Books and Manuscripts from John Waite Rare Books
Autumn 2006 from John Waite Rare Books.
By Michael Stillman
From John Waite Rare Books we have received their Autumn 2006 Catalogue. Waite offers a wide variety of books and manuscripts, along with some photography. A few items reflect their northern New England location, in Ascutney, Vermont. However, most owe no such allegiance, and could as easily be found in a California bookshop. There is history, literature, poetry, "medicine," photography, art, first editions, politics, slavery and abolition, computers, and religion. And there is more. Here are a few samples.
Item 164 is a remarkable collection of sixteen signed letters from Theodore Roosevelt to social reformer Louisa Lee Schuyler. Schuyler was a great-granddaughter of Alexander Hamilton and Revolutionary War General Philip Schuyler, a woman of social status and friend of Roosevelt's father who dedicated much of her life to public causes. A progressive like Roosevelt, she was a volunteer with the U.S. Sanitary Commission during the Civil War and did much with the training of nurses. These letters run through four years of Roosevelt's presidency and the first four years after he left office. Some of the most interesting come from 1912 when Roosevelt was contemplating another run for the presidency against his hand-picked successor, William Howard Taft. They provide an insight into Roosevelt's feelings about Taft. Schuyler cautioned against the run, encouraging Roosevelt to wait until 1916, fearing (correctly) that 1912 would be a Democratic year. The former President explains that he has two choices, to declare he would accept the nomination of the Republican Party, or refuse it. He chooses to announce he would accept, not for his own interests, but because he feels it would be in those of the country. Writes Roosevelt on February 20, 1912, "Under no circumstances would I be for Taft's re-nomination. He is a reactionary, not primarily by preference, but simply because he does not understand the great questions that are up, and has no real convictions on them. He was an admirable lieutenant, but as a general he is utterly incompetent. If he should be nominated and elected, it would merely make the Republican Party a reactionary party, and not a particle more useful to the country than the Whig Party under Millard Fillmore. Under such circumstances I cannot support him for the nomination, even though as a choice of two evils it may be and doubtless will be necessary to support him against the Democrats if nominated…"
Of course what happened was that the Republicans nominated Taft anyway, but rather than accept the lesser of two evils, Roosevelt attempted a third party candidacy, beating out Taft, but losing to Democrat Woodrow Wilson. But, perhaps Roosevelt's unkindest cut at Taft was comparing him to Millard Fillmore. Ouch! In a letter on December 31, after the election was over, Roosevelt looks back on the election, and then comments, "Indeed I did not mind being shot a bit." Only T.R. could make such a statement. On October 14, a deranged gunman fired a shot at Roosevelt while traveling to a speech. The bullet struck him in the chest, but its full force was slowed by the thick manuscript of the speech in his pocket. Despite the injury, Roosevelt insisted on going ahead with the talk, and waved the speech with its bullet hole in front of the audience. Despite his attempt to avoid medical attention, he was finally forced to undergo hospitalization the next day. Doctors decided not to remove the bullet, and Roosevelt carried it within him the rest of his life. The sixteen letters are priced at $27,500.
Books and Manuscripts from John Waite Rare Books
Teddy Roosevelt's letters to Louisa Lee Schuyler.
Item 17 offers another connection to a descendant of Alexander Hamilton. It is an appointment of Alexander Hamilton, most likely the grandson of the more famous man by that name, as a "Cadet in the service of the United States" (West Point?). It is dated 1832, and was signed by Lewis Cass, then Secretary of War. Cass had a long and notable career in public service. He was a general and war hero, Governor of the Michigan Territory, a senator and Secretary of State during the Buchanan administration. He was also the only presidential nominee of the Democratic Party from 1800 to 1860 who was never elected president (he lost to Zachary Taylor in 1848). $350.
We seem stuck in a rut here, but Alexander Hamilton is worthy of the attention, so here are letters from Eliza Hamilton Schuyler, granddaughter of Alexander, to Reverend Orville Dewey, a family friend. They are dated from 1847 to 1863. They cover a wide range of issues, from theology, literature and society, to slavery, emancipation, and the Civil War. Dewey was himself a well-published writer, and was a supporter of neither slavery nor abolition, which brought him opposition from both north and south of the Mason-Dixon line. Most of the 32 letters are from Mrs. Schuyler or Rev. Dewey, with a few from other family members. Item 100. $4,500.
Item 56 is one of the greatest American literary classics. It is the first American edition of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain or Samuel Clemens, whichever alias you prefer. This is a first printing, from 1876. $5,000.
Item 116 is a scarce offprint of the article Reflections on American Foreign Diplomacy, published in Foreign Affairs magazine in 1956. The obscure author was Henry Kissinger, still influential in American foreign policy today, half a century later. He had many ideas for American policy and devoted his life to the subject, yet his advice played an important role in two of America's least successful wars, Vietnam and Iraq. $600.
For collectors of the Limited Editions Club, item 158 is a prize. It is Lysistrata by Aristophenes, with illustrations by Pablo Picasso. Published in 1934 and limited to 1,500 copies, it is signed by Picasso. $5,750.
Item 28 is one of several Black Panther Party items, undated but from 1968. The Black Panthers were a militant black rights group, perhaps the most notable of those to arise during the latter years of the nonviolent protest era. This is a petition for control of the Oakland police. It calls for a division of the police department into two, one to police the mainly black neighborhoods, the other to handle the white areas. It also calls for more civilian control over the police. Not surprisingly, this proposal was never adopted. $400.
John Waite Rare Books may be reached at 802-674-2665 or firstname.lastname@example.org.