Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - February - 2021 Issue

Western Americana from the William Reese Company

Western Americana.

The William Reese Company has issued their Catalogue 373 of Western Americana. There is not a whole lot of cowboys and Indians, gunfighters and lawmen sort of things. Most items are true accounts of what people saw. Sure, a few things are a bit enhanced. Anything about Buffalo Bill is bound to be an exaggeration. Still, much of what you will find reveals accurate pictures, often manuscript writing by obscure people who experienced life in the Old West. Here are a few examples.

 

Of all the iconic landmarks in the American West, this must be the most spectacular of all. We begin with Tertiary History of the Grand Canon District... with Atlas to Accompany the Monograph on the Tertiary History of the Grand Canon District. The atlas was prepared by Clarence E. Dutton, while the illustrations in the Tertiary History were prepared by Thomas Moran and William Henry Holmes. The publication date was 1882. Reese describes the illustrators as “...arguably the two greatest American topographical artists to record this era of westward expansion.” It contains 42 plates, maps and charts, including a panorama across three sheets that if placed together would be 17” x 90”. This comes from a scientific expedition with Dutton being the scientist, but as he explained in the preface, “I have in many places departed from the severe ascetic style which has become conventional in scientific monographs.” The same can be said of the illustrations which better capture the canyon than even the photography of the day could. This is not the dry scientific publication we have come to expect today. Item 70. Priced at $12,500.

 

Dallas, Texas, doesn't sound like a place one would go to set up a community of Utopian socialists, but it was a different place in 1854. Primarily, there was hardly anyone there. Victor Considerant was a French national who came to Dallas County to scout out a site for his planned democratic socialist community. He purchased a large tract of land near today's downtown Dallas, and returned to France to gather a group of several hundred immigrants. He described his plan in 1854 in this book, Au Texas. He describes both Texas in detail and the plans for the community known as La Reunion. While Considerant was able to get together a following of people who wished to live in this Utopian commune, it ultimately proved unsuccessful. Unfortunately, while the settlers had many skills, they were not good farmers. A late blizzard in 1856 destroyed the crops, and the extreme, dry heat of summer made it even worse. And then there were the locusts. The settlers began to leave, some back to Europe, others to different locations in America. Eventually, the settlement disappeared, with few traces left today, but the name lives on in Dallas' Reunion Tower and Reunion Arena. Item 26. $7,000.

 

If you have wondered what the typical overland trail traveler heading for Gold Rush California looked like, you can rest assured it was nothing like the figure seen on this catalogue's cover. This is a lithograph circa 1850 from Kellogg and Comstock (it was also printed by Nathaniel Currier in his pre-Currier and Ives days). Based on the sign, he has walked 350 miles from St. Louis with 1,700 miles still to go to his destination. His neat outfit and carefully placed implements that he would need in California look nothing like someone out on a 2,000 mile journey by foot, especially since he is lacking in the supplies necessary to get to California. The caption reads The Independent Gold Hunter on the Way to California, and beneath it “I Neither Borrow Nor Lend.” Item 14. $4,750.

 

No one wants to spend time in prison, but this man spent 18 years in one of the most notorious prisons America has ever known. Item 49 is Ten Years in a Dungeon. Inferno of Infernos. By One Who Passed Eighteen Years of His Life in Prison. Alternatively, you can go with the cover title, The Horrors of Life in a Dungeon. Eighteen Years in a Missouri Penitentiary. The inmate author was Solitary Johnson, and you can guess where he got the name “Solitary.” He was also known as John B. “Firebug” Johnson and that nickname explains why he was in there for so long. Johnson arrived as a typical prisoner, convicted of robbery, but came to be known as the the meanest, most disruptive prisoner they ever knew. He was also unbreakable. He attempted many escapes and started three fires in prison. One of them caused half a million dollars in damages and killed several other inmates. As a result of his behavior, he ended up spending most of his years in the “dungeon,” the prison basement where he was held in solitary confinement. He endured beatings, hunger, thirst, darkness, silence, and cold. However, he writes that nothing “is so ravaging upon the constitution as perpetual solitary confinement.” Years were spent with no contact, not even with guards. It would have driven anyone insane, except for Johnson. On top of that, Johnson, who was illiterate when he entered, emerged from prison well-read and quoting Shakespeare. He learned to read and write alone in his cell. This rare work, circa 1900, appears to be a precursor of a book he wrote with Charles Hoffman published in 1903 entitled Buried Alive for 18 Years in the Missouri Penitentiary. $1,000.

