Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - September - 2006 Issue

The South, Slavery, and More from David Lesser Antiquarian Books

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The South, Slavery...etc. from David M. Lesser.


By Michael Stillman

The latest catalogue from David Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books is headed The South, Slavery, The Civil War, Reconstruction, Afro-Americana. Lesser has a knack for finding material that truly reflects its time. This catalogue is filled with the debates that took place in 19th century America, and many pertained to the most contentious and difficult issue the nation faced - slavery. The ringing words of northern abolitionists, the increasingly strident defenses of the "peculiar institution" from the South, and even the pleas of the middle-of-the-roaders who tried to find some sort of compromise, are all heard in these documents. As you read through the descriptions of so many of these works, it is hard not to feel the impending doom, a nation headed toward a cataclysmic disaster, a split so deep that nothing but brute force could ever resolve the differences. Lesser offers not just a collection of books, but a look at America dealing with an irresolvable conflict. Here are a few examples.

Item 7 is a perverse message of "hope" for slaves written by Thomas Bacon in the colonial era. It would be here reprinted in 1842 for the "Society for the Advancement of Christianity in South Carolina." The aim of this so-called "Christian" society was to convince slaves that it was in their own best interests to passively accept their fate. The book's title is Sermons by the Rev. Thomas Bacon, of Maryland, First Published in 1763. On the Duties of Servants. Bacon's thesis was that slaves were serving God just as well as the most important of leaders, and God appreciated their labors equally. Nonetheless, being slaves was the role they had been called to, and therefore they should obediently serve their masters as they would serve God. "Poor creatures! You little consider, when you are idle and neglectful of your master's business...what faults you are guilty of towards your masters and mistresses are faults against God himself." Unlike the typical slaveholder, Bacon educated his slaves, quite progressive and humanitarian for his era, and yet he hoped to use that education to convince slaves to be accepting of their status, rather than seek freedom. Priced at $500.

Popular sovereignty was a pre-war doctrine made famous by Stephen A. Douglas, Abraham Lincoln's noted protagonist. In the two decades before the Civil War, the burning issue was whether slavery would be permitted in new states being formed in the West. Popular sovereignty would have allowed residents of these states to decide for themselves, thereby avoiding rancorous fights in Congress. However, while Douglas is most associated with the principle, it was the basis of Lewis Cass's 1848 candidacy for the presidency. Democrat Cass, like Douglas, hoped to be all things to all people with this compromise. However, Whig candidate Zachary Taylor did Cass one better in being all things to all people, simply refusing to enunciate positions on the major issues of the day. Voters on all sides of the spectrum could imagine Taylor shared their own views, so they elected him over Cass. Item 39 is General Cass on the Wilmot Proviso. Cass opposed the Wilmot Proviso, which would have banned slavery in territories obtained from the Mexican Cession, in favor of popular sovereignty. His position antagonized many northern Democrats, some of whom defected to the new Free Soil party, helping assure Cass' defeat. $350.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Jean de Mandeville, <i>Reysen und Wanderschafften durch das Gelobte Land,</i> Strassburg, 1488. Sold for $106,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> José González Cabrera Bueno, <i>Navegación Especulativa, y Práctica,</i> Manila, 1734. Sold for $55,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. Sold for $65,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Louise Bourgeois, <i>He Disappeared Into Complete Silence,</i> portfolio with complete text & 9 engravings, 1947. Sold for $413,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Erich Maria Remarque, <i>All Quiet on the Western Front,</i> first American edition, Boston, 1929. Sold for $9,375.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Sir William Russell Flint, gouache & watercolor illustration for Homer's <i>Odyssey,</i> 1924. Sold for $22,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Kurt Vonnegut, archive of 12 letters, signed to his family, 6 illustrated, 1930s-40s. Sold for $12,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Oscar Wilde, <i>Lady Windermere's Fan,</i> first edition, presentation copy, signed & inscribed, London, 1893. Sold for $27,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Emil Cardinaux, <i>St. Moritz,</i> 1918. Sold for $17,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> R.J. Waters, 3 panoramas of the San Francisco earthquake & fire, 1906. Sold for $21,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Album with 200 cartes-de-visite, including images by Felice Beato, John Thompson & F.W. Sutton, Japan & China, 1863-69. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. Sold for $40,000.
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Bonhams New York: Fine Books and Manuscripts Including the World of Hilary Knight. December 5, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> KNIGHT, HILARY. The Original Portrait of Eloise that Hung at the Plaza Hotel. $100,000 to 150,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> WARHOL, ANDY. "Iced Lemon Delight," an Original Watercolor Presented to Hilary Knight's cat, Phoebe $8,000 to 12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> SENDAK, MAURICE. <i>Where the Wild Things Are.</i> PRESENTATION COPY, INSCRIBED with drawing to Hilary Knight in the month following publication. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams New York: Fine Books and Manuscripts Including the World of Hilary Knight. December 5, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> NOLAND, KENNETH. Original circle painting, untitled, acrylic and ink on cloth, for cover of monograph $8,000 to 12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> TOULOUSE-LAUTREC. <i>Histoires Naturelles,</i> 1899. With 22 original lithographs. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>A Collection of Poems,</i> [1711]. The first authoritative and complete collected Sonnets.$15,000 to 20,000
    <b>Bonhams New York: Fine Books and Manuscripts Including the World of Hilary Knight. December 5, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> LONDON, JACK. <i>The Call of the Wild.</i> 1903. First edition, first state jacket. $2,000 to 3,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> FROST, ROBERT. Autograph Manuscript of "Build Soil," 12 pp, 1932-1936. $15,000 to 20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> GOULD, GLENN. Glenn Gould's extensively annotated copy of Bach's Goldberg Variations $100,000 to 150,000
    <b>Bonhams New York: Fine Books and Manuscripts Including the World of Hilary Knight. December 5, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> PLATH, SYLVIA. EARLY Autograph Letter Signed, about her beginnings as a writer, Northampton, MA, 1951. $7,000 to 10,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> HOUDINI, HARRY. A collection of 11 cast iron shackle and lock items from Houdini's personal collection. $20,000 to 30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec 5:</b> M4 ENGIMA MACHINE, with very rare RARE HYDRA KEY ENVELOPE. $400,000 to 600,000

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