Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - January - 2010 Issue

American Sermons and American Sex from Garrett Scott, Bookseller

You will always find the unusual from Garrett Scott, Bookseller.


By Michael Stillman

Garrett Scott, Bookseller, has issued his 25th catalogue, and as we have come to expect from Scott, it is filled with the unusual, bizarre, and unbelievable. The title, appropriate enough for a strange catalogue, is American Sermons and American Sex. Those two topics would seem to have little in common, except that both are the source of much misinformation and craziness, and sex is often the subject of sermons, especially of those from over a century ago. However, just as the section on sex does not always involve religion, the sermons are not always about sex. In fact, though sermons range from rational to absurd, they do often bring to the forefront the issues of the day, such as war, slavery, crime, and, of course, sex. Here are a few of these oddities.

Item 6 is a sermon that provides some scientific data: A Discourse Delivered at the Presbyterian Church, Syracuse...July 22, 1832, by Rev. J.W. Adams. Adams offers an attack on depravity, something hard to argue for. Who likes depravity? At the time, a cholera epidemic was raging in Syracuse. Rev. Adams proclaims, "The Cholera selects four fifths of its victims, from among the most debased and incorrigible enemies of God." How did he know it was four-fifths? Did he conduct a scientific study in which he found 4/5ths of the victims were debased enemies of God? I'll bet virtually all of the disease's victims would have said they were among the one-fifth. Priced at $50.

Now here is a sermon on a subject this minister surely could understand: Withholding a Suitable Support from the Ministers of Religion, is Robbing God... Preached in Plattsburgh, New York, in 1813, Rev. William R. Weeks makes a theological argument for a pay increase. Weeks concludes, "Let all who feel themselves reproved by this subject be exhorted to repent and reform." No need to explain how one would show his repentance and reformation. Just in case some people weren't in church listening the day this sermon was preached, this book was "Printed for the Author." Item 47. $40.

Here is a book you should buy for your children: Duty of Honoring Parents. A Sermon on the Fifth Commandment... delivered in Bath, Maine, in 1828. More kids are likely to plead the Fifth Amendment than the Fifth Commandment these days, but perhaps this sermon will change their ways. John W. Ellingwood pricks the conscience with the you'll regret your ways when your mother is on her deathbed argument, but then gets even heavier by pointing to the prevalence of criminal behavior and even sudden death among those who disobey their parents. Item 30. $75.

Item 34 is filled with irony. It is A Discourse on the Death of William Henry Harrison... Harrison was the U.S. President who died in 1841, barely a month into office. Rev. Palmer Dyer notes of Harrison, "He rose but to fall." The same was true of Dyer, quite literally, who fell to his death off a bridge in 1844. $40.

Item 148 offers what Scott describes as "misapplied Darwinian theory." The title is A Child of Light or, Heredity and Prenatal Culture Considered in Light of the New Psychology, by Newton N. Riddell. Riddell believed that positive Christian thinking on the part of the mother would influence prenatal development. He also claims. "Women who resemble their fathers are usually - but not always - masculine, and therefore should marry men who resemble their mothers, and vice versa." He doesn't state what "usually - but not always" constitutes in numbers, perhaps four-fifths. Riddell also observes that "I do not recall a single instance where the husband and wife both strongly resembled the father or both the mother in which the union was truly happy or the children really well born." $25.

Item 161 is Marriage: Sex Facts and Conduct for Girls & Matured Women, published in the 1920s by the American Bureau of Social Hygiene. It warns girls to avoid dance halls, jazz parties, joy rides and similar activities. It also warns that "Many vile skin eruptions and venereal diseases are transmitted by kissing promiscuously," so kiss properly and germs will keep to their own side of the border. $25.

Item 176 is Marjorie May Learns About Life, "life" in this instance being a euphemism for "menstruation." The "author" is the pseudonymous Mary Pauline Callender, who Scott informs us was sort of the Betty Crocker of Kotex. Ew. What a concept. $25.

