Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - October - 2008 Issue

More Rare and Unusual Americana from David Lesser Antiquarian Books


Rare Americana from David M. Lesser.

Here is the story of another preacher, but a very different one: The Surprising Case of Rachel Baker, Who Prays and Preaches in Her Sleep... The writer of this 1814 book was Charles Mais, who observed Miss Baker's sleep-preaching, wrote down some of her sermons, and participated in attempts to cure her. Baker was but 11 when she started having violent fits as she fell off to sleep, acting terrified, as if visiting Hell. However, this soon changed to calm, apparently rather typical sermons, warning people of the consequences of the failure to coordinate their actions with God's will. Miss Baker became quite a sensation, eventually being taken from her rural upstate New York home to the big city where hundreds of people listened to her dreamy speeches. The experts were confounded. They were not prepared to believe she was divinely inspired, yet they believed her sermons too intelligent for a poorly educated girl. There was also much consternation about a woman preaching to men, as this was considered forbidden at the time. Ultimately, they attributed her performances to a mental condition, which they apparently cured with a combination of waking her from sleep and opium. Oddly, none of the experts seemed to come to the conclusion that perhaps Miss Baker was faking it. We have not been able to find out what ever happened to Rachel Baker after her 1816 opium induced cure. Item 82. $175.

Perhaps this medicine would have cured Miss Baker of her sleep-preaching, as it cured just about everything else: Great Southern Remedy. Jacob's Cholera, Dysentery and Diarrhea Cordial... This wondrous medicine was produced by Dr. William Bliss of Savannah. His promotional pamphlet was likely printed during the 1850s. Dr. Bliss assures his readers that his cordial is not "another of the 'thousand and one' quack nostrums spread throughout the length and breadth of the land, and for purposes of gain." Oh no. To the contrary, Dr. Bliss' remedy "is peculiar for its great efficacy in dysentery, diarrhea, cholera morbus, flatulent cholic, weakness of stomach and bowels, painful menstruation, &c." In keeping with the needs of his 1850s Georgia audience, Dr. Bliss notes his cordial "may save the life of some of your family, or the life of a valuable negro." Item 20. $350.

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

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Abraham Lincoln, <i>Emancipation Proclamation by the President of the United States,</i> pamphlet, 1862. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Family papers of the distinguished Ruby-Jackson family, Portland, Maine, 1853-1961. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Family papers of the Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens & the persons who served him, 1866-1907. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Autograph book with inscriptions by orators Moses Roper & Peter Williams, 1821-54. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Archive of letters, postcards, and greeting cards sent by Romare Bearden, 1949-87. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b><br>E. Simms Campbell, <i>A Night-Club Map of Harlem,</i> in inaugural issue of Manhattan, 1933. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Papers of the comedian Nipsey Russell, including a letter from MLK, 1929-2000. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Early German-American anti-slavery broadside, <i>Sclaven-Handel,</i> Philadelphia, 1794. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Edmonia Lewis, prominent sculptor, carte-de-visite by Henry Rocher, c. 1866-71. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b><br><i>The Black Panther: Black Community News Service,</i> 44 issues, San Francisco, 1967-1971. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Withers, <i>I Am A Man, Sanitation Workers Strike,</i> silver print, 1968. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> <i>March For Freedom Now!,</i> poster for the 1960 Republican Convention. $4,000 to $6,000.

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