Americana From <br>William Reese
By Michael Stillman
The William Reese Company recently issued a listing of books for sale in conjunction with their participation in the New York Antiquarian Book Fair. We hesitate to call this a “catalogue” since Reese catalogues are well-illustrated, bound, and highly descriptive presentations, undoubtedly destined to become collectible themselves. This piece is simply one of stapled pages, and yet it is far more than a group of listings, for it contains the thorough descriptions for which Reese is noted. In this case, there are 50 pages of small print used to describe 102 items. True to Reese’s focus, the subject of the listings is Americana, although there is an occasional item that strains to find ties to the New World.
In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson sent James Monroe and Robert Livingston to Paris on a mission to purchase land at the base of the Mississippi River (New Orleans) to assure the young nation free navigation of that waterway. To their surprise, Napoleon offered them the whole of Louisiana. In 1803, “Louisiana” included most of the land between the Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains, running as far west as Montana and as far north as Canada. A surprised and jubilant Jefferson jumped at the offer, and despite some questions of constitutional authorization, the federal government went ahead with the $15 million land purchase. Overnight, the size of the United States doubled. Item 52 is the Message from the President…Inclosing a Treaty…Relative to the Cessation of Louisiana. This is a first printing of the treaty ratifying the Louisiana Purchase, printed in Washington in 1803. Priced at $30,000.
Item 7 is a very rare book describing the land and the Indian tribes of the southern United States. It’s called Travels through North & South Carolina, Georgia, East & West Florida, The Cherokee Country… by William Bartram, and it was published in 1791. He describes the territory in great detail, including a chapter devoted to the customs and language of the Cherokee and Muscogulge Indians. $13,500.
Here’s another one of those extremely rare books about the Indians, but this belongs to that less reputable category known as “Indian Captivities.” This is Archibald Loudon’s A Selection, of Some of the Most Interesting Narratives, of Outrages, Committed by The Indians, in Their Wars, with The White People. We will not speculate on the accuracy of some of these gruesome tales, but should point out that the book does not focus on the atrocities committed against the Indians. Along with the ugliness, the book does also recount much about Indian customs, their food, medicines, clothing, songs and dances. Item 50. $27,500.