Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - June - 2008 Issue

Significant and Unusual Americana from David Lesser Antiquarian Books


A later artist's rendition of Mary Toft giving birth to rabbits.

Now we go to a case of extraordinary gullibility, a hoax perpetrated on some physicians and men of science that is both hilarious and thoroughly repulsive. In 1726, one Mary Toft of Surrey, England, claimed to have given birth to a litter of rabbits. Indeed, she produced both whole rabbits and rabbit parts. She explained that she had become obsessed with rabbits and rabbit stew. One of those who apparently witnessed one of these miraculous births was Nathaniel St. Andre, the King's surgeon and anatomist. He was fully taken in, and the theory was promulgated that intense focus on rabbits resulted in impressions on her young fetus, turning it into rabbits. Science was not so advanced in 1726. In 1727, St. Andre published A Short Narrative of an Extraordinary Delivery of Rabbets, Perform'd by Mr. John Howard Surgeon at Guilford. Eventually, Ms. Toft was discovered having rabbits smuggled into her room, where...oh God...I cannot say where she put them. Some people just go too far to play a practical joke. Actually, she was probably less interested in a prank than in securing some sort of pension for her wondrous capacity. Not surprisingly, the eminent physicians St. Andre and Howard were horribly embarrassed by the episode, but you may still have a laugh at their expense. Item 99. $600.

Item 40 is a group of eight pamphlets dated 1862-1869 concerning the Hoosac Tunnel. Begun is 1852, it took over 20 years to complete, and helped bankrupt its original builder, the Troy and Greenfield Railroad. It was designed to facilitate transportation between Boston and the Midwest. The Hoosac Tunnel, drilled through Hoosac Mountain in western Massachusetts, was no small feat. When completed, at 4 ¾ miles, it was the longest tunnel in America, and second longest in the world. One hundred ninety-five workers lost their lives during construction. The Hoosac remained the longest tunnel in North America until 1916 when Canada's Connaught Tunnel was completed, but remains the longest east of the Rocky Mountains. Though passenger service through the tunnel ended in 1958, it is still used for freight trains. Among the pamphlets are The Road to Ruin: or, the Decline and Fall of the Hoosac Tunnel (from the period when construction was stopped), The Hoosac Tunnel: Our Financial Maelstrom, and The Last Agony of the Great Bore. Despite its problems in the 1860s, the tunnel would see completion in the following decade. $250.

David Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books may be reached at 203-389-8111 or dmlesser@lesserbooks.com. The website is www.lesserbooks.com.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Ronald Reagan. Series of 37 letters to Senator George Murphy, and related material, 1968-90. £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Chaim Weizmann. Autograph letter signed, to General Sir Gilbert Clayton, 6 September 1918. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Sir Winston Churchill. Autograph letter signed, to Pamela, Lady Lytton, 1942. £20,000 to $30,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Oscar Wilde. Five autograph letters signed, to Alsager Vian, 1887. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Napoleon I. Letter signed to Admiral Ganteaume, ordering the invasion of England, 22 August 1805. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Horatio, Viscount Nelson, and Emma Hamilton. Two autograph letter signed, to Catherine and George Matcham, 1805. £6,000 to £8,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Frances Palmer, <i>Battle of Buena Vista,</i> chromolithograph, New York, 1847. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma, the earliest publication concerned solely with chocolate, first edition, Madrid, 1631. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Romans Bernard, <i>An Exact View of the Late Battle at Charlestown, June 17th, 1775,</i> engraving, 1776. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> <i>A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston,</i> English edition, London, 1770. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> William Soule, <i>Lodge of the Plains Indians,</i> albumen print, 1872. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Manuscript document to enforce New York’s “Agreement of Non-Importation” during the heyday of the Sons of Liberty, New York, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Clarence Mackenzie, <i>Drummer Boy of the 13th Regiment of Brooklyn,</i> salt print with applied color, 1861. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Moses Lopez, <i>A Lunar Calendar,</i> first Jewish calendar published in America, Newport, RI, 1806. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b><br>The Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <center><b>Gonnelli Auction House<br>Books and Graphics<br>19th, 20th and 21st April 2021</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br>Atlases and Maps</b
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br> Veneto and Venice, a Selection of Books from the XVI to XX century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br></b>Rossini Gioachino, Baguette de chef d'orchestre appartenuta a Gioachino Rossini, dono del Comune di Passy. 1500 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Manetti Saverio, Storia naturale degli uccelli trattata con metodo. Cinque volumi. 1767. 18.000 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Poe Edgar Allan, Double assassinat dans la rue morgue. Illustrations de Cura. 1946.
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>

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