Not Fair from Bull's Head Rare Books

- by Michael Stillman


Not Fair from Bull's Head Rare Books

Bull's Head Rare Books has published their second catalogue, appropriately called Catalogue Two. Also, Not Fair. Why isn't it fair? Is it unfair? Or maybe the condition of the material is better than fair (undoubtedly)? No, the answer is that the catalogue contains material meant for the New York Book Fair is September that was cancelled. So here is what you missed, spelled out in greater detail in the subtitle, Architecture, Slavery & Abolition, Botany & Gardening, Gastronomy, Penmanship, Literature, Photography, Modern Art, &c. I think it's safe to say this catalogue is not focused on a specific topic. There is a little of everything. Here are some samples.

This was one of the most highly used architectural books in America during the colonial period though it was published in London. The title is The City and Country Builder’s and Workman’s Treasury of Designs: or, The Art of Drawing, and Working The Ornamental Parts of Architecture by Batty Langley, published in 1740. As the title says, the focus is on ornamental parts rather than designing the structure. It covers designs for such features as doors, windows, bookcases, ceilings, and such. Bull's Head notes that George Washington used these plans for the Palladian window in Mount Vernon. However, its use was not limited to houses of the wealthy as it was used in designing modest houses too, to make them look richer. Item 28. Priced at $3,500.


William Godwin was a notable British philosopher and writer of the late 18th to 19th century. He was a novelist, notable for the Gothic novel, but also political works. He was a political radical and anarchist, views that did not make him England's most popular man. But, for all his notoriety, he is best remembered for his family, his wife and daughter. His wife, Mary Wollstonecraft, was a pioneer of the women's movement, known for her controversial book A Vindication of the Rights of Woman from 1792. She died only a few years after the birth of their daughter, who also became a famous writer. That was Mary Shelley, wife of the poet Percy Shelley. Mary Shelley is famous for her Gothic novel, Frankenstein. Offered is a letter Godwin wrote in 1817 to an unknown recipient. He requests the correspondent to return a bust he owned of Irish politician and lawyer John Philpot Curran whose legal defense of Irish radicals would have pleased Godwin. No wonder he wanted Curran's bust back. Godwin writes, “Sir, I have always much wished to have the plinth and bust of my friend, Mr. Curran, which I lent you some years ago, returned to me; and the melancholy event of his death has now greatly increased my anxiety on the subject.” Godwin announces he will send over a messenger next Monday to make sure the bust is finally returned. Item 19. $2,500.


Item 14 is an important early work on slavery from an abolitionist point of view. The title is An Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species, Particularly the African. Translated from a Latin Dissertation Which was Honoured with the First Prize in the University of Cambridge, for the Year 1785, with Additions. The author was Thomas Clarkson, this being the first American edition from 1786. Clarkson originally wrote the essay in Latin for a prize competition (he won). However, he personally became involved deeply in the subject, devoting much of his life to shining a light on the brutalities of slavery and seeking to have it abolished. He was one of the most influential people in convincing British authorities to first ban the slave trade, and then abolish slavery entirely. Clarkson was instrumental in convincing MP William Wilberforce to lead the drive for abolition in Parliament. $6,500.


This next piece may have done even more to turn public sentiment against slavery. It is a broadside Plan for an African Ships [sic] Lower Deck with Negroes in the Proportion of Only One to a Ton, from 1789. It is a bird's-eye view of the lower deck where humans were packed together and chained. The lack of space and mobility is ghastly. William Wilberforce said of the space “So much misery condensed in so little room is more than the human imagination had ever conceived.” The image shows 294 people packed next to each other with no space between. The amount of room for each person is spelled out below the image: “In the Men's apartment, the space allowed to each is six feet in length, by sixteen inches in breadth. – The Boys are each allowed five feet by fourteen inches. - The Women five feet ten inches by fifteen inches; and the Girls, four feet by one foot each. -The perpendicular height between the Decks, is five feet eight inches.” The image of the Plan was created by William Elford. It is so straightforward and unemotional it is more shocking that any dramatic words could ever be. That was Elford's plan, he being sickened by the practice. Many copies would later be made of this image, including in America, but this broadside and a pamphlet version were the first, produced in Plymouth, England. Both, this especially, are extremely rare. Item 44. $125,000.


For those wishing to make drinks a little stronger than Kool-Aid, here are your instructions: A Useful Guide for Grocers, Distillers, Hotel & Tavern-Keepers, and Wine and Spirit Dealers of Every Denomination; Being a Complete Directory for Making and Managing All Kinds of Wines and Spirituous Liquors. The author/imbiber was William Beastall and he published his guide in 1829. You can learn about making wine, brandy, rum, cordials, liquers, whatever your taste. Presumably, these recipes will still work today. Beastall wrote his guide to encourage Americans to make their own spirits, not be dependent on imports. Item 6. $2,250.


Bull's Head Rare Books may be reached at 908-310-8554 or Their website is