Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - July - 2009 Issue

Early Americana from David M. Lesser Antiquarian Books

Lesser109

David Lesser's latest collection of rare Americana.


By Michael Stillman

David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books has now issued their 109th catalogue of Rare Americana. This is a collection primarily of 18th and 19th century pamphlets concerning what were the burning issues of the day. These are not works about history. They are history being made. Anyone with a love for Americana will appreciate a Lesser catalogue as these are eyewitness reports of America either before or during the early stages of its being a free nation. Here are just a few of the items available this time.

Item 114 is an important, though unheeded speech, given in Parliament in England by former Prime Minister William Pitt (aka the Earl of Chatham): The Speech, of the Right Honourable the Earl of Chatham, ...January 20th, 1775. On a Motion for an Address to His Majesty, to Give Immediate Orders for Removing His Troops from Boston Forthwith, in order to Quiet the Minds and Take Away the Apprehensions of His Good Subjects in America. Pitt understood the magnitude of the troubles brewing in America far better than most British politicians, and certainly the King. Pitt argued that taxes should only be imposed with the consent of the colonists, perhaps the major issue leading to the Revolution. Pitt claimed that "violent, precipitate and vindictive misrepresentation" had led to "intolerable wrongs" in the colonies, which were quickly uniting against Britain. Pitt called for removal of troops from Boston and repeal of all offensive acts. His calls went unheeded, but his belief that the colonists would end up succeeding if they revolted proved to be true. Offered is one of two American printings of this address from 1775, from Philadelphia. Priced at $2,500.

Just as there were British sympathetic to the American revolutionary cause, there were Americans unsympathetic. Item 110 is A General History of Connecticut... By A Gentleman, published in London. Most of Rev. Samuel A. Peters Connecticut neighbors considered him no gentleman. Peters was a strident loyalist, whose views led to several "visits" by local patriots. He was once almost tarred and feathered, temporarily to recant, but then return to his old ways. By 1774, Peters realized it was time to get out, and moved back to England. It was there that he published, in 1781, his mocking history of Connecticut. It focused on the fanaticism of Connecticut's Blue Laws (he has been credited with creating the term "blue laws") The trouble is, Peters simply made up most of the laws to make the people of Connecticut look silly. So he had rules like no one could walk on the Sabbath, "except reverently to meeting," no one could be a freeman unless a member of an approved church, no one could celebrate Christmas, dance, play cards, or make mince pies, fornication shall result in forced marriage, adultery in death, and so on. Oddly enough, Peters returned to America a few years later and spent the many years remaining in his life in his newly independent homeland. $2,500.

