Books from Northern North America from Helen R. Kahn
Northern North America from Helen Kahn.
By Michael Stillman
Catalogue 70, the latest from Helen R. Kahn & Associates, was recently published. Kahn specializes in 16th-20th century North America, and here you can place a special emphasis on the word "north." Kahn is located in Montreal, Canada, so the majority of the works either come from or pertain to Canada or the northern part of the United States. These are works of history, exploration and discovery. There is not much fiction, although perhaps some exaggeration in "Indian captivities" and the like which border on fiction. Still, these are works that will educate as well as entertain, and contribute significantly to any serious collection of Americana. Here are a few of the items you will find inside.
Here is one of those works that lives on the border between truth and fiction: The Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth, Mountaineer, Scout, and Pioneer, and Chief of the Crow Nation of Indians. Prepared by T.D. Bonner based on Beckwourth's dictations, the man no doubt led an exciting life. Though his mother was a slave, his white father raised and educated Beckwourth. Still he found it difficult to find employment, so the young man headed west. He would become an explorer under Fremont, a trapper, and spent many years with the Crow, though his claims to be a true chief are in doubt. Some of his story is believed to be exaggeration, but it is based on fact. This book was published in 1856. Beckwourth died under mysterious circumstances a decade later after returning to the Crow. Item 18. $800.
Here is a pair of books, at least one of which must be wrong, though their authors undoubtedly each believed his was completely accurate. Item 35 is An Answer to that Part of the Narrative of...Sir Henry Clinton...which relates to the Conduct of...Cornwallis. Published in 1783. $1,100. Item 31 is A Letter from Lieut. Gen. Sir Henry Clinton... published in 1784. $375. Clinton and Cornwallis participated in a war of pamphlets back in England after the end of the American Revolution. They spent their years blaming each other for England's loss in that war.
Item 34 is a work that perhaps contained a little too much truth. The book is Memoirs of Mrs. Coghlan, written by the same (Magaret Coghlan) and published in 1795. As a young lady, probably in 1776 when she was just 13, she was seduced by Aaron Burr. At 14, she unwillingly married John Coghlan. She fled the marriage to a series of protectors, evidently some well enough placed for her to become at least casually acquainted with many notable personalities of the time, including the aforementioned Cornwallis and his enemy Washington. The book caused quite a scandal at the time. $775.
Thomas Jefferson was often attacked by his opponents for not being sufficiently religious. Jefferson was a free thinker and not one to accept unreasoned dogma. His views were attacked in this booklet in 1804 as he sought reelection -- Observations on Certain Passages in Mr. Jefferson's Notes on Virginia, which appear to have a tendency to subvert religion... This has to be true since the unnamed author was evidently Clement Moore. Moore must have been a great religious scholar. After all, he was the man who would later write "Twas the Night Before Christmas." Item 68. $650.
Books from Northern North America from Helen R. Kahn
Canadian rebel leader Louis Riel.
Item 23 touches on an unfortunate incident in Canadian history. It is Reponse a une adresse de la Chambres des Commons...de s'enquerir de l'etat mental de Louis Riel...published in 1886. Louis Riel was a leader of the Metis people of western Canada, who twice found himself leading a rebellion in Canada. The Metis are a polyglot people, a mixture of descendants of various Indian tribes who married French and English settlers. Many, like Riel, had a notable French background, making him a sympathetic figure in French Canada (Quebec). Riel came to the forefront as a leader of the Red River Rebellion of 1869 in Manitoba, where the Metis clashed with authorities of the new Canadian government. He would escape to the United States, go to Quebec after being pardoned, and then on to Montana. Along the way, he suffered serious mental problems and delusions. However, he would recover enough to lead a second rebellion in Saskatchewan in 1885, and this time rather than being pardoned he was tried and sentenced to death. This book concerns the mental health of Riel, the official investigation launched after he was condemned to death. Riel's conviction was finally revoked by Parliament in 1992. Unfortunately, Riel was hanged in 1885. Too little, too late. $450.
Item 58 is A Journey from Prince of Wales's Fort in Hudson Bay, to the Northern Ocean...for the Discovery of Copper Mines, a North-West Passage etc. in the Years 1769...1772 by Samuel Hearne. This is a first edition, though not published until 1795. Hearn was the first European to travel by land from Hudson Bay to the mouth of the Coppermine River at the Arctic Ocean. That is a long, cold trek. The book was published from Hearne's notes, three years after his death. It describes local natives, natural history, the discovery of Great Slave Lake, and the impossibility of finding a northwest passage through Hudson Bay. $6,950.
You may reach Helen R. Kahn online at www.hrkahnbooks.com, or by phone at 514-844-5344.