Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - September - 2020 Issue

African Americana from the William Reese Company

African Americana from the William Reese Co.

The William Reese Company's latest catalogue offers a selection of African Americana. It covers all sorts of material, books, documents, broadsides, pamphlets, photographs, personal archives. Dates range from early 18th century to the 20th. Much deals with slavery and abolitionism, and also Reconstruction and Jim Crow. Writers and creators are both black and white, and among the latter, both sympathetic and hostile. Some have little to do with race, such as family photo albums, posters for shows and musical performances, guides for African-American owned businesses, photographs of black celebrities. Nevertheless, race always comes to the forefront when it comes to African-Americans like with no other people, and one wonders when this obsession by others will finally be replaced with a focus on shared humanity. These are a few samples of what will be found in this catalogue.


We begin with the image on the catalogue's cover. It is from a commercially produced photo album of workers on a potato farm in Hastings, Florida in the 1920s. There are 18 photographs, ten of which feature African-American workers, in the fields, on tractors, and loading freight trains. Others were taken of poor white laborers on the farm. In the 1920s, Hastings, in the northeastern part of the state, was producing many train car loads of potatoes. A local cooperative packed and shipped them under the name “Superior Brand New Potatoes.” Hastings was known as the “Potato Capital of Florida.” I admit I didn't know they even grew potatoes in Florida, let alone had a capital. Do they grow oranges in Idaho? Item 46. Priced at $1,750.


Item 12 is Resolutions, at the Late Mass Convention, Holden at Concord, October 15, 1846. This was a Democratic party convention in New Hampshire, and the resolutions came from George Barstow. Barstow wasn't a typical Democrat in that he was strongly anti-slavery. His resolutions supported the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia and its spread to any territories captured during the then active Mexican War. According to John Greenleaf Whittier, who supported Barstow, his resolutions were “clamored down and refused consideration.” This action was attributed to party leaders, notably Franklin Pierce. Barstow's friends had his resolutions printed in this pamphlet, saying, “the whip of the negro driver surely cannot have any terrors for the Democrats of New Hampshire, even if it be snapped at them by Frank Pierce, the dictator.” Six years later, Pierce would be elected President, the quintessential “Northern man with Southern principles.” Item 12. $400.


In the late 19th century, most of what Americans heard as African American music came from minstrel shows, white people covered in blackface presenting racist stereotypes of black people. On the other hand, there was occasionally the real thing, and such was the Fisk Jubilee Singers. They were formed in 1871 at Fisk University, a college created by missionaries in Nashville after the Civil War to educate the freedmen and their families. Fisk had financial issues and so their music director formed the Jubilee Singers to go on the road and earn some money on behalf of the college. Instead of being caricatures, they were dignified, talented singers singing mostly traditional songs carried over from the days of slavery. On March 24, 1875, they performed in Lynn, Massachusetts. Item 45 is a promotional broadsheet, printed on both sides, carrying two notable recommendations. On one side, it says Read This Carefully. A Song from Frederick Douglass. It explains that recently the singers had been invited to spend an evening at Douglass' home at which time he taught them a song he knew from his slave days, Run to Jesus. He said that while singing that song, the idea came to him to escape from slavery. On the other side, the heading reads, Read This Carefully. Mark Twain and the Jubilee Singers. It prints a letter from Twain of March 8 saying he was going to hear the Fisk Jubilee Singers for the fifth time and requested they sing John Brown's Body. That was an interesting choice, a song honoring the anti-slavery martyr sung by Union soldiers early in the war, whose tune was co-opted for the better known Battle Hymn of the Republic a short time later. $750.


