Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - May - 2003 Issue

A Sketch Of the Life and Voyages Of Captain Alvah Dewey

Bk3

A Sketch of the Life and Voyages of Captain Alvah Dewey.


Comprising A Period of Twenty-Six Years
By Silas Judd, esq.
Printed by Isaac Lyon in Chittenango: 1838


Reviewed by Bruce McKinney

On a keyword search in the AED (Americana Exchange Database) for Chittenango, which is neither a hot sauce or a dance, I ran across A Sketch of the Life and Voyages of Captain Alvah Dewey...and did an ABE (Abebooks.com) search, as I often do with books that seem obscure. This one was there and priced at $750. I sent an email inquiring about the condition and price and ended up paying $656 delivered. It’s a good buy.

The book isn’t worth tons of money but the priced records are encouraging. In the AED there are nine records covering the period 1945 to 1988 and priced $65 to $750. The William Reese Company sold a copy in 1992 for $1,500 and there the trail goes cold. There are no auction records in the ABPC (Americana Book Prices Current) going back to 1975. I’d call it uncommon and unappreciated. The copy I bought is quite nice in original boards. I immediately turned it over to Coriander Reisbord to have the binding invisibly firmed up as it was quite tender. One hundred and fifty dollars poorer, I then sat down to read it. And it’s a very good read.

Mr. Dewey, born in New York State in the late 18th century, declared for the open seas while quite young. On page 6 he stopped at Poughkeepsie thereby confirming it as part of my Hudson River Valley collection and then moved on to connect to Connecticut, New York City, Baltimore, the Caribbean, Texas and France. The book was definitely written by a book dealer with an eye to future appreciation. It’s published in a place that was, at the time, smaller than a mouse’s sneeze and is today close by Cazenovia Junior College, where crazed young men from nearby men’s colleges sought the company of young women in the 1960’s (as I can personally attest). For imprint specialists it is a rarity.

The book itself doesn’t spend much time discussing Mr. Dewey in the first person. He does this and does that but motivation and feelings are not a significant portion of this 113 page epistle. It is strong on New York place names such as Albany, Hudson and Utica, makes references to New York City and Baltimore and then gets the man out on the ocean where he switches boats every six pages rising in life to Captain before perhaps falling victim to the Peter Principle and returning to First Mate.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Eric Carle, <i>The Very Hungry Caterpillar,</i> hand-painted collage. Sold for a record $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Charles Addams, <i>Couple passing a giant bird house,</i> watercolor cartoon for <i>The New Yorker,</i> 1948. Sold for $16,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Miriam Troop, <i>Rain on Laundry Day,</i> oil on canvas, cover for <i>The Saturday Evening Post,</i> 1940. Sold for $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Rockwell Kent, <i>To All Fascists,</i> ink broadside for The League of American Writers, circa 1937. Sold for $6,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Jo Mielziner, <i>Pet Shop Drop,</i> backdrop design for <i>Pal Joey</i> on Broadway, 1940. Sold for a record $55,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Lee Brown Coye, acrylic cover illustration for the 25th anniversary of <i>Weird Tales,</i> 1944. Sold for $18,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Virgil Finlay, <i>The Outsider & Others,</i> pen & ink dust jacket illustration for H.P. Lovecraft's book, 1939. Sold for $5,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Al Hirschfeld, <i>Paul Robeson as Othello,</i> illustration for <i>The New York Times,</i> 1942. Sold for $68,750
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Frederic Remington, pen & ink illustration for <i>A Scout with the Buffalo Soldiers</i> in <i>The Century</i> magazine, 1889. Sold for $17,500.
  • <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> EARLY AVIATION PHOTOGRAPHY ARCHIVE. Chronicling 20th century aviation from the earliest Wright Brothers images through commercial and military applications. $50,000 to $70,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> FIRST TELEPHONE CALL TO THE MOON. Partial transcription signed by Apollo 11 astronauts and President Nixon. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> SPUTNIK-1 EMC/EMI LAB MODEL, 1957. Full scale vintage test model of the Sputnik-1 satellite, Moscow, [February, 1957]. $400,000 to $600,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> Apollo 11 Beta cloth crew emblem, SIGNED BY THE ENTIRE APOLLO 11 CREW. $8,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> GEMINI 1/8 SCALE MODEL. Rarely seen large-scale contractor's model. $3,000 to $5,000
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.

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