Item 151 is Dr. Winfield Scott Hall's Father and Son. John's Vacation. What John Saw in the Country... published in 1913. What John saw in the country was animals, doing ... you know, what animals do in public. John's wise father uses this to teach John about having sex like an animal or something like that. $30.

Garrett Scott, Bookseller may be reached at 734-741-8605 or garrett@bibliophagist.com. His website is www.GSBbooks.com.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Bonhams, July 15-25: THE AUTOGRAPH COLLECTION OF ISRAEL WITKOWER. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: GEORGE WASHINGTON SIGNED DISCHARGE. June 9, 1783. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: "Shhhhh!" A DAVID SHANNON ILLUSTRATION FROM DAVID GETS IN TROUBLE. $2,500 - $3,500
    Bonhams, July 15-25: PICASSO, PABLO. Le Carmen des Carmen. Paris, 1964. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: RARE AUTOGRAPH OF AMERICAN NAVAL HERO CAPTAIN JAMES MUGFORD. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: KARA WALKER SILHOUETTES FOR TONI MORRISON'S FIVE POEMS. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: FIRST APPEARANCE OF PINOCCHIO IN ENGLISH. COLLODI, CARLO.New York, 1892. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: BONAPARTE, JOSEPHINE. Autograph Note (unsigned) in French. $1,000 - $1,500
    Bonhams, July 15-25: FROST ON MATTHEW ARNOLD.Autograph Letter Signed to Adams, July 27, 1934. $800 - $1,200
    Bonhams, July 15-25: ELIAS BOUDINOT'S COPY OF BARLOW'S COLUMBIAN EPIC. $800 - $1,200
    Bonhams, July 15-25: A SIGNED HART CRANE BROOKLYN BRIDGE POSTCARD TO EDWARD DAHLBERG. $600 - $800
    Bonhams, July 15-25: A STOCK CERTIFICATE SIGNED BY THE "QUEEN OF WALL STREET," HETTY GREEN. $700 - $900
  • Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: U.S. / European Shipping Archive 1800-1814. The Widow Bermingham & Sons Collection. €7,000 to €10,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Bunreacht na hÉireann. Constitution of Ireland. An important copy of the First Printing of De Valera’s new Constitution, approved in 1938. Signed by the Constitution Cabinet. €7,000 to €9,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: A Rare Complete Run of the Cuala Press Broadsides. €7,000 to €9,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Grose (Francis). The Antiquities of Ireland, 2vols. folio London (for S. Hooper) 1791. Magnificent Hand-Coloured Copy - Only 25 Copies. €3,000 to €5,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Cantillon (Richard). Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en General, Traduit de l'Anglois, Sm. 8vo London (Fletcher Gyles) 1756. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Gregory, (Lady Augusta). Spreading the News: The Rising of the Moon: The Poorhouse (with Douglas Hyde). Being Vol. IX of the Abbey Theatre Series. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Lavery (Lady Hazel). A moving series of three A.L.S. and a Telegram to Gen. Eoin O'Duffy, July-August 1927, expressing her grief at the death of Kevin O'Higgins. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Dampier (Wm.) Nouveau Voyage Autour du Monde, ou l'on descrit en particulier l'Isthme de l'Amerique…, 2 vols. in one, Amsterdam, 1698. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Howell (James). Instructions for Forreine Travel Shewing by what Cours, and in what Compasse of Time…, London, 1642. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Rowling (J.K.) Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, 8vo, L. (Bloomsbury) 1999, First Edn., First Printing of Deluxe Collectors Edn. Signed. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: James (Wm.) A Full and Correct Account of the Military Occurrences of The Late War Between Great Britain and The United States of America. 2 vols. Lond. 1818. €650 to €900.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: The Laws of the United States, Published by Authority, 3 vols. Philadelphia (Richard Folwell) 1796. €600 to €800.
  • Sotheby’s, July 11: Galileo, Document annotated and signed by Galileo, dated Padua, 1595. £500,000 to £700,000.

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