Early Americana from Helen R. Kahn
17th-19th century Americana from Helen Kahn.
By Michael Stillman
Helen R. Kahn and Associates Rare Books, Maps and Manuscripts has issued a new catalogue, number 74: America. Books and Maps. Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries. There are books concerning Kahn's home country, Canada, though most pertain to its large neighbor to the south. Many of the works are centered around the American Revolution, a few pertain to Canada's much smaller rebellions, while there is much on travel and exploration in the days when most of the continent was essentially unknown. This is a great catalogue for those who collect early Americana.
Item 103 is one of the better early accounts of 17th century America. It is The History of New-England Containing an Impartial Account of the Civil and Ecclesiastical Affairs of the Country to the Year of our Lord, 1700. Author Daniel Neal recounts the history of the land, from the time before the arrival of the Puritans, to their arrival, wars with the Indians, the witchcraft hysteria, colonial laws, the impact of the Jesuits, the leaders, and so forth. Neal was either a good researcher or a literary thief, for as noted by Kahn, he "...never set foot in the country about which he wrote." Published in 1720. Priced at $2,500 (US dollars).
As we all know, just 56 years after that book was published, the colonists were revolting against their colonial masters. The rebels did not have a lot of successes early on, but one notable one occurred at Saratoga. The British were attempting to run a wedge through the state of New York to divide the country's northern colonies from its southern ones. That did not happen. British forces advanced south from Canada, but were overwhelmed at Saratoga and forced to surrender. The British forces were led by General John Burgoyne, and on returning to Britain, he was not exactly treated as a conquering hero. In an attempt to salvage his reputation, Burgoyne in 1780 published A State of the Expedition from Canada, as laid before the House of Commons. In it, Burgoyne explains that the defeat was not his fault, but due to his having too few and poorly equipped troops. Item 19. $11,000.
The colonists did not rebel against Britain for no reason. They had many reasons, and here are five of them. Item 49 consists of printings of five Acts of the British Parliament, known to Americans as "Intolerable Acts." The British were seeking to punish the colonists for the Boston Tea Party, though their heavy hand only served to incense the locals even more. These acts closed the Port of Boston until the colonists paid the owners for the spilled tea, provided rules to suppress "riots," required the quartering of British soldiers by Americans, placed regulations on the Massachusetts government, and extended the boundaries of Quebec while offering benefits to its French Catholics (which colonists saw as aimed more at disenfranchising them than helping French Canadians). These acts were published in 1774, and it only took another year before the citizens of Massachusetts were in open rebellion. $18,500.
Early Americana from Helen R. Kahn
Some intolerable acts from the intolerable British.
Here is a long title that seems believable enough until you get to the very end: Memoirs of the Life and Gallant Exploits of the Old Highlander, Serjeant Donald MacLeod, who, having returned, wounded, with the Corpse of General Wolfe, from Quebec, was admitted an out-pensioner of Chelsea Hospital, in 1759; and is now in the CIII.d Year of his Age. Was he really 102? MacLeod was said to have been born in 1688 to a poor family in Scotland. He joined the military at a young age and fought in Flanders around 1715. In 1757, he was off to North America, appointed as a drill sergeant, to fight in the French and Indian War. Of course that would have made him 69 at the time, a surprisingly advanced age for a drill sergeant. He fought at Louisburg and Quebec before being sent back to the Chelsea Hospital, evidently in the company of his general's dead body. MacLeod was not finished yet. He volunteered to assist Henry Clinton during the American Revolution, at which point he must have been at least 88, but the offer was declined. Clinton should have accepted, as he didn't do that well with his younger soldiers. MacLeod instead retired to what he was best at, making babies. While at the age of 102 he could no longer recall just how many children he had, there were at least 16 sons still living, and God only knows how many daughters (Donald didn't know). They ranged in age from 83 to 9, and the author tactfully points out there would probably be even younger ones if his current wife had not reached the advanced age of 49. For those suspicious of the story, author Thomson, who was an extremely prolific writer, points to two other men who lived to the ages of 150 and 160 as proof that MacLeod's age of 102 was believable. Sure. Item 128. $350.
Item 68 is the disagreeably titled Observations upon Certain Passages in Mr. Jefferson's Notes on Virginia, which appear to have a tendency to subvert religion, and establish A False Philosophy. It's not surprising that there would be some fundamentalist attacks on Jefferson, but it is surprising who the author was. This 1804 bit of unpleasantness was authored by Clement Moore, better known for writing A Visit from St. Nicholas ('Twas the Night before Christmas). $650.
Helen R. Kahn and Associates may be reached at 514-844-5344 or email@example.com. The website is www.hrkahnbooks.com.