Five Centuries from Joseph Felcone, Antiquarian Booksellers
Books from Five Centuries from Joseph Felcone.
By Michael Stillman
Joseph J. Felcone Antiquarian Booksellers has issued its Bulletin Ninety-Two. This is not the typical publication for the bookseller noted as the foremost expert on and dealer in New Jerseyana. The titles gives it away: Books From Five Centuries: A Miscellany. New Jersey hasn't been around for five centuries, so there must be more. And there is. Here are a few samples.
Long before Europeans were settling on the Jersey shore, Roger Ascham was writing instructions on how to teach your children. First published in 1570, this is the 1589 London edition of The Scholemaster. Or, Playne and Perfite Way of Teaching Children. To Understande, Write, and Speake the Latin Tong.... How could Ascham be a teacher if he couldn't even spell? In the book, the kindly Ascham calls for gentle coercion rather than flogging of children. This strange philosophy of education became quite influential, perhaps because Ascham was not only a highly regarded educator, but had been the private tutor of Queen Elizabeth I in her princess days. Item 4. Priced at $4,500.
Franciscus Mercurius van Helmont produced one of the earlier books on instructing the deaf on lip-reading and speaking. Helmont possessed some unusual spiritual views, and they are reflected in this work, Alphabeti vere Naturalis Hebraici.... and others. In this one, he expresses the belief that the design of Hebrew letters reflect positions of the tongue when speaking, and attempts to use this to teach the deaf. Item 19. From 1657. $3,800.
Item 169 touches on an issue being debated today, whether it is acceptable to execute youth under the age of 18. In 1821, this was not an issue. This is a broadside headed Execution of Stephen Merrill Clark, which took place on Winter Island, Salem, on Thursday, May 10, 1821. For the crime of arson. Clark was only sixteen, and no one died (other than Clark himself) as a result of his crime, but those were harder times. Indeed, the execution was evidently something of a morbid form of entertainment. "At an early hour the place of execution was literally surrounded by anxious multitudes, waiting the arrival of the fatal moment...." the broadside tells us. Another crowd followed the procession of officers with Merrill, those officers having to move the crowd aside to reach the gallows. Clark is said to have confessed, and to have been forgiven by his victims. At one point he tried to bribe his jailer to be set free, but without success. As to why he set the fire in the first place, the broadside is unclear. He was supposedly inveigled into the act by some "lewd" women, and the clear moral of this broadside is to let others beware of such ladies. However, we are not told why these women wanted the properties burned down. All we know is that Merrill did it, these women became his accusers, Merrill was executed, and they were "permitted to go unpunished." $900.
Five Centuries from Joseph Felcone, Antiquarian Booksellers
Item 193 is one of the earliest, and most bizarre, American medical books. Alexis St. Martin, a French-Canadian trapper, suffered a serious gun wound to his stomach. Army physician William Beaumont, author of this text, treated the wound but was then able to observe what was taking place in St. Martin's stomach for years through the opening. The result was this 1833 book, Experiments and Observations on the Gastric Juice, and the Physiology of Digestion. Among his observations were the effects of emotions on gastric secretions, which became the basis for Pavlov's experiments a century later. As for St. Martin, who was 28 at the time of his accident, he lived to be 86! $3,000.
While Beaumont was evidently one first-rate physician, I would not have wanted to entrust my health to Johann Hayne. In 1683 he published Trifolium Medicum.... which explains which diseases are brought on by astrological influences, and by tartar and minerals in the body. I don't know what his "cures" were, but it's hard to imagine they were very effective. Item 43. $1,500.
Some things never change. Francis Blackburne published Considerations on the Present State of the Controversy between the Protestants and Papists of Great Britain and Ireland.... in 1768. Well over two centuries later the dispute continues in Northern Ireland. Is it any wonder that it is so hard to resolve? Item 72. $2,800.
Item 157 is an 1816 book written by Elias Boudinot, A Star in the West; or, A Humble Attempt to Discover the Long Lost Ten Tribes of Israel, Preparatory to their Return to their Beloved City, Jerusalem. Boudinot believed that the American Indians were the lost tribes. As to a return to their "beloved city, Jerusalem," I cannot imagine what would happen to the contentiousness already present in that holy city were America's Indians to resettle there now. This book came in the latter stages of Boudinot's life. Earlier, he had played a significant role in the American Revolution. George Washington had tapped him to manage war prisoners in 1777, and he served as a delegate from New Jersey during the Continental Congress. Some have referred to him as "the first president of the United States" as he was President of the Continental Congress at the time the British signed the Treaty of Paris, recognizing the new nation's independence. Boudinot would serve in the first congresses after the adoption of the Constitution, retiring in 1795 to begin a ten-year stint as Director of the Mint. Among his other accomplishments was serving almost half a century as a trustee of Princeton University, and helping to found the American Bible Society, which supported the rights of Blacks and Native Americans. That role, ironically, led to his name being adopted by a young Cherokee who, as " Elias Boudinot," was one of the few of his tribe to sign the agreement which the government would use to force his people from their ancestral home in Georgia on the forced march to Oklahoma. The first Elias Boudinot would have been deeply saddened. $600.
The Penitential Tyrant; or, Slave Trader Reformed: A Pathetic Poem.... is an important anti-slavery work. This is the 1807 second edition of Thomas Branagan's book. Branagan was a slave trader who became convinced of the evil of his occupation and changed his ways. Graphic illustrations in the book depict the terrible evils of this institution. The title page shows a slave in chains, kneeling while asking, "Am I not a man, and a brother?" It is incomprehensible that so many people for so long have answered "no." Item 158. $2,000.
Joseph J. Felcone, Inc., Antiquarian Booksellers may be found online at www.felcone.com or reached by phone at 609-924-0539.