Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - September - 2009 Issue

100 American Historical Documents from the William Reese Co.

Reese270

One Hundred American Historical Manuscripts from William Reese.


By Michael Stillman

The William Reese Company has issued its 270th catalogue, this one entitled One Hundred American Historical Manuscripts. We always appreciate titles that succinctly describe what the catalogue contains. It makes our job easier. We will just add that these manuscripts range from those of major historical importance to those from obscure people who witnessed interesting events and changes in early American life. Here are a few of the one hundred Reese is offering.

We will start with what we consider the most significant piece in this very interesting collection. Item 52 is a letter from Thomas Jefferson, dated June 8, 1792, while he was serving as Secretary of State, to a good friend in France, Jean Antoine Gautier. It touches on important issues in both America and France. In America, we were just starting to see the split, notably between Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, which led to the two-party system that has ruled the nation to this day. Meanwhile in France, the revolution that promised to bring that nation a democratic and constitutional government similar to America, was just starting to spin out of control, and into the bloodthirsty chaos that would erupt shortly. In a stinging comment aimed at Hamilton and those who shared his federalist sympathies, Jefferson writes, "there are heads among us itching for crowns, coronets, and mitres. But I hope we shall sooner cut them off than gratify their itching." This cutting off of heads comment must have sounded harsh to Gautier for, as Reese notes, the French government had introduced the guillotine a few months earlier as the official means of execution. That device would see a lot of use in the days ahead as the revolution spun into the infamous Reign of Terror (the French King would have his head cut off less than eight months after the writing of this letter). However, it must be noted that Jefferson had no idea at the time how bad things would become in France. He was still hopeful France would adopt a constitution similar to that of America. "[O]ur constitution is a wise one, and I hope we shall be able to adhere to it," writes Jefferson. He then proffers the advice, "If your first assay is unsuccessful as ours was, make a second as we did. When you have got what is good, hold it fast as we do." Priced at $145,000.

Speaking of Alexander Hamilton, he was America's first Secretary of the Treasury, assigned the task of managing the enormous financial problems of a nation heavily in debt from the Revolution. However, in 1782, he was still a private citizen, recently resigned from the military with the Revolution effectively over, in need of money. On February 17, he sent this letter to Jeremiah Wadsworth, who had also served in the Revolution and would go on to be a major banker. Writes the cash-strapped Hamilton, "Having met with some disappointment in a sum I expected to receive, I should be much obliged of you for the loan of an hundred pounds..." Item 40. $5,000.

Item 20 is a manuscript deed/sale of 216 square miles of land in upstate New York, northwest of Albany, along the Mohawk River. The date was December 28, 1738, and the seller was the Mohawk Indians, the buyer King George II. It is signed by six Mohawk chiefs, who "...have bargained, sold released, and for ever quit claim unto our said most gracious sovereign Lord King George the Second..." One imagines the King's representatives helped the Indians with the wording. The price for the land was 180 pounds. That's about one-quarter of a cent per acre. $37,500.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 54. Fanciful engraving of earth's interior with magma core and errupting volcanoes (1682). $1500 to $1800.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 165. Rare state of Jefferys' influential map of New England in contemporary color (1755). $8000 to $9500.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 177. Mouzon's foundation map of the Carolinas (1775). $10000 to $13000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 183. Very rare first state of De Fer's map of the Lower Mississippi Valley (1715). $20000 to $25000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 253. Scarce Scottish edition based on Ellicott's plan of Washington, D.C. (1796). $2400 to $3000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 313. Stunning view of Philadelphia by John Bachmann (1850). $3250 to $4250.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 338. Rare Civil War map based on Bucholtz map of Virginia (1862). $9500 to $12000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 667. First map to accurately show Luzon in Philippines (1590). $6000 to $7500.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 682. Rare map of Shanghai International Settlement published just after WWI (1918). $7000 to $9000.
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 738. Coronelli's superb map of the Pacific showing the Island of California (1697) Est. $2400 - $3000
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 743. A cornerstone piece in the mapping of Australia and New Zealand (1726) Est. $6000 - $7500
    <b>Old World Auctions (April 28):</b><br>Lot 781. An uncommon signature during Jefferson's Governorship of Virginia (1779) Est. $9500 - $11000
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Ronald Reagan. Series of 37 letters to Senator George Murphy, and related material, 1968-90. £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Chaim Weizmann. Autograph letter signed, to General Sir Gilbert Clayton, 6 September 1918. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Sir Winston Churchill. Autograph letter signed, to Pamela, Lady Lytton, 1942. £20,000 to $30,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Oscar Wilde. Five autograph letters signed, to Alsager Vian, 1887. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Napoleon I. Letter signed to Admiral Ganteaume, ordering the invasion of England, 22 August 1805. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Horatio, Viscount Nelson, and Emma Hamilton. Two autograph letter signed, to Catherine and George Matcham, 1805. £6,000 to £8,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Frances Palmer, <i>Battle of Buena Vista,</i> chromolithograph, New York, 1847. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma, the earliest publication concerned solely with chocolate, first edition, Madrid, 1631. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Romans Bernard, <i>An Exact View of the Late Battle at Charlestown, June 17th, 1775,</i> engraving, 1776. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> <i>A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston,</i> English edition, London, 1770. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> William Soule, <i>Lodge of the Plains Indians,</i> albumen print, 1872. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Manuscript document to enforce New York’s “Agreement of Non-Importation” during the heyday of the Sons of Liberty, New York, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Clarence Mackenzie, <i>Drummer Boy of the 13th Regiment of Brooklyn,</i> salt print with applied color, 1861. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Moses Lopez, <i>A Lunar Calendar,</i> first Jewish calendar published in America, Newport, RI, 1806. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b><br>The Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <center><b>Gonnelli Auction House<br>Books and Graphics<br>19th, 20th and 21st April 2021</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br>Atlases and Maps</b
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br> Veneto and Venice, a Selection of Books from the XVI to XX century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br></b>Rossini Gioachino, Baguette de chef d'orchestre appartenuta a Gioachino Rossini, dono del Comune di Passy. 1500 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Manetti Saverio, Storia naturale degli uccelli trattata con metodo. Cinque volumi. 1767. 18.000 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Poe Edgar Allan, Double assassinat dans la rue morgue. Illustrations de Cura. 1946.
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>

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