Here is another incident Peters wrote about to make fun of the citizens of Connecticut, although the piece offered is not his version. Some summer evening in 1756, there was supposedly an incident in Windham, Connecticut, unprecedented and unrepeated as far as I can tell. Late at night, the good citizens were awaken from their slumbers by the most alarming outburst of shouts and cries imaginable. The frightened residents began fleeing from their homes, some not even taking time to get dressed. They feared the worst, an army of the French and Indians were coming to slaughter them. This was during the French and Indian War. A group of men were sent out with guns and began firing, but no shots were returned. However, they thought they heard the unseen soldiers call out the names of their leaders. Well, to make a long story short, not to mention ridiculous and unbelievable, it turned out to be an army of frogs, miles long, marching from a dried up mill pond to a nearby river, croaking all the way. This story bounced around for many years, with Peters picking it up and, in his aforementioned book, exaggerating it to make the people look foolish. However, many others turned this incident to verse and song, including this 19th century version, Windham Bull-Frog Song, a broadside tribute to this very strange night. Item 32. $500.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 25:</b> Frederick Douglass, ALS recruiting help for his paper after schism with Garrison, Rochester, 1851. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 25:</b> James Dean, photograph by Sanford H. Roth, signed & inscribed by Dean. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 25:</b> Richard Wagner, ALS requesting confirmation that the Grand Duke received his letter, 1863. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 25:</b> Benjamin Rush, ALS, doctor’s note for a Revolutionary soldier, 1780. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 25:</b> Lord Byron, ALS to Cambridge classmate, “your friendship is of more account to me than all these absurd vanities,” c. 1812. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 25:</b> Ernest Hemingway, <i>Three Stories & Ten Poems,</i> first edition of the author’s first book, Paris, 1923. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 25:</b> Ralph Ellison, <i>Invisible Man,</i> first English edition of the author’s first novel, signed, London, 1953. $1,800 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 25:</b> Margery Lawrence, <i>The Madonna of Seven Moons,</i> first edition in unrestored dust jacket, Indianapolis, 1933. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 25:</b> Joseph Albers, <i>Interaction of Color,</i> 80 color screenprints, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, 1963. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 25:</b> Albert Einstein, autograph manuscript, unsigned, likely a draft discarded while working toward a unified field theory. $10,000 to $20,000.
  • <center><b>The Collectors’ Sale<br>March 3, 2021</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Mar. 3:</b> Verlag, Luzern, Publishers: <i>The Book of Kells,</i> the most precious illuminated manuscript of the early Middle Ages, now reproduced, the FIRST AND ONLY COMPLETE FINE ART FACSIMILE EDITION. €5,000 to €6,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Mar. 3:</b> Rowling (J.K.) <i>Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone,</i> 8vo, L. (Bloomsbury) 1997, First Deluxe Edn., Signed by the Author on title page. €4,000 to €5,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Mar. 3:</b> Gilbert (John T.) Account of Facsimiles of National Manuscripts of Ireland, from the earliest extant specimens to A.D. 719. €2,000 to €3,000.
    <center><b>The Collectors’ Sale<br>March 3, 2021</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Mar. 3:</b> <i>The Georgian Society Records of Eighteenth-Century Domestic Architecture in Dublin [-Ireland],</i> 5 vols. lg. 4to D. 1909 - 1913. Limited Editions. €1,500 to €2,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Mar. 3:</b> Yeats (W.B.) <i>The Poems of W.B. Yeats,</i> 2 vols., roy 8vo, L. (MacMillan & Co.) 1949, Limited Edn., No. 185 (of 375 copies). Signed. €1,500 to €2,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Mar. 3:</b> Crone (John S.)ed. <i>The Irish Book Lover, A Monthly Review of Irish Literature and Bibliography.</i> Vol. I No 1 August 1909 - Vol. XXXII No. 6, September 1957. €1,250 to €2,000.
    <center><b>The Collectors’ Sale<br>March 3, 2021</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Mar. 3:</b> Yeats (John Butler) <i>An original self-portrait Sketch,</i> Signed and dated April 1919, N[ew] York. €1,200 to €1,500.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Mar. 3:</b> Photograph Album. Entitled ''A Souvenir of the Visit to Jeypore Samasthanam of His Excellency the Right Hon'ble Viscount Goschen of Hawkhurst… 14th December 1927''. €1,000 to €1,500.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Mar. 3:</b> Pistolesi (Erasmo) <i>Il Vaticano,</i> 8vols. large atlas, folio Rome (Tipografia della Societa..) 1829. €500 to €600.
    <center><b>The Collectors’ Sale<br>March 3, 2021</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Mar. 3:</b> Chagall (Marc)illus., Legmarie (Jean) comp., <i>The Jerusalem Windows,</i> folio N.Y. (George Braziller) 1962. €400 to €500.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Mar. 3:</b> Bullitt (Thos. W.) <i>My Life at Oxmoor,</i> Life on a Farm in Kentucky before the War. Roy 8vo Louisville, Kentucky, 1911. Privately Printed No. 86 of 100 Copies Only. €300 to €400.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, Mar. 3:</b> Popish Plot: Oates (Titus) <i>The Popes Whore House or The Merchandise of The Whore of Rome,</i> folio L. 1679. First Edn. €100 to €150.

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