The Sewage System Is a Deception and More from Garrett Scott, Bookseller

- by Michael Stillman


The Sewage System Is a Deception and More from Garrett Scott, Bookseller

Garrett Scott, Bookseller, has released their Catalog 44 with the unusual, undoubtedly unique title, The Sewage System is a Deception. What? Whose sewage system is a deception? If you don't already know, Scott's catalogues generally feature some odd items and this one is no exception. If your collection tilts to the unusual, you won't find a better source. More about the sewage system later. Here are a few samples from this selection.


We begin with an item you may guess to be unusual based on its title, Truth Advocated or the Apocalyptic Beast and Mystic Babylon, Clearly Delineated, for the Serious Consideration of Christians Universally, and Unbelievers of Every Description. It was published in 1812 from upstate New York, early in the career of preacher, former teacher, Theophilus Ransom Gates, later known as “Theophilus the Battle-Axe.” Gates came from Connecticut, later spent time in Amenia, New York, Maryland, Philadelphia, and finally in rural Pennsylvania. In those days, as in these, “truth” was sometimes defined in unusual ways, more like its antonym, and it is doubtful the book got too much serious consideration from Christians. Unbelievers remained unbelievers. It contains some of his prophesies. This was from his time in New York, from which he moved on, and later spent time in jail in Philadelphia. It would not be until years later that Gates found his winning formula. In 1837, he published his claim that people should, as quoted from Jeremiah, become “Battle Axes” for the Lord, hence his moniker. In his view, Christ had advocated throwing out all the rules that constrained our behavior. Along with removing the rules, he advocated removing clothing. He set up a commune a few miles from Pottstown, Pennsylvania, where free love and nudity were promoted. Marriage was considered a binding that made both husbands and wives miserable. He attracted a couple dozen followers to what was known as “Free Love Valley.” He remained there for the rest of his life (why would he leave?), which was 1846. The community managed to hang on for another decade before disbanding. Item 2. Priced at $450.


Next is a five-year run of The Plowshare. An Exemplification of Spelling Reform, from 1872-1877. This publication is not well-remembered today but it must have had a following as it lasted for 40 years. The publisher was Henry M. Parkhurst, who from 1848-1854 was Chief Official Court Reporter for The U.S. Senate. Parkhurst covered many topics, such as currency reform and human population, but stenography was an important part. More importantly, it was his form of spelling that he used in stenography that was high on his list. He believed in phonetic spelling, using an alphabet where every character has its own unique sound. It was certainly easier for people who have trouble spelling or remembering how to spell words with letter combinations like “through” or “knife.” He made use of his spelling in the publication. It contains a two-page promotion for Stephen Pearl Andrews' Wun Alfabet for dhe Hol Wurld. Parkhurst would gain more fame, or notoriety, five years later when he advocated for the sexual practice called “Dianism.” This consists basically of what young men used to refer to as not “going all the way.” Item 12. $150.


If you would like more of Henry Parkhurst, here are some of his earlier thoughts. This is The Plowshare and the American Reporter, together with Cosmopolitan, from 1852-1853. This is not the same as today's Cosmo, in fact, they had little in common. Parkhurst herein reports on spirit manifestations in Boston. Item 11. $150.


Here is the item about deceptive sewers. The title is The Home Doctor: A Guide to Health, by Dr. Bourne, of San Francisco. It was published in 1878 so the advice might be somewhat out of date. His specialty was hydropathic therapy, or the “water-cure.” Hydrotherapy spread like, not fire, perhaps, but like a flood in mid-nineteenth century America. It evolved from hot springs and mineral baths to a cure that could be practiced at home in a bath tub or in a doctor's office. It might use hot water, cold water, water with added ingredients, whatever the particularly physician recommended. There was great belief in the healing power of water in those days. But there was one place that Dr. Bourne did not believe water belonged and that was in your commode. He informed his readers, “In cities where water closets are placed in the houses connected with the sewers or a vault, they are but ventilators to fill the house with poisonous gas...” He felt that “no trap or hindrance to the admission of foul gas has been, or probably can be invented...” Instead, he says, “Earth closets are the only salvation for cities.” I guess that is something like a toilet that drops into dirt, which doesn't sound all that sanitary, or perhaps a litter box. Item 6. $500.


This is a very old bible, the most popular English language one in the second half of the 16th century. It is The Bible. Translated According to the Ebrew and Greeke, a 1608 edition. It is more commonly known as the Geneva Bible for where it was translated, or the Breeches Bible for the unusual word used for what Adam and Eve created from fig leaves when they realized they were naked. It was first published in 1560 and was favored by Calvin, Cromwell, and the Puritans. Naturally, it was a Protestant translation as biblical translators picked terms most consistent with their own preconceptions. However, King James I was not happy with it nor some of the annotations which he interpreted might be unfavorable to his monarchy, so he commissioned a replacement and soon made new printing of the Breeches Bible illegal. The replacement was the King James Bible, first published in 1611, and still in use by Protestants today. This copy is bound with (as published) Robert Herrey's Two Right Profitable and Fruitfull Concordances... Item 1. $3,500.


Garrett Scott, Bookseller, may be reached at 734-730-0643 or