Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - June - 2023 Issue

Rare Americana from David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books

Catalogue 195 from David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books.

David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books has released their latest selection, Catalogue 195 of Rare Americana. Lesser's catalogues always provide a contemporary look at predominantly 18th-19th century America. These were the good old days, but as we discover, they may be old but they weren't always so good. This is America as it was, rather than some whitewashed version. For better or worse, this is who we are (Americans). Here are a few selections.


We tend to think of the only voices to dissolve the Union prior to the Civil War as coming from the South, but there were Northern supporters as well. There were Northern abolitionists who no more wanted to be connected to the South than pro-slavery Southerners wanted to be associated with the North. The famed abolitionist newspaper editor William Lloyd Garrison called for a convention to dissolve the Union, and such a meeting was convened in 1857, brought together by Massachusetts preacher Thomas Wentworth Higginson (one of John Brown's backers). Being required to enforce the Fugitive Slave law was a constant moral dilemma for many in the North, and the election of James Buchanan in 1856 added to their despair. It meant no progress toward abolition could be made for at least another four years. As a result, the group got together in Worcester, Massachusetts, in January 1857. In what was known as the Disunion Convention, they called for a separation between the free and slave states. Higginson called disunion “a destiny,” continuing, “If we can not bring it about peaceably, it will come forcibly.” Garrison called the U.S. Constitution, that allowed slavery, a “covenant with death and an agreement with hell.” He concluded, “I go for uncompromising hostility to slavery everywhere, and, therefore, no union with slaveholders.” Despite their pleas, unlike those of the leaders of the southern states, their calls went unheeded. It would be the South that took action to secede, and the North that went to war to preserve the Union. Item 130 is the Proceedings of the State Disunion Convention, Held at Worcester, Massachusetts, January 15, 1857. Priced at $375.


This sounds like a list of officers from the Civil War, but it can't be because the date is 1848. The title is Official List of Officers Who Marched with the Army under the Command of Major General Winfield Scott, from Puebla upon the City of Mexico... It is not surprising because many of the commanders during the Civil War, on both sides, cut their teeth in the Mexican War. So, we see names familiar from that later war here, including Grant, Lee, Beauregard, Ewell, Pemberton, Longstreet, Magruder, Buckner, Pillow, Stonewall Jackson, and even future President Franklin Pierce. An errata sheet of names missed is included which adds that of Grant's predecessor and Democratic Presidential nominee of 1864, George McClellan. It was printed in Mexico on the army's own press (or one “borrowed” from Mexico). The list includes the participants' names, where and when they served, battles fought, sickness, injuries and deaths. There's an extract of Scott's account and a map. This copy belonged to Capt. George Wescott, whose entry in the book says he was wounded and brevetted a captain for his “gallant and distinguished conduct.” Item 85. $2,500.


This is an album of portraits, but most are not of people you would like to meet. In fact, 200 out of 210 are of unsavory individuals. The title is Offenders and Defenders, published in 1888. Ten are of the good guys, the “defenders,” members of New York's finest. The others are of people they apprehended or other criminals, even western outlaws. There is Mrs. Druse, “the first woman hanged in the state of New York.” There is Johnny Beal, a “young rascal” of 13 who murdered his mother. August Spiess and S. Fischer, who were executed for claimed murder after the Haymarket Massacre, when workers rallied to demand an eight-hour workday, appear. Then there is Emma Davis, a “remarkable woman” who “has a mania for administering poison to those whom she thinks have been long enough in this world, and whose departure might benefit herself.” Around 25 of the offenders are women, and there are a few African Americans among the mostly white males. This album was published by the Buchner Tobacco Company, apparently issued as a premium. Item 16. $750.


We know there were unreconstructed Confederates after the war, and they controlled the South once Reconstruction ended. Not as well known is that there were unreconstructed Copperheads in the North. James P. Shunk of York, Pennsylvania, was such a man. The title of this printed speech is Literature of the Abolition Yankee. Shunk carries on about abolitionist literature although the war was over by this time (circa 1867). However, having won, he claims that this “band of malignants” now control New England and “rule us for their pleasure and plunder us for their profit.” He claimed these New Englanders looked down on people from places like Pennsylvania. Their literature, he says, “is made to sell, to cheat, to deceive, not to improve and instruct.” He carries on about the “wretches who had wept over the separation of young niggers in the South, whose pocket-handkerchiefs had been soaked over the agonizing recital by some fugitive Sambo, with the shock which parting from his grandmother had cost him.” These “wretches,” he says, were the ones who sent white men off to lay down their lives and tear apart their families. Item 100. $500.


