More Rare and Unusual Americana from David Lesser Antiquarian Books
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. The website is www.lesserbooks.com.