Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - November - 2023 Issue

Rare Americana from David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books

The latest selection of rare Americana from David Lesser.

David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books has issued their Catalogue 198 of Rare Americana. The material includes some items from the 18th century, much from the 19th. The time period traces the birth of the nation and a period of peace and growth, and then into a time when the “era of good feelings” devolved into outright war. Today we face another round of deterioration where the good feelings have turned bad and the outcome is unknown. Hopefully not civil war again. Here are a few items to help learn from our past so we don't have to repeat it.


The issue that plunged America into civil war was slavery, and racism was a large part of the justification for permitting such a horrible practice. That ugly aspect of American society is seen clearly in this 1860 broadside from Currier and Ives of New York, no less. It's caption headline reads, An Heir to the Throne, or the Next Republican Candidate. That candidate was to be the successor to Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln converses with abolitionist publisher Horace Greeley. Between them stands a small black man, whose appearance is based on a deformed African American displayed at P. T. Barnum's Museum. He was also said to be weak of mind. He exclaims, “What can dey be?” Greeley says, “Gentlemen, let me introduce to you, this illustrious individual to whom you will find combined, all the graces, and virtue of Black Republicanism, and whom we propose to run as our next Candidate for the Presidency.” Lincoln responds, “How Fortunate! that this intellectual and noble creature should have been discovered at this time, to prove to the world the superiority of the Colored over the Anglo-Saxon race, he will be a worthy successor to carry out the policy which I shall inaugurate.” Item 35. Priced at $3,000.


One always likes products that serve multiple purposes, though this one seems like an odd combination. Then again, considering its time, maybe it did make sense. This broadside promotes J. J. Towle's Combined Foot Warmer and Lantern. You probably wouldn't think a flashlight that warmed your feet makes much sense, but this was meant to sit low on a horse-drawn sleigh. It would light the way ahead you, and considering there were no headlights on sleighs, this would have been very helpful seeing your way back from Grandma's house at night. Towle pointed out that it was a great safety feature for people walking along the way. They could see you coming and get out of the way. Meanwhile, the burning oil would throw heat near your feet, but without burning or injuring your clothing. It would not be blown out by wind or fast driving, and pipes carried the smoke away so it would not bother you. Towle also created a little poetry to go with his sales pitch, beginning, “One cent a day will kill the cold; / In comfort pay a hundred fold; 'Twill keep you warm – prevent the chills, / And save from paying Doctor's bill!” Towle would have understood cold winters as he came from Maine. He either got a patent or at least applied for one, but whether he ever was successful selling this is unknown to me. Circa 1880. Item 53. $450.


Here is the work of an unnamed poet even better than Towle. This is a broadside showing a man leading a donkey. Below are eight poetic stanzas, all ending with the same capitalized two words. Here's how it begins:


“Oh, well do I remember yet

How very proud I used to get,

When like a little king I'd set upon



When seated on his nice soft back,

my tinny little whip I'd crack,

And with my little hand I'd smack



Is there a double entendre here? There are six more verses but you will have to purchase this item if you want to hear the rest. It was published by Childs of Philadelphia circa 1820s (?). Item 19. $2,500.


There's nothing like a good murder mystery to capture the public's attention, and Philadelphia's Barclay & Co. were experts at spinning out lurid tales to capture their interest and money. This one, circa 1883, Murder Will Out! Startling News! The mysterious murder of pretty Rose Ambler, the Connecticut beauty, and awful confession of "Jack" Krantz. Rose Ambler, ex-wife of Norman Ambler, had taken up with one William Lewis. She spent evenings with him, but then walked back to her father's house, alone, after dark, as Lewis had to rise early in the morning for work. This was a regular occurrence that she would walk home in the very dark rural setting near Stratford. One night she did not return home. Neighbors heard what they thought was the screeching of an owl, but when her body was discovered the next morning, they exclaimed, “It was no owl that we heard last night. It was the death cry of Rose Ambler.” The first suspect was Norman Ambler, but he had eyewitness alibis many miles away. Several others were investigated before authorities' prime target became Lewis. There was testimony they had argued, but no substantial evidence was ever found. As for Jack Krantz, I found nothing about him other than he was one of the witnesses, though not of the crime itself. No one was ever convicted and the crime remains unresolved. Item 2. $875.


University of North Carolina chemistry professor B. S. Hedrick had unusual political views for the South in 1856. He was in favor of the Republican presidential candidate, John C. Fremont. “I like the man,” he said. What he liked in particular that was unpopular in the South was his opposition to the extension of slavery to the newly acquired territories. “Opposition to slavery extension is neither a Northern or sectional ism. It originated with the great Southern statesmen of the Revolution. Washington, Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Madison and Randolph were all opposed to slavery in the abstract, and were all opposed to admitting it into new territory.” He felt “slavery exerts an evil influence both upon whites and blacks.” He was not an abolitionist, saying it could not be eliminated where already present, but should not be extended as “it is almost impossible to get rid of the system.” He expressed his views in this broadside headed Prof. Hedrick's Defense. He concludes, “I think I should be met by argument and not by denunciation.” North Carolinians were not interested in reasonable debate. They were outraged and the university fired him for his political views. Item 45. $2,000.


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

  • 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.
    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

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