Recent Acquisitions From the William Reese Co.
Recent Acquisition from William Reese Co.
By Michael Stillman
The William Reese Company has published its 236th catalogue, entitled either "Recent Acquisitions" or "New Acquisitions" (depending on whether you want to believe the cover or title page). We mention this inconsistency only because booksellers are the first to point out minor differences and errors in editions of the books they sell, and this is only fair play. I have just made friends of thousands of old writers and publishers, all of whom are dead. Once you get past the title page, you will find 214 items of Americana in this catalogue, recent to Reese's collection, but with centuries in the collections of others.
Item 17 is a scathing indictment of religious persecution in the early years of the colonies. George Bishop writes of this period in New-England Judged, By the Spirit of the Lord... The victims were Quakers, and their oppressors the community which had fled to America to escape religious persecution less than 40 years earlier. Beatings and mutilation were the Puritans' response to the group's beliefs. One punishment involved transporting the victims from town to town in a cart, to be publicly whipped for the enjoyment of each town's residents. Cutting off of ears and branding with an "H" for "heresy" were other favored punishments. However, what really set off Bishop was the execution of four Quakers. This would lead to temporary support for the Quakers' rights from King Charles in 1761, and while repressive measures would soon be restored, it did bring an end to the executions. This copy is a second edition from 1703, which included the two parts of Bishop's book (originally published in 1661 and 1667) along with a response to Cotton Mather's "abuses of the said people." Priced at $2,000.
Religious persecution in America wasn't limited to colonial days. The Mormons were forced further and further west from their New York state beginnings before finally being able to settle down in Utah. One stop along the way was Nauvoo, Illinois, settled in 1839. In 1841, founder Joseph Smith had a revelation instructing him to build a substantial hotel. The sale of $150,000 worth of stock to fund the construction was authorized, with sale of stock permitted to "all who believed in the Book of Mormon." Construction was begun that year, and continued even after Joseph Smith was murdered in jail in 1844. However, the project was abandoned when Brigham Young led most of the group to Utah a couple of years later. Possession fell to Smith's wife Emma, who, with her second husband, would build a much smaller structure on the original foundation. It would become their home and the 19th century equivalent of a bed and breakfast. Nauvoo House still stands today, and may be rented for meetings from its owners, the Community of Christ, formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (but never as "Mormons"). This church was formed in 1860 by followers of Smith who did not follow Brigham Young to Utah, and was originally headed by Smith's son, Joseph III. Item 145 is two stock certificates in the Nauvoo House Association printed in St. Louis for $50 and $100. Priced at $3,000. Item 146 is two certificates of $50 each printed in Nauvoo. $3,000.
Recent Acquisitions From the William Reese Co.
Stock certificate in Nauvoo House.
Ewh Oowahweendahmahgawin Owh Tabanemenung... What language is this? The answer is Ojibwa (Chippewa), and this is a translation of the New Testament into this native language. From 1854. Item 32. $1,600. So how about Wicoicage Wowapi Qa Odowan Wakan...? It can't be English, since we know "u" always follows "q" in English. This one is Dakotan, and this is a two-volume rendition of the Bible from 1842-3. Item 51. $6,000.
Alexander Hamilton was America's first Treasury Secretary and a founder of the Bank of New York. However, in 1782, he was a soon-to-be ex-military man searching to find enough money to meet his own needs. So, on February 17, he sat down and wrote a letter to Jeremiah Wadsworth, a fellow officer in the war who would go on to found or lead several banks in the years ahead. Hamilton, in the most proper of manners, hits up Wadsworth for a loan. Though Wadsworth was also a financial partner with Mrs. Hamilton's brother-in-law, Hamilton asks no special favors. In his letter, Hamilton says that he understands that Wadsworth has loaned some money at interest, and requests a loan of 100 pounds on the same terms he has loaned it to others. Item 84. $5,000.
That was one letter. Here's a whole collection of them. William Few was a Georgia patriot, who served in the Constitutional Convention, the U.S. Senate (one of Georgia's first two senators), as well as the Georgia militia and various other public offices. He would later go on to have a successful banking and public career in New York. Interestingly, while Few owned a southern plantation, he was an opponent of slavery. In another oddity, while a supporter of the Democratic-Republicans, he was a believer in commercial development, rather than focused on the agrarian interests of his party's leaders. Perhaps this explains his turn to New York banking. Item 63 is an enormous collection of Few family letters, from William, his wife Catherine, and other family members. They span a period of 62 years, from 1782 to 1844. In all, there are around 500 letters and several thousand pages. $12,500.
Here are a couple of the most sought after classics of Americana. Item 13 is the seven-volume first Octavo edition of John James Audubon's Birds of America. This was apparently a gift of Audubon to Charlotte Cushman, one of the greatest actresses of the time. $95,000. Item 112 is the official account of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, officially History of the Expedition under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clarke... However, this is neither the American nor the notable London edition, both of 1814. This is the very rare first Dublin edition printed in 1817. With the Dublin edition, you get an extra "e" in Clark's name. $50,000.
Recent Acquisitions From the William Reese Co.
Original printing of the hated Stamp Act.
There was probably no greater grievance against the British by the colonists than the passage of the Stamp Act. That act placed a tax on the sale of various papers, requiring a tax stamp be placed on each. To the British, it was a means of forcing the colonists to pay for the Crown's expenses in America, but to the colonists, it was taxation without representation. The reaction was so venomous that the British repealed the act just a year later, but the resentment was so deep that it remained a primary justification for the revolution which would occur a decade later. Item 175 is the official British folio printing of this hated act from 1765. $20,000.
Item 156 is an 1803 Philadelphia broadside urging the city's citizens to be inoculated against smallpox. The vaccine, generated from cowpox, was not readily accepted, as many feared being subjected to any type of pox. In the broadside, signed by 49 of the city's top physicians, the argument is made that while one out of six people who contract smallpox will die, no one will die from cowpox. Reese points out that the latter wasn't entirely true, but it was undoubtedly worth the risk. $6,000.
Item 207 is an interesting threat to the people of West Virginia during the Civil War. West Virginia had recently split from secessionist Virginia, remaining in the Union. This is a broadside issued by Confederate Major General William Loring, stating that his army would "rescue the people from the despotism of the counterfeit State Government." He goes on to warn, "those who persist in adhering to the cause of the public enemy, and the pretended State Government in Wheeling, will be dealt with as their obstinate treachery deserves." Loring never got the chance. This broadside was probably printed in Charleston during the Confederate troops' brief control of that city in 1862, but they were soon driven out. $1,000.
Item 172 is a manuscript copy of a speech given by William Shepard to members of the Seneca Nation of New York. Shepard, a Revolutionary War veteran and Congressman, spoke to the Senecas on behalf of Robert Morris, who wished to purchase large tracts of their land. Morris purchased huge amounts of land on speculation in the late 18th century, only to have his empire collapse and be imprisoned for debt. Shepard had made such speeches on behalf of others and was evidently quite adept at it. To show his solidarity with the Senecas, he began every sentence with the word "brothers." His argument was that most of the land was of little benefit to the Senecas, but if they sold, they would be able to buy the things needed to live a good life off the interest they collected on their money. Reese describes the speech as, "An eloquent and masterful example of how the eastern Indians of the early United States were duped into selling their patrimony." While that's certainly true, Shepard was probably giving them good advice, for if they hadn't sold, in time the white man undoubtedly would have simply taken their land and paid nothing in return. $1,750.
The William Reese Company can be located online at www.reeseco.com and by phone at 203-789-8081.