Perhaps Shunk would have been relieved to know that even if Abolitionists held sway in the North after the war, the South had practically returned to its old ways, even if slavery was no longer officially permitted. The freed slaves still had to find work if they were to survive, and the plantation owners now forced onerous working contracts upon them that left them as virtual slaves. Item 97 is one such contract, between J.S. Wilson and Brooks Hicklin and Lydia Backstrom, “persons of color.” It was a one-year contract running from Jan. 1, 1867 to Jan. 1, 1868. Hicklin and Backstrom agreed to “conduct themselves faithfully, honestly, civilly and diligently and abide by all the rules and regulations made on said plantation. . . They are to keep no stock of any kind without the express permission of the said J.S. Wilson, nor firearms [what happened to the Second Amendment?] or deadly weapons nor are they to introduce or invite visitors or harbor or entertain idlers or stragglers from that or other plantations; nor hold any prayer meetings nor suffer any to be held at their houses or attend any that may be held on said plantation; nor are they or the members of their families employed to leave the premises in work hours without the consent of the said J.S. Wilson or his agent.” That wasn't all. Foreman's orders must be obeyed, “their houses shall at all times be subject to inspection,” misbehavior would lead to deductions from wages, and prohibited conduct included want of “politeness to Wilson, his family or guests.” Wilson wanted even more but the Freedman's Bureau agent made some minor changes, reducing penalties for being idle or absent from $2 to 50¢ and if they were fired for cause they would only be deducted for the lost time, not for all the money they had earned up to that time. The families of each of these individuals were required to work from “sunrise to sunset,” from which the Hicklins would receive $225 and the Backstroms $210, payable at the end of the contract. They each would also receive an allotment of food. $3,500.


David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books may be reached at 203-389-8111 or dmlesser@lesserbooks.com. Their website is www.lesserbooks.com.

