Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - February - 2009 Issue

Inexpensive Americana from David Lesser Antiquarian Books

Inexpensive Americana from David Lesser.


By Michael Stillman

David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books has issued Inexpensive Americana Part V. This is the fifth in a series of catalogues where no books or pamphlets are priced higher than $250. The material herein is what you would expect from Lesser - fascinating looks at the politics, government, industry, theology and more of early America. These catalogues always provide a window on the issues confronting America in the 18th and 19th centuries. Some of the items come from obscure people or concern now forgotten issues; others engage us in the fundamental questions of America's formation historians still debate today. The one notable difference between this and other Lesser catalogues is the price. Here the Connecticut bookseller proves that interesting and important works don't always come with large price tags.

Item 236 is a firsthand account of one of the great adventures of the Civil War, the incident memorialized in the film The Great Locomotive Chase. A group of mostly Union soldiers made their way to Marietta, Georgia, disguised as civilians, in 1862. There, they captured a Confederate locomotive and sped off toward Tennessee. Their aim was to destroy as many bridges and tracks as they could along the way, disrupting rail communications in the South. Their success was limited as Confederates quickly gave chase, the result being this extraordinary tale of hot pursuit. Eventually, all of the Union participants were captured, some executed, the others imprisoned. Offered is the Adventures of Alf. Wilson. A Thrilling Episode...by...a Member of the Mitchell Railroad Raiders. John Alfred Wilson was a private in the 21st Ohio Infantry, which provided the soldiers for this mission. His book was published in 1880. Priced at $225.

Item 26 ties together two U.S. Presidents: Great Speech of the Honourable James Buchanan...on Thursday, Oct. 7, 1952. Buchanan would be elected President himself four years later, but on this October day in western Pennsylvania, he was endorsing the candidacy of Franklin Pierce. Actually, he spent minimal time discussing Pierce. Most of the speech was devoted to attacking Whig candidate Winfield Scott. Along with his alleged personal shortcomings, General Scott's major fault, in Buchanan's eyes, is that he will be beholden to northern Whigs who oppose the Fugitive Slave Law. Neither Pierce, not Buchanan when he became President, had any problem with that terrible law. The only question remaining is which of those two presidents was worse than the other. $100.

Buchanan's sympathy toward slaveholders would result in this interesting twist in the 1856 election. A few southern voices, in defending the rightness of slavery, had indicated that there were circumstances in which white slavery was appropriate. Northern laborers, a South Carolina newspaper pronounced, were a servile class unfit for self-government. This pro-Fremont (the Republican candidate) pamphleteer uses these claims to stir distrust of Buchanan and the Democrats with this title: The New Democratic Doctrine. Slavery not to be confined to the Negro Race, but to be made the Universal Condition of the Laboring Classes of Society. Item 80. $100.

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    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: BARBARA KRUGER PICTURE/READINGS. [Self-Published], 1978 First edition. CA$800 – 1,200.

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