The Boston Antiquarian Book Fair From William Reese
William Reese at the Boston Antiquarian Book Fair.
By Michael Stillman
The William Reese Company issued a pamphlet of listings for the recent Boston Antiquarian Book Fair 2004. This is not a typical themed Reese catalogue. It is a collection of items which Reese evidently felt would have the broadest appeal, since it was presented to a book fair audience. These are certainly some very desirable books, and while some have likely found new homes, those not purchased at the fair are undoubtedly still available to those who did not attend. Here are just a few.
We'll start with the earliest, an incunable from 1489. It is the first Latin edition of 9th century astrologer Albumasar's Introductorium In Astronomian. Albumasar (or Albumazar, or Abu-Mashar Jafar ibn Mohammad) was one of the greatest early Islamic teachers of astronomy. Born in what is now Afghanistan and flourishing in Baghdad (those names are quite familiar today), he believed the world was created when the seven planets were in conjunction in Aries and will end when they are in Pisces. Reese does not tell us when that will be. Item 5. $40,000.
Item 81, by Thomas Palmer, is An Essay of the Meanes Hovv to Make Our Trauailes, into Forraine Countries, the More Profitable and Honourable. You know from a title like this that either this book is very old, or Palmer was a terrible speller. Fortunately, it's the former. Palmer had accompanied Cadiz on his expedition and used his experience to provide something of an early travel guide. This book was printed in London in 1606, and as early as it was, Palmer does provide some information on America and the customs of its native Indians. $7,500.
Item 3 is a most interesting piece of Americana relating to the transition from the nation's first to its second generation of leaders. It is John Quincy Adams' Oration on the Life and Character of Gilbert Motier de Lafayette... The speech was delivered on December 31, 1834, after the passing of the French hero of the American Revolution. Lafayette came to America as a wealthy young man to serve under George Washington and lead American forces to victories. While a great hero in America, after the Revolution, Lafayette would return to France and be involved in the many changing governments that nation would experience in the following decades. He would not come back to these shores again until a visit in 1824, but he would not be forgotten in his second home. At his passing, virtually all of the other leaders of the American Revolution had passed on, and even Quincy Adams, second-generation American leader, was now a former president, serving his remaining years as a member of Congress. This particular copy of his Oration is a presentation copy from Adams to George Briggs. Briggs was a fellow Massachusetts congressman and future governor of that state. $7,500.
The Boston Antiquarian Book Fair From William Reese
While Lafayette was one of the last surviving leaders of the Revolution, he was not one of its last surviving soldiers. We get to see some of them in The Last Men of the Revolution. A Photograph of Each from Life... by Rev. Elias Hillard. This book was published in 1864, over 80 years after the Revolution ended. Hillard tracked down the six remaining living Revolutionary War veterans he could find to provide photographs and biographies of them. All, at a minimum, would have been approaching 100 years of age. Hillard felt this publication would be an inspiration to those serving the country in its Civil War. The book includes a facsimile recommendation from Edward Everett, a former Massachusetts governor and congressman who was the lead speaker at Gettysburg. Item 45. $5,000.
There were many events that brought America from its Revolution to its Civil War. Here is one of them. It's the Journal of the Convention of the People of South Carolina: Assembled at Columbia on the 19th November, 1832... This was the convention that asserted South Carolina's right to nullify federal laws of which it did not approve, in this case, the federal tariffs. South Carolina attempted to gather the support of other southern states in its battle for independence from federal authority. It was unsuccessful at the time, but 29 years later the state would achieve its goal. Item 95. $750.
A most interesting document for collectors of Native Americans is The Constitution and Laws of the Cherokee Nation: Passed at Tah-Le-Quah, Cherokee Nation, 1839. This constitution was written after the "Trail of Tears" when eastern Cherokees were forced from their homeland to territory in Oklahoma inhabited by the Arkansas branch of their nation. It represents the coming together of the two branches under what was undoubtedly the most difficult of circumstances. Item 18. $2,250.
One white man whose name is inexorably connected to the American Indians is George Armstrong Custer. Nothing more need be said about that connection. Item 26 goes back to an earlier time in Custer's life, when he was a cadet at West Point. His career there was only slightly more successful than his stand at the Little Big Horn. Custer finished last in his class, leading it only in demerits. He might not have made it at all but for the looming Civil War, where he established a much more favorable resume. This is Custer's copy of the Regulations for the U.S. Military Academy, at West Point, New York, published in 1857. Perhaps Custer should have absorbed them more thoroughly. $5,000.
Item 28 is the 1804 Report of a Debate...in the Senate...Recommending...an Amendment...Relative to the Mode of Electing a President and Vice President of the United States. This is a report of the debate which led to the adoption of the 12th amendment, whereby electors voted separately for president and vice-president. Under the previous system, electors voted for both as if each was a candidate for president, leading to the 1800 electoral tie between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. Burr almost finessed the presidency away from Jefferson. Were it not for this amendment, Dan Quayle and Spiro Agnew might have become presidents. It was a wise decision. $1,250.
For those of you with a somewhat larger budget, Item 51 is a presentation copy of Thomas Jefferson's A Manuel of Parliamentary Practice. For the Use of the Senate of the United States. It was given by Jefferson to his private secretary, William Armisted Burwell. It is one of only three books Jefferson published. $50,000. Item 63 is the quintessential piece of Americana, History of the Expedition Under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark...most often known simply as "Lewis and Clark." This is an excellent set of this classic, complete with the maps. $125,000.
You may reach the William Reese Company at www.reeseco.com or 203-789-8081.