Literature from the William Reese Company
Literature from the William Reese Company.
By Michael Stillman
The William Reese Company takes a brief respite from its usual catalogues in Americana to offer Literature A Miscellany, number 253 in their series. This catalogue is descriptively subtitled A varied selection from the 16th through the 21st Centuries including Recent Acquisitions, Poetry and Prose, Manuscripts, Fine Printing, Filmscripts and Bibliography. The nice thing about lengthy, descriptive subtitles is they save the reviewer from having to describe the catalogue. So, we will proceed directly to some examples, stopping only to say that there are almost 800 items offered for sale, and those who might be intimidated by the cost of Reese's typical Americana offerings need feel no fear. Their literary works are accessible to a far wider range of budgets, most likely yours included.
We're so used to Reese's focus on Americana that we will start with an item that straddles the line between literature and Americana. Item 56 is The Vision of Columbus; A Poem in Nine Books. Joel Barlow's creation was published in 1787, and was evidently quite a favorite among American patriots. Among the list of subscribers were Washington, for twenty copies, Lafayette and Franklin for ten each. This copy has an ownership inscription from Charles Pinckney, South Carolina delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention, and one of its more influential leaders. He would lead the fight for ratification in South Carolina, and go on to serve as that state's governor and senator and a campaign leader for Jefferson in the 1800 election, a political leader until ill health forced his retirement in 1821. Priced at $1,250.
Item 184 is a signed, typed letter from Hollywood's dearest mommy, Joan Crawford. The chatty Ms. Crawford writes to the recently married screenwriter Frank Nugent and his wife Jean in 1953, "Aw, gee, Jean -- how did you beat me to it? I asked him to marry me publicly...but I didn't get anywhere." Don't feel too sad for Joan for missing out on this man. She still managed to snare five husbands of her own. $275.
Speaking of the silver screen, item 313 is Bruce Friedman's screenplay for Detroit Abe, circa 1981-2. This is a "first" draft signed by Friedman. In 1983, it would be released as the movie "Dr. Detroit," starring Dan Aykroyd. This is positively one of the worst movies ever created, and established the oft-repeated universal truth that ex-Saturday Night Live performers should not be permitted to make movies. $75.
Now for some more memorable performances from the little screen. Item 76 is an episode from Star Trek's first season, What Are Little Girls Made Of? This is a "revised final" edition of Robert Bloch's script that first aired on October 20, 1966. We cannot say how many times it has aired since, but likely as many times as there are stars in the universe. Forty years later, you still can't go through a day without seeing some advertisement on TV with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, so lasting is the influence of this series. $200.
Literature from the William Reese Company
Joseph Glanvill was perhaps the 17th century's greatest expert on witchcraft. Glanvill was a proponent of scientific investigation and supported religious tolerance, but he was also a believer in witches and the spirit world. Glanville was convinced that such spirits appeared in the Bible, and so to deny their existence would be to deny God, and to allow the Devil to triumph. Consequently, he developed what today seems an odd combination of beliefs, recognizing both scientific investigation and witchcraft. His book which focused on the spirit side is offered in a second edition from 1682, Saducismus Triumphatus: or Full and Plain Evidence Concerning Witches and Apparitions. Cotton Mather would seize upon this side of Glanvill's teachings to tacitly support the very bad behavior of authorities in Salem, Massachusetts, a few years later. Item 333. $2,750.
Some other evils, though not quite as greatly so, are expounded upon in Serious Reflections on the Dangerous Tendency of the Common Practice of Card-Playing...in a Letter...to His Friend Abraham Nixon... The stated author is Gyles Smith, probably a pseudonym as this work also appeared under another name. He was concerned with university students spending too much time gaming instead of studying, an issue that still has not gone away, though this book is two and one-half centuries old. However, what really gives me the creeps about this book is the name of the author's friend -- Abraham Nixon. It sounds like a grotesque amalgam of names of U.S. presidents, somehow managing to combine the best with the worst. Okay, maybe with the second worst. Item 652. $950.
Item 729 is a hand written note from H.G. Wells, evidently in response to a request for an autograph. Wells clearly had a sense of humor. He writes, "Mrs. Montrose wants me to do an autograph / (How I hate doing autographs) / ...It is an impudent enough thing to write Books / (But I can bring myself to do that) / But to write autographs! / Setting down simply one's name / For the sake of doing it! / Ugh! / I almost forgot it / Here -- is the beastly autograph." It is signed "H. G. Wells." $1,500.
The William Reese Company is found online at www.reeseco.com, telephone 203-789-8081.