No event during the time of slavery struck fear into the hearts of white Southerners like this one, and yet they still could not bring themselves to deal with the cause, slavery. Item 137 is Authentic and Impartial Narrative of the Tragical Scene which was Witnessed in Southampton County (Virginia) on Monday the 22nd of August Last, when Fifty-five of its Inhabitants (Mostly Women and Children) Were Inhumanly Massacred by the Blacks! This is an account of the Nat Turner Rebellion, a pamphlet by Samuel Warner published in 1831. Nat Turner was a slave who had for years believed he would be called upon to lead his people to freedom. He took an eclipse of the sun as a message that the time had come. They attacked whites in the area as mercilessly as they had been treated for centuries. The rebellion was short lived and whites killed twice as many blacks, many without regard to whether they were participants, but even with the revenge, the message was in – so long as there was slavery, there was always a risk of rebellion, especially considering the number of slaves in an area was often greater than the number of whites. It led to attempts by some whites, notably the grandson of Thomas Jefferson, to bring about a gradual end to slavery, as had earlier been done in the North, but ultimately the South chose to live with the fear and act brutally in order to preserve slavery. Item 137. $13,500.


Eventually, the South's intransigence on the issue of slavery led to the civil war. By March 11, 1864, when this broadside was issued, there was already an air of desperation for their cause. Like Nat Turner, they inflicted much damage on their foe, but their foe had superior manpower and the imbalance was taking its toll. The South could not find more recruits while the North still could. There was one more source of healthy strong men in the south, but their interests were in a Northern victory, not a Southern one. They had little reason to be loyal to the Confederacy. The South was desperate, thereby opening military service to blacks, free and enslaved. Those who were slaves would be “volunteered” or conscripted through their owners, not their own choice. The owners, not the slaves, would be compensated for their labor. The slaves had no choice. Naturally, the Confederates feared that if armed, the slaves would turn their guns on them, so they were limited to “certain capacities,” providing support, building forts and such, as opposed to fighting. In 1865, the war almost lost, Jefferson Davis even recommended allowing slaves to fight in return for getting their freedom, but that freedom had already been granted by the Union so there remained a risk that they would turn on the South. That plan was never adopted. Item 32 is Circular. Adjutant and Inspector General's Office, General Orders, No. 32...An Act to Increase the Efficiency of the Army by the Employment of Free Negroes and Slaves in Certain Capacities. $5,000.


