Antiquarian Books About Books from Oak Knoll
Antiquarian Books from Oak Knoll.
By Michael Stillman
Most of Oak Knoll Books' catalogues follow a basic format, so we were pleased to find something a little different when we received their catalogue number 272. Yes, it is still dominated by books in the "books about books" or book arts field. Still, this one comes with an unusual title for an Oak Knoll catalogue: Antiquarian Books. Most books we find in the typical Oak Knoll catalogue date from the 20th century. In this catalogue, nary a one does. This is pre-20th century material, mostly from the 18th and 19th centuries, but as far back as the 15th (an incunable from 1478, Epistolae Familiares by Pope Pius II). The result is a catalogue that has a broader appeal than the average Oak Knoll catalogue, as it is filled with nothing but antiquarian volumes. Here are a few of the 639 pieces which predate the last century.
Item 223 is a four-volume compilation of the books in the Harvard Library, at least as of 1830. Safe to say it was smaller then. It is titled, quite appropriately, Catalogue of the Library of Harvard University. However, this one comes with a special association. It includes an inscription from Harvard President Josiah Quincy to "Mr. Daniel Webster L.L.D." Webster was for several decades a Massachusetts senator and was one of the greatest orators and most influential officials of early America. The book was given to Webster in the year he made one of his most famous speeches. In arguing against South Carolina's claim to the right of nullification, that is, a state's right to repudiate federal law and authority, Webster concluded his speech with the famed words, "liberty and union, now and forever, one and inseparable." Perhaps it was this speech which inspired the gift, or possibly Webster's earlier successful legal arguments in defense of Dartmouth College when the State of New Hampshire tried to seize control of it from private trustees. Priced at $250.
Item 167 has one of those titles that sounds less than honest: Distinct and Impartial History of the Conspiracies, Trials, Characters, Behavior and Dying Speeches of All Those who have Suffered on Account of the House of Stewart [Stuart]...a Compendious View of the Plots hatched by That House... With a title like that, are we really supposed to believe this is an "impartial" history? The Stuarts ruled (and misruled) England and Scotland through most of the 17th century and into the early 18th, but were removed after a treaty required that the throne be held by Protestants. However, through the 18th century, including the time this book was published (1747), the Stuarts were still trying to reclaim the throne, which led to the publication of this "impartial" review. $45.
Antiquarian Books About Books from Oak Knoll
Lady Victory strikes a Janet Jacksonesque pose.
Here is an item that is connected to the most expensive book sold at auction last year. Item 608 is the Annual Report of the Directors of the (Providence) Athenaeum 1841-1898. This three-volume set also includes the first printing of the 1836-7 annual report, published on the Athenaeum's 50th anniversary in 1886. It was during these early years that the Athenaeum purchased the double-elephant folio of John James Audubon's "Birds of America" which was issued in parts. It continued to hold this item in its collection until last year, when it was sold at auction for $5,616,000. Their annual reports will cost you a lot less - $125.
As long as we're writing about Rhode Island, a state we too often ignore in our reviews, item 611 is John Bartlett's Bibliography of Rhode Island... Even in 1864 Bartlett was able to fill up 287 pages with descriptions of books from Rhode Island. This state is bigger than we imagined. $125.
Here's one more state we have too often ignored: Vermont. Small as it is, it could fill a 349-page bibliography in 1897. Item 626 is The Bibliography of Vermont... by M.D. Gilman $185.
For those with an interest in book bindings, Oak Knoll offers A Manuel of the Art of Bookbinding Containing Full Instructions in the Different Branches of Forwarding, Gilding and Finishing, by James Nicholson. This book was published in 1856, and Oak Knoll describes it as, "The first edition of the first American bookbinding manual." Item 52. $850.
Item 23 offers some interesting early Alabama forms. They are two blank 1810 forms for admittance to the Birmingham hospital. They note that patients should bring a change of linen. However, "Persons suspected to have the Itch cannot be admitted..." That one leaves me scratching my head. $185.
Item 460 contains some most interesting and beautiful images, but from a surprising source. From the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, circa 1873, they are portraits and vignettes of buildings, allegorical figures, American eagles and the like, images you would find on bonds and money. For example, see the image of "Victory" on this page, whose Janet Jacksonesque pose was acceptable in the 19th century, but would stir great controversy, and get you some hefty fines, today. Get that lady a Burka! $3,750.
Oak Knoll Books may be reached at www.oakknoll.com or 302-328-7232.