archive of 23 Autograph Letters Signed by Mormon Convert George Alley to His Brother Joseph Alley. $10,000 to $20,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [AVIATION]. [ARMSTRONG, Neil A.] Aviation Hall of Fame Gold Medal MS64 NGC, Awarded to Neil Armstrong in 1979. $2,000 to $3,000.
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    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: NEWLY DISCOVERED FIRST PRINTING OF "WITH MALICE TOWARDS NONE... " FROM THE ONLY NEWSPAPER ACTUALLY ALLOWED TO PARTICIPATE IN LINCOLN’S SECOND INAUGURAL PROCESSION. $4,000 to $8,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: THE MOST IMPORTANT GEORGE WASHINGTON DOCUMENT IN PRIVATE HANDS; GEORGE WASHINGTON’S COMMISSION AS COMMANDER IN CHIEF, 1775, ONE OF ONLY TWO ORIGINALS. $150,000 to $250,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: A VERY RARE ACCOUNT OF BLACKBEARD’S DEATH AND ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PIRATE ITEMS EXTANT. $3,000 to $5,000.
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    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: EDISON, Thomas. Patent for Edison’s Improvements on the Electric-Light, No. 219,628. [Washington, D.C.: U.S. Patent Office], 16 September 1879. $2,000 to $3,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [VIETNAM WAR]. The original pen used by Secretary of State William P. Rogers to sign the Vietnam Peace Agreement, Paris, 27 January 1973. $10,000 to $15,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: SONS OF LIBERTY FOUNDER COLONEL BARRÉ ANNOTATED TITLE-PAGE, “WHICH OUGHT TO ROUSE UP BRITISH ATTENTION”. $4,000 to $6,000.

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