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

Rare Book Monthly

  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    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
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    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
  • Leland Little, Apr. 26: First Edition of Piccolomini's De La Sfera del Mondo (The Sphere of the World), 1540.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: First Edition of Vellutello's Commentary on Petrarch, With Map, 1525.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: Finely Bound Definitive, Illustrated Edition of I Promessi Sposi, 1840.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: Rare First Edition of John Milton's Latin Correspondence, 1674.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: Giolito's Edition of Boccaccio's The Decamerone, with Bedford Binding, 1542.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: First Edition of the First Biography of Marie of the Incarnation, with Rare Portrait, 1677.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: First Aldine Edition of Volume One of Cicero's Orationes, 1540.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: First Edition of Bonanni's Illustrated Costume Catalogue, with Complete Plates, 1711.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: An Important Incunable, the First Italian Edition of Josephus's De Bello Judaico, 1480.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: First Edition of Jacques Philippe d'Orville's Illustrated Book of the Ruins of Sicily, 1764.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: An Incunable from 1487, The Contemplative Life, with Early Manuscript.
    Leland Little, Apr. 26: Ignatius of Loyola's Exercitia Spiritualia, 1563.
  • Jeschke Jadi
    Auction 151
    Saturday, April 27, 2024
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 546. Christoph Jacob Trew. Plantae selectae, 1750-1773.
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 70. Thomas Murner. Die Narren beschwerung. 1558.
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 621. Michael Bernhard Valentini. Museum Museorum, 1714.
    Jeschke Jadi
    Auction 151
    Saturday, April 27, 2024
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 545. Sander Reichenbachia. Orchids illustrated and described, 1888-1894.
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 1018. Marinetti, Boccioni, Pratella Futurism - Comprehensive collection of 35 Futurist manifestos, some of them exceptionally rare. 1909-1933.
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 634. August Johann Rösel von Rosenhof. 3 Original Drawings, around 1740.
    Jeschke Jadi
    Auction 151
    Saturday, April 27, 2024
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 671. Jacob / Picasso. Chronique des Temps, 1956.
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 1260. Mary Webb. Sarn. 1948. Lucie Weill Art Deco Binding.
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 508. Felix Bonfils. 108 large-format photographs of Syria and Palestine.
    Jeschke Jadi
    Auction 151
    Saturday, April 27, 2024
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 967. Dante Aligheri and Salvador Dali. Divina Commedia, 1963.
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 1316. Tolouse-Lautrec. Dessinateur. Duhayon binding, 1948.
    Jeschke Jádi, Apr. 27: Lot 1303. Regards sur Paris. Braque, Picasso, Masson, 1962.
  • Doyle, May 1: Thomas Jefferson expresses fears of "a war of extermination" in Saint-Dominigue. $40,000 to $60,000.
    Doyle, May 1: An exceptional presentation copy of Fitzgerald's last book, in the first issue dust jacket. $25,000 to $35,000.
    Doyle, May 1: The rare first signed edition of Dorian Gray. $15,000 to $25,000.
    Doyle, May 1: The Prayer Book of Jehan Bernachier. $10,000 to $15,000.
    Doyle, May 1: Van Dyck's Icones Principum Virorum Doctorum. $10,000 to $15,000.
    Doyle, May 1: The magnificent Cranach Hamlet in the deluxe binding by Dõrfner. $7,000 to $10,000.
    Doyle, May 1: A remarkable unpublished manuscript of a voyage to South America in 1759-1764. $3,000 to $5,000.
    Doyle, May 1: Bouchette's monumental and rare wall map of Lower Canada. $12,000 to $18,000.
    Doyle, May 1: An rare original 1837 abolitionist woodblock. $8,000 to $12,000.
    Doyle, May 1: An important manuscript breviary in Middle Dutch. $15,000 to $25,000.
    Doyle, May 1: An extraordinary Old Testament manuscript, circa 1250. $20,000 to $30,000.
  • Fonsie Mealy’s
    Rare Book & Collectors Sale
    24th April 2024
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: McCarthy (Cormac). Cities of the Plain, N.Y., 1998, First Edn., signed on hf. title; together with Uncorrected Proof and Uncorrected Advance Reading Copies, both signed by the Author. €800 to €1,000.
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: Stanihurst (Richard). De Rebus in Hibernia Gestis, Libri Quattuor, sm. 4to Antwerp (Christi. Plantium) 1584. First Edn. €525 to €750.
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: Fleischer (Nat.) Jack Dempsey The Idol of Fistiana, An Intimate Narrative, N.Y., 1929, First Edn. Signed on f.e.p. by Rocky Marciano. €400 to €600.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Rare Book & Collectors Sale
    24th April 2024
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: Smith - Classical Atlas, Lond., 1820. Bound with, Smiths New General Atlas .. Principal Empires, Kingdoms, & States throughout the World, Lond. 1822. €350 to €500.
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: Rare Auction Catalogues – 1856: Bindon Blood, of Ennis, Co. Clare: Sotheby & Wilkinson. €320 to €450.
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: [Mavor (Wm.)] A General Collection of Voyages and Travels from the Discovery of America to the Commencement of the Nineteenth Century, 28 vols. (complete) Lond., 1810. €300 to €400.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Rare Book & Collectors Sale
    24th April 2024
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: Mc Carthy (Cormac). Outer Dark, N.Y. (Random House)1968, Signed by Mc Carthy. €250 to €300.
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: Three signed works by Ted Huges - Wodwo, 1967; Crow from the Life and Songs of the Crow, 1970; and Tales from Ovid, 1997. €200 to €300.
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: The Garden. An Illustrated Weekly Journal of Horticulture in all its Branches, 7 vols. lg. 4to Lond. 1877-1880. With 127 colored plates. €200 to €300.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Rare Book & Collectors Sale
    24th April 2024
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: Procter (Richard A.) Saturn and its System: Containing Discussions of The Motion (Real and Apparent)…, Lond. 1865. First Edn. €160 to €220.
    Fonsie Mealy, Apr. 24: [Ashe] St. George, Lord Bishop of Clogher, A Sermon Preached to the Protestants of Ireland, now in London,... Oct. 23, 1712, London 1712. Second Edn. €130 to €180.

Review Search

Archived Reviews

Ask Questions