 

Here is one of those exaggerations. Wild Bill Hickok was many things – gunfighter, stage driver, outlaw, lawman, army scout and gambler among them. He was a remarkable man, but like Buffalo Bill, not quite as remarkable as he or others portrayed him. Item 7 is Life and Marvelous Adventures of Wild Bill, the Scout. Being a True and Exact History of All the Sanguinary Combats and Hair-Breadth Escapes of the Most Famous Scout and Spy America Ever Produced. It was written by J. W. Buel, who claimed to know the wild man and have had access to his diary. Nonetheless, it is less than the “true and exact history” of Bill's exploits he claimed. Buel was a prolific writer and one imagines he knew a good story would sell books regardless of its accuracy. Still, it does tell us some things about Hickok if one can separate fact from fiction, and his book is the first biography of Wild Bill written. It is also quite rare. $3,500.

 

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
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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
  • Manuscript Masterpieces from the Schøyen Collection
    London auction, 11 June
    BROWSE NOW
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Holkham Hebrew Bible. In Hebrew, decorated manuscript on vellum [Toledo, 2nd quarter 13th century]. £1,500,000–3,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Crosby-Schøyen Codex. In Coptic, manuscript on papyrus [Upper Egypt, middle 3rd century / 4th century]. £2,000,000–3,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Geraardsbergen Bible. In Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Southern Netherlands, late 12th century]. £700,000–1,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now : Jean de Courcy (fl. 1420). The Chronique de la Bouquechardiere. In French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1480]. £200,000–300,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The ‘Catherine de Medici’ Hours. In Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1485]. £120,000–180,000
  • Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
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    Forum, May 30: Potter (Beatrix). Complete set of four original illustrations for the nursery rhyme, 'This pig went to market', 1890s. £60,000 to £80,000.
    Forum, May 30: Dante Alighieri.- Lactantius (Lucius Coelius Firmianus). Opera, second edition, Rome, 1468. £40,000 to £60,000.
    Forum, May 30: Distilling.- Brunschwig (Hieronymus). Liber de arte Distillandi de Compositis, first edition of the so-called 'Grosses Destillierbuch', Strassburg, 1512. £22,000 to £28,000.
    Forum, May 30: Eliot (T.S.), W. H. Auden, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, Robert Lowell, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, & others. A Personal Anthology for Eric Walter White, 60 autograph poems. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum, May 30: Cornerstone of French Enlightenment Philosophy.- Helvetius (Claude Adrien). De l'Esprit, true first issue "A" of the suppressed first edition, Paris, 1758. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Szyk (Arthur). The Haggadah, one of 125 copies, this out-of-series, Beaconsfield Press, 1940. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Fleming (Ian). Casino Royale, first edition, first impression, 1953. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Japan.- Ryusui (Katsuma). Umi no Sachi [Wealth of the Sea], 2 vol., Tokyo, 1762. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Computing.- Operating and maintenance manual for the BINAC binary automatic computer built for Northrop Aircraft Corporation 1949, Philadelphia, 1949. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Burmese School (probably circa 1870s). Folding manuscript, or parabaik, from the Court Workshop at the Royal Court at Manadaly, Burma, [c.1870s]. £8,000 to £12,000.
  • Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    K. Marx, Das Kapital,1867. Dedication copy. Est: € 120,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Latin and French Book of Hours, around 1380. Est: € 25,000
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    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
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    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
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    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Breviarium Romanum, Latin manuscript, 1474. Est: € 20,000
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    C. J. Trew, Plantae selectae, 1750-73. Est: € 28,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    M. Beckmann, Apokalypse, 1943. Est: € 50,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Ulrich von Richenthal, Das Concilium, 1536. Est: € 9,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    I. Kant, Critik der reinen Vernunft, 1781. Est: €12,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Arbeiter-Illustrierte Zeitung (AIZ) / Die Volks-Illustrierte (VI), 1932-38. Est: €8,000

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