Fine Books and Manuscripts from James Cummins Bookseller

- by Michael Stillman

Fine Books and Manuscripts from James Cummins Bookseller

James Cummins Bookseller has issued Catalogue 142 Fine Books & Manuscripts. There are many significant and important items, including personally written manuscripts by notable people. However, they don't fit within any particular category. There is a wide array of subjects and categories of material offered. Here are a few samples.


We will begin with an import piece of Americana by one of if not the greatest leader in the country's history. Abraham Lincoln was not a notable political figure when he ran for the senate in Illinois in 1858. He was but a one-term congressman, out of office ten years. However, his speeches were electrifying, and this was one of the most so, printed in these Proceedings of the Republican State Convention held at Spingfield [sic], Illinois, June 16, 1858. It is what became known as his “House Divided” speech. Lincoln was prescient. He said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect [it] will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.” Lincoln was right. The Union was not dissolved, despite the South's attempt do so, the house did not fall, and it became all one thing, but it took a terrible war to resolve it. Today, the Union seems more divided than it has been since Lincoln's time and once again we wonder can the house stay so divided and not fall, and if it survives, will it be this way or the other? Item 55. Priced at $8,500.


Now here is something a lot lighter and more pleasant than slavery and civil war. The book is When We Were Very Young by A. A. Milne, published in 1924. It is a book of poetry which introduced Milne's famous characters Winnie-the-Pooh and Christopher Robin to the public. This is a special copy. It is inscribed by Milne, not just to a fan but to his wife, Daphne. It reads, “To the girl we love from her two boys. Nov. 2, 1924.” One of her “boys” was the then 42-year-old Alan Alexander Milne, and the other four-year-old Christopher Robin Milne. Item 63. $75,000.


Here is an inscribed book by someone with little in common with Milne, less with Lincoln. This is also a children's book, but targeted more at somewhat older boys. The title is Lion Jack: A Story Of Perilous Adventures Among Wild Men And The Capturing Of Wild Beasts, Showing How Menageries Are Made, published in 1876. The improbable author is the greatest showman on Earth, P. T. Barnum. It really isn't a very accurate picture of how menageries are made. Jack is a young man who stows away on a ship going to Africa specifically to capture animals for a show not unlike Barnum's. Along the way he saves the ship from pirates, rescues a girl, and captures animals in unexpected ways. This is definitely fiction but the adventure probably appealed to boys in the 19th century. The book is inscribed “To Clinte.” This was his grandson, Clinton Hallett Seeley, who changed his name to Clinton Barnum Seeley after his grandfather's will provided he would be given $25,000 if he did so. P. T. wished his grandson to run his show, but Clinton tired of it quickly, became an unsuccessful stockbroker and later had a career as a banker. Item 4. $3,000.


This is a major item for sportsmen, fishers in particular. It is the most valuable book on fishing, The Complete Angler or the Contemplative Man's Recreation. I guess if you're sitting around by the water waiting and waiting for a fish to bite, you have plenty of time for contemplating. The author was Izaak Walton, the book published in 1653. Considering how important the book is to the field, Walton was quite modest, describing it as “not unworthy of perusal of most anglers.” Unlike Barnum, he was no salesman. Item 106. $137,500.


Clara Barton was a remarkable woman. First a teacher then a government clerk, when the Civil War began, and she heard about the suffering of the wounded, she set out to do something about it. She was a nurse, but her aims were higher. She rounded up medical supplies, which were grossly lacking, to help the wounded soldiers. After the war, she took on the job of responding to inquiries from family about dead and missing soldiers. She became involved in the woman's suffrage movement, and in the 1870s went to help the Red Cross in Europe. There was no Red Cross in America at the time, so in 1881 she founded it. And one more thing – she became an advocate for the rights of the freed slaves. This is a signed manuscript she wrote to Congress saying the freed slaves were not being assisted enough and asked permission to use government property to train them in skills that would enable them to earn a living. In her letter, Barton notes that the slaves have been granted their freedom, but not given the tools to become useful citizens. She writes, “Anyone who shall have visited the Freedmen since the close of the war as your memorialist has from time to time, and become fully cognisant of the helpless condition they have been placed in, their abject want and utter inability to provide the necessary means of subsistence, despite their earnest endeavors, and implorings for employment, will readily appreciate the responsibility which has been brought upon us...” She pointed out that they could find nothing better than the menial employment they had as slaves, so she wanted to teach the freedmen skills needed to earn a good living. Congress approved her request. Item 6. $16,500.


James Cummins Bookseller may be reached at 212-688-6441 or The website is