Rare Book Monthly

    Valuable Books and Manuscripts
    London auction
    13 December
    Find out more
    Christie’s, Explore now
    TREW, Christoph Jacob (1695–1769). Plantae Selectae quarum imagines ad exemplaria naturalia Londini in hortus curiosorum. [Nuremberg: 1750–1773]. £30,000–40,000
    Christie’s, Explore now
    VERBIEST, Ferdinand (1623–88). Liber Organicus Astronomiae Europaeae apud Sinas restituate. [Beijing: Board of Astronomy, 1674]. £250,000–350,000
    Christie’s, Explore now
    PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF ALICE & NIKOLAUS HARNONCOURT. Master of Jean Rolin (active 1445–65). Book of Hours, use of Paris, in Latin and French, [Paris, c.1450–1460]. £120,000–180,000
    Christie’s, Explore now
    A SILVER MICROSCOPE. Probably by Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (1632–1723), c.1700. £150,000–250,000
    Christie’s, Explore now
    C.1311. £100,000–150,000
  • Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 12-13: Roberts (David) & Croly (George). The Holy Land, Syria, Idumae, Arabia, Egypt and Nubia. Lond. 1842 - 1843 [-49]. First Edn. €10,000 to €15,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 12-13: Incunabula: O'Fihily (Maurice). Duns Scotus Joannes: O'Fihely, Maurice Abp… Venice, 20th November 1497. €8,000 to €12,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 12-13: An important file of documents with provenance to G.A. Newsom, manager of the Jacob’s Factory in Dublin, occupied by insurgents during Easter Week 1916. €6,000 to €9,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 12-13: WILDE (Oscar), 1854-1900, playwright, aesthete and wit. A lock of Wilde’s Hair, presented by his son to the distinguished Irish actor Mícheál MacLiammóir. €6,000 to €8,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 12-13: Heaney (Seamus). Bog Poems, London, 1975. Special Limited Edition, No. 33 of 150 Copies, Signed by Author. Illus. by Barrie Cooke. €4,000 to €6,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 12-13: Binding: Burke, Thomas O.P. (de Burgo). Hibernia Dominicana, Sive Historia Provinciae Hiberniae Ordinis Praedicatorum, ... 1762. First Edition. €4,000 to €6,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 12-13: COLLINS, Michael. An important TL, 29 July 1922, addressed to GOVERNMENT on ‘suggested Proclamation warning all concerned that troops have orders to shoot prisoners found sniping, ambushing etc.’. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 12-13: Scott Fitzgerald (F.) The Great Gatsby, New York (Charles Scribner's Sons) 1925, First Edn. €2,000 to €3,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 12-13: Yeats (W.B.) The Poems of W.B. Yeats, 2 vols. Lond. (MacMillan & Co.) 1949. Limited Edition, No. 46 of 375 Copies Only, Signed by W.B. Yeats. €1,500 to €2,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 12-13: Miller (William) Publisher. The Costume of the Russian Empire, Description in English and French, Lg. folio London (S. Gosnell) 1803. First Edn. €1,000 to €1,500.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 12-13: Miller (William) Publisher. The Costume of Turkey, Illustrated by a Series of Engravings. Lg. folio Lond.(T. Bensley) 1802. First Edn. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 12-13: Mason (Geo. Henry). The Costume of China, Illustrated with Sixty Engravings. Lg. folio London (for W. Miller) 1800. First Edn. €1,400 to €1,800
  • Sotheby’s
    Fine Books and Manuscripts
    8 December 2023
    Sotheby’s, Dec. 8: [Austen, Jane] — Isaac D'Israeli. Jane Austen's copy of Curiosities of Literature. 100,000 - 150,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Dec. 8: [Austen, Jane]. A handsome first edition in boards of the author's debut novel. 70,000 - 100,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Dec. 8: Brontë, Charlotte. "I am no bird; and no net ensnares me..." 100,000 - 150,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Dec. 8: Eliot, George. The author's magnum opus. 25,000 - 35,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Dec. 8: Whitman, Walt. Manuscript written upon the Death of Lincoln, 1865. 60,000 - 80,000 USD
  • Sotheby’s
    Important Modern Literature from the Library of an American Filmmaker
    8 December 2023
    Sotheby’s, Dec. 8: Kerouac, Jack. Typescript scroll of The Dharma Bums. Typed by Kerouac in Orlando, Florida, 1957, published by Viking in 1958. 300,000 - 500,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Dec. 8: Hemingway, Ernest. The autograph manuscript of "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber." [Key West, finished April 1936]. 300,000 - 500,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Dec. 8: Miller, Henry. Typescript of The Last Book, a working title for Tropic of Cancer, written circa 1931–1932. 100,000 - 150,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Dec. 8: Ruscha, Ed. Twentysix Gasoline Stations, with a lengthy inscription to Joe Goode. 40,000 - 60,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Dec. 8: Hemingway, Ernest. in our time, first edition of Hemingway’s second book. 30,000 - 50,000 USD
  • Swann
    Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books
    December 7, 2023
    Swann, Dec. 7: Samuel Augustus Mitchell, A New Map of Texas, Oregon and California with the Regions Adjoining, Philadelphia, 1846. $3,500 to $5,000.
    Swann, Dec. 7: 17th–19th-century case maps of various locations. $1,500 to $2,000.
    Swann, Dec. 7: Andreas Cellarius, Haemisphaerium Stellatum Boreale Cum Subiecto Haemisphaerio Terrestri, celestial chart, Amsterdam, 1708. $2,500 to $3,500.
    Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books
    December 7, 2023
    Swann, Dec. 7: Vincenzo Coronelli, Set of engraved gores for Coronelli’s monumental 42-inch terrestrial globe, Venice, circa 1688–97. $18,000 to $22,000.
    Swann, Dec. 7: Lucas Janszoon Waghenaer, group of four navigational charts, Antwerp, 1580s. $2,000 to $3,000.
    Swann, Dec. 7: Thomas Bros, Block Book of Berkeley, Oakland, 1920s. $800 to $1,200.
    Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books
    December 7, 2023
    Swann, Dec. 7: John Nieuhoff & John Ogilby, An Embassy from the East-India Company of the United Provinces, map of China, plan of Canton, London, 1673. $1,200 to $1,800.
    Swann, Dec. 7: Frederick Sander, Reichenbachia, St. Albans, 1888-1894. $5,000 to $7,000.
    Swann, Dec. 7: Two early illustrated works on horsemanship and breeding, Nuremberg, early 18th century. $700 to $800.
    Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books
    December 7, 2023
    Swann, Dec. 7: John Gould, A Monograph of the Ramphastidae, or Family of Toucans. Supplement to the First Edition, London, 1834; 1855. $40,000 to $60,000.
    Swann, Dec. 7: John Pinkerton, A General Collection of the Best and Most Interesting Voyages and Travels in All Parts of the World, London, 1808–14. $1,500 to $2,500.
    Swann, Dec. 7: Oakley Hoopes Bailey, Hackensack, New Jersey, Boston, 1896. $800 to $1,200.

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