John Waite Rare Books
Books and Ephemera from John Waite Rare Books
By Michael Stillman
Vermont bookseller John Waite Rare Books is offering an eclectic collection of "Books & Ephemera" in their recently released tenth catalogue. While some of the material reflects their northern New England location, there are also items you can't help but wonder how they made their way to Vermont. Perhaps it is because Vermont has long been a vacation spot or place for second homes. Here are a few of the items Waite is offering.
Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams had an on-again off-again friendship over the course of their lives. They were best of friends early in Capote's career and at one point sailed together from Europe to America. Waite quotes from Williams' writings, "In those days Truman was about the best companion you could want. He had not turned bitchy. Well, he had not turned maliciously bitchy." However, in later years, when Capote turned "maliciously bitchy," Capote would depict Williams, in Waite's description, as "a washed-up, self-pitying, and neurotic drunk." So it is interesting to see Capote's Music for Chameleons, in which he dedicates the book to Williams. It was published in 1980, nearing the end of both authors' lives. This copy is signed both by Capote on the title page and Williams on the dedication page. Item 23. Priced at $2,500.
Item 13 is an interesting undated slavery related item from the 1850s. It is a song sheet for a piece called "Pretty Dilly Burn." It is a song supposedly presented through the voice of a male slave (though lyricist George Meeser was undoubtedly a white northerner). It retells how slavery breaks up a beautiful romance between two slaves, but in the end, they are brought back together through the goodness of the singer's kind master. Exactly what this strange connection of good and evil was meant to say in this era when the nation was becoming polarized by slavery is not clear. In the song, the singer, treated well by his master, falls in love with Dilly Burn, overworked by hers. Then one day, Dilly Burn's master sells her "for a paltry sum of gold," and the two are parted. The singer becomes despondent, his master asks why, and he explains. His kindly owner responds by buying Dilly so the two can be together. The song closes with "And now we're happy in our cot, and massa's pleased to see, How two fond hearts that truly love, tho' black, can happy be." The complete lyrics to this song and an image of the song sheet can be found on the Library of Congress website at http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/S?ammem/amss:@field(TITLE+@od1(Pretty+Dilly+Burn++Andrews,+Printer,+38+Chatham+Street,+N++Y++[n++d+])). $400.
John Waite Rare Books
One of the first American racing broadsides
Item 64 is a Boston newspaper that will also be of interest to Michigan collectors. It is Vol. 1 No. 50 of the Boston Chronicle from November 21-28, 1768. This early weekly, which lasted for three years, includes letters regarding taxes and the recently repealed Stamp Act. However, it also includes a report from a correspondent in Michilimackinac, northern Michigan, on the situation concerning Major Robert Rogers. Rogers and his "Rogers' Rangers" gained fame during the French and Indian War, but by this time, laden with debt, he was accused of involvement in illegal trade. The correspondent details the charges against Rogers, of which he was eventually acquitted. $250.
Among the items Waite has is a group of old restaurant menus. For example, there's one from the world famous Copacabana restaurant and club in New York, circa 1940s. Many of the greatest stars of that era performed there, and probably selected items from this menu. Item 45. $95. A business card from the upstate New York (Rensselaer County) Schaghticoke House proclaims "Patronizing us is like making love to a widow. You can't overdo it!" What does that mean? Item 48. $12.
Item 68 is a copy of the book America and Alfred Stieglitz about the famed photographer. This copy comes with an inscription from Stieglitz to his building supervisor. It is dated December 2, 1934. $2,000.
Item 17 is a very early American horseracing broadside. It announces races at the Newmarket track on Long Island, New York, in 1804. Included are instructions to riders and this odd restriction: "The stewards are determined, if possible, to prevent any interruption to the noble sport of horse-racing, and any imposition upon the unwary, by keeping from the course, every species of gambling table." So what was the point of this horseracing anyway? One suspects the "if possible" clause is the answer. Prohibiting gambling was likely impossible. Waite reports that in their research, they were only able to locate one item of American horseracing ephemera that predates this one, and that piece is badly mutilated. $12,500.
It may not be well known, but Dick's House, the medical facility at Dartmouth College, was named after Richard Drew Hall. Hall was a sophomore in the class of 1927 when he died of polio. The sadness must have been immense for his parents, who commissioned the facility in memory of their son. They also had a memorial book privately printed in his honor, Richard Drew Hall 1904-1924. It includes letters Hall wrote and reminiscences of him. Item 61. $35.
You may reach John Waite Rare Books at 802-674-2665. Also, they are listed in our advertising section: www.americanaexchange.com/facilities/classified/home.asp