Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - June - 2006 Issue

Fascinating and Unusual Americana from David Lesser Antiquarian Books

The latest Rare Americana from David Lesser.


By Michael Stillman

We have received catalogue 90 of Rare Americana from David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books, and as always, it is a treat for those who collect in the field. Lesser's catalogues are filled with the unusual and obscure, though the items generally deal with the critical issues of the day. There are pamphlets of early anti-slavery societies, those that paved the way for the debates that would eventually tear the nation apart. There are accounts of major trials, perhaps forgotten today, but the ones that would have filled Court TV if Court TV had existed in the 19th century. We hear political debates, theological debates, ethnic debates, all of the disputes which occupied our ancestors' time, just as new versions of the same old issues dominate our own. Democratic-Republican splits, views for and against immigration and immigrants, separation of church and state -- none of these issues are new, they just take different forms. David Lesser's catalogues are a window on the world as experienced by ordinary Americans, and as such, they are among the most fascinating we receive. Here are a few of examples.

Davy wasn't the only Crockett to die in 1836. Simeon L. Crockett also passed away that year, but unlike the frontiersman, he was no hero. Simeon Crockett was an arsonist, who set fire to a Boston tenement. Reportedly, 100 people lost their lives in that fire. If so, Crockett became victim number 101. He was tried, convicted, confessed, and was executed. The book is A Voice from Leverett Street Prison, or the Life, Trial and Confession of Simeon L. Crockett. Who was Executed for Arson, March 16, 1836. Supposedly, his behavior was caused by drink, and this book is a temperance tract as well as a criminal history. The author was probably Edward T. Taylor, prison minister who testified to the validity of Crockett's confession. Item 35. Priced at $150.

Temperance was not only an issue for the Union. Evidently the Confederacy had drinking problems as well. This problem is elucidated in Liquor and Lincoln. By a Physician, circa 1862. The unnamed physician warns that the South will not gain its freedom from "Lincoln's usurpation" if it continues to "spend the hours and days, in drinking, gambling, and too often, alas! in obscene and profane jocularity." Better to be bowed under Lincoln's yoke, he says, "than made ourselves the willing slaves of groveling passions, and depraved appetites." Item 74. $600.

John A. Wills expressed his strong support for equal rights in 1841 in this Oration, Delivered Before the Citizens of Blairsville...(Pennsylvania). He believed that all men and women had divine rights and that the government had no business taking those away. Even the unpropertied, he believed, had equal rights to the franchise. However, the following comment seems like a bit of a backhanded compliment: "They [rights] belong alike to the Indian, the Negro, and the Asiatic -- to humanity in all its forms, however degraded and disgusting -- equally with the more favored Caucasian race." Item 140. $475.

Rare Book Monthly

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    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
  • Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [RUTH, George Herman “Babe” (1895-1948)]. Signed photograph. Circa 1930s. 191 x 248 mm. $1,500 to $2,500.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: HARRISON, Benjamin. Document signed (“Benj Harrison”) as governor of Virginia, certifying the service of Daniel Cumbo, a Black Revolutionary soldier. $6,000 to $9,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: ONE OF THE FIRST PRINTED ANNOUNCEMENTS OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. $4,000 to $6,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: FIRST PRINTING OF LINCOLN’S IMMORTAL GETTYSBURG ADDRESS. $4,000 to $6,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: HIGHLY IMPORTANT MORMON ARCHIVE. ALLEY, George. Archive of 23 Autograph Letters Signed by Mormon Convert George Alley to His Brother Joseph Alley. $10,000 to $20,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [AVIATION]. [ARMSTRONG, Neil A.] Aviation Hall of Fame Gold Medal MS64 NGC, Awarded to Neil Armstrong in 1979. $2,000 to $3,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: NEWLY DISCOVERED FIRST PRINTING OF "WITH MALICE TOWARDS NONE... " FROM THE ONLY NEWSPAPER ACTUALLY ALLOWED TO PARTICIPATE IN LINCOLN’S SECOND INAUGURAL PROCESSION. $4,000 to $8,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: THE MOST IMPORTANT GEORGE WASHINGTON DOCUMENT IN PRIVATE HANDS; GEORGE WASHINGTON’S COMMISSION AS COMMANDER IN CHIEF, 1775, ONE OF ONLY TWO ORIGINALS. $150,000 to $250,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: A VERY RARE ACCOUNT OF BLACKBEARD’S DEATH AND ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PIRATE ITEMS EXTANT. $3,000 to $5,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: EDISON, Thomas. Patent for Edison’s Improvements on the Electric-Light, No. 219,628. [Washington, D.C.: U.S. Patent Office], 16 September 1879. $2,000 to $3,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [VIETNAM WAR]. The original pen used by Secretary of State William P. Rogers to sign the Vietnam Peace Agreement, Paris, 27 January 1973. $10,000 to $15,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: SONS OF LIBERTY FOUNDER COLONEL BARRÉ ANNOTATED TITLE-PAGE, “WHICH OUGHT TO ROUSE UP BRITISH ATTENTION”. $4,000 to $6,000.

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