Southern Americana from William Reese
Southern Americana from the William Reese Company.
By Michael Stillman
The latest catalogue from Americana bookseller William Reese Company of New Haven is titled Southern Americana. This is a most significant catalogue, but perhaps not entirely what you might expect. "Southern" catalogues almost invariably seem to be filled with Civil War, antebellum, and Reconstruction-era materials. You will find some of these in Reese's catalogue as well, but the focus is much broader. In particular, you will find much from the South pertaining to colonial times, the Revolution, and some even earlier. There are also items relating to Spanish times. Not everyone remembers that the old Florida, which was much larger than the current state by that name, remained in Spanish hands until 1819, long after the British and French had effectively been removed from the land now part of the U.S.A. Those whose collections of the South cover more than rebellion and slavery, will find this catalogue an excellent source for some of the hard to find works about the American South.
Item 162 is a scarce but important recounting of the treaty which turned Florida over to the United States and effectively sealed the nation's boundaries east of the Mississippi. The title is Memoir upon the Negotiations between Spain and the United States of America, which led to the Treaty of 1819. The writer was Luis de Onis, who conducted negotiations on behalf of Spain. This is the 1821 Baltimore edition, and it details negotiations between de Onis and American Secretary of State John Quincy Adams. The negotiations were a major success for the Americans, although a weakened Spain would have been in no position to defend their territory. When the dust settled, America laid claim to all of Florida, Spain getting the U.S. to acknowledge its claim to Texas in return. Of course that land would be seized by America a few decades later, but this wouldn't matter to Spain as the Mexican people were about to throw them out of North America soon anyway. Priced at $2,500.
For those looking to go back even further, to the days when Spain first took control of Florida, there is Histoire Novvelle du Novveau Monde, by Girolamo Benzoni. This is a 1579 French translation of a work first published in Venice in 1565. It recounts the massacre of the French Huguenot settlement at Fort Caroline by the Spanish in 1565. The slaughter of all settlers unable to escape sent a clear message to other non-Spaniards who might have any thoughts of colonizing this land. Item 13. $17,500.
While the French never settled Florida, they did control the vast western area of North America known as Louisiana until virtually run from the continent in 1763 after the French and Indian War. And yet despite their absence, forty years later, America purchased that great expanse from France. How did that happen? The French and Indian War turned that territory over to Spain, but by the turn of the 19th century, Spain was being crushed under Napoleon's thumb. In 1801, Spain agreed to cede the land back to France. However, this was not announced until two years later, and the land was not transferred back to France until November 30, 1803.
Southern Americana from William Reese
One of the few items printed in 19th century French Louisiana.
Meanwhile cash-strapped Napoleon needed money to carry on his European adventures more than he needed to defend territory in America, so he arranged for the sale of Louisiana to the United States. So, three weeks after finally regaining the territory, France transferred it to the U.S. Naturally, there were not many works printed in French Louisiana during the 19th century. Reese does have a few of them, broadsides printed by French authorities during this very brief period. For example, item 127 is a broadside headed Arrete, qui met le Sieur St.-Julien en Liberte... This was a decree ordering the release of one Louis St. Julien under bond. St Julien had been imprisoned for sedition, but was evidently a great French patriot. $12,500.
It proved all for naught, but in the late 1820s and early 1830s, there were some voices arguing against the forced removal of the Cherokees from their ancestral homeland in Georgia. Item 23 is an argument from Robert Campbell To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate of the State of Georgia. This was an impassioned plea on behalf of the Cherokees made before the state senate by a white man. After two pages of Campbell's speech were given, the senate labeled him disrespectful and refused to hear any more. They referred his plea to a committee which also refused to listen. Campbell then published this speech in 1829. $5,000. Item 29 is An Address of the "Committee and Council of the Cherokee Nation, in General Council Convened," to the People of the United States. This is a circa 1830 plea by the Cherokees themselves to the American people, asking they uphold the treaties the U.S. had made with them. It, too, fell on deaf ears, and a few years later, the Cherokees were forced on their "Trail of Tears" to more desolate land in Oklahoma. $1,250.
Item 15 is an important book for collectors of Virginia. It is The History and Present State of Virginia, in Four Parts...By a Native and Inhabitant of the Place (that native was Robert Beverley). This was the first history of Virginia by a native, published in 1705. It was also the first account of the colony after John Smith, and is one of the best accounts of early settlers and the natives of the land published contemporaneously. $10,000.
The website for the William Reese Company is www.reeseco.com, phone number 203-789-8081.