Rare Book Monthly
Book Catalogue Reviews - January - 2006 Issue
An Extensive Americana Collection at Chapel Hill Rare Books
The area was never known by the English name of "Carolana," though in time it would be controlled by the English and their American progeny, rather than the Spanish and French who named it. Carolana was the vast land adjacent to Carolina, to the south, west, and even north. Author Daniel Coxe and his father were among the earliest English explorers of the region, and they attempted to convince their countrymen to take greater interest in the land in the early part of the 18th century. The book is entitled, A Description of the English Province of Carolana. By the Spaniards call'd Florida, and the French, La Louisiane. As Also of the Great and Famous River Meschacebe, or Missisipi. The Five Vast Navigable Lakes of Fresh Water, and the Parts Adjacent. The author's father had claimed the entire area for the Crown, though few others at the time recognized it as English. Eventually, the British would win control over part of the land through the French and Indian War, and the Americans would purchase the remainder in the 19th century. The book's preface also contains the first printed proposal for a confederation of all of the British colonies. Item 60. $26,000.
Item 138 is the first edition of A History of the Great Detection, and Trial of John Murel...Together with a biographical Sketch of Mr. Virgil A. Stewart, by Augustus Walton. Stewart and Walton were one and the same. Murel, more commonly spelled John Murrell, was an outlaw, thief, and leader of a gang that contained anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of members, depending on who you choose to believe. He was probably no more than a petty thief most of his life, but Stewart's book did much to enhance his reputation. Stewart was a member of the gang, but he turned Murrell in. Apparently, Murrell specialized in stealing horses and slaves. With the latter, he would work together with the slave to steal and resell him to several owners, the promise being to deliver the slave to the North once he became too well known. However, instead, Murrell would kill him. The most spectacular of Stewart's claims was that Murrell planned a slave rebellion in the Southwest. Murrell earned a chapter in Mark Twain's "Life on the Mississippi," along with his recognition in this book. $7,500.
The James brothers also wormed their way into Twain's book. Younger brother Jesse was killed for reward money in 1882, but Frank lived to a ripe old age, never being convicted for his crimes. While awaiting trial in 1883, James wrote this letter to his wife, Annie. You would never imagine it came from a notorious criminal. Among his words to "My Dear Wife," are "...I know you are by far the best woman on earth," and "You can't come too soon for me. I wish to God you were here now." It is signed, "Your Loving Husband, Ben." Ben? It was code. James used the name "Ben" so that the letters would not be stolen by outsiders. The letter is accompanied by an 1890's picture of the James' farm in Kearney, Missouri. Item 169. $4,500.
Item 217 is The Life, Adventures and opinions of Col. George Hanger. Written by Himself. Published in 1801, it recounts Hangar's experience fighting on the British side during the Revolutionary War. At one point he prophecies, "one of these days, the Northern and Southern powers will fight as vigorously against each other, as they both have united to do against the British." Somehow, Hangar foresaw what would happen to America long before Americans did. $1,750.
Item 202 is an autographed letter from Vice-President Martin Van Buren to former President James Madison, dated March 26, 1836. In it, Van Buren introduces writer George Bancroft who plans to visit America's Fourth President. Bancroft was writing the second volume of his "History of the United States..." at the time. The 85-year-old Madison died just three month later, while Van Buren was elected to the presidency in the fall of that year. $5,000.
You will find Chapel Hill Rare Books online at www.chapelhillrarebooks.com, and you can call them at 919-929-8351.