A Wide Mix of Books and Manuscripts from Thomas Cullen
Something for everyone from Thomas Cullen.
By Michael Stillman
Thomas Cullen, Rockland Bookman has issued his Catalog #46 - Books and Manuscripts, along with some financial advice. He explains, "After the government prints trillions of excess dollars, inflation is inevitable and items with intrinsic value such as rare books will ride the wave of increasing prices." Maybe. No one really knows what will happen next in this economy, but we can acknowledge the certainty of Cullen's next point: "It's also more entertaining than investing in static bonds or falling stocks." Anyone who questions the entertainment value of books need only get a copy of Cullen's catalogue. It is an indefinable mix of every type of book and manuscript imaginable, from serious tomes about war and peace to a handwritten manuscript of witchcraft spells. This catalogue is surely a great place to invest some time, and if Cullen is right, some money too.
Here is a chilling reminder of a noble revolution gone bad. Item 36 is a broadside notice (in French) announcing the public execution of 55-year-old Louis Azema. His crime? - "wearing the mask of patriotism." The year was 1793, and the French Revolution had turned ugly. This was the period of the "Reign of Terror," when thousands of Frenchmen were sent to the guillotine for various imagined offenses. As best we can tell, M. Azema was not a man of any particular significance, and the vague charge makes one wonder what, if anything, he did to deserve this fate. Whatever it was, this notice recalls in a most frightening way the horrors of the time. Item 36. Priced at $500.
Item 58 is another significant broadside, one headed Proclamation by Andrew Jackson, President of the United States. It was written by Secretary of State Edward Livingston on November 10, 1832, and is signed in ink by President Jackson. It is a stern warning by Jackson, just days after he was elected to a second term, to South Carolina in response to its claimed right to annul federal laws, and its threats of secession. Says Jackson, "I consider then the power to annul a law of the United States, assumed by one state, incompatible with the existence of the union..." South Carolina had the good sense to back down in the face of the determined Jackson, only to repeat the threat without the same good sense 28 years later with Lincoln. $800.
Everyone has an autograph of President Millard Fillmore. How many of you have one from his second wife, Carolyn Carmichael McIntosh Fillmore? Fillmore's first wife and First Lady, Abigail, caught a bad cold at the outdoor inauguration of her husband's successor and died a few weeks later. Obviously, she had learned nothing from President William Henry Harrison's similar inaugural experience just 12 years prior. In 1858, the Former President married Carolyn McIntosh, the wealthy widow of a railroad executive. Their combined wealth enabled them to buy a mansion in Fillmore's hometown of Buffalo where they lived happily ever after, or at least until Fillmore passed on in 1874. Item 33 is a pamphlet headed Buffalo Orphan Asylum. 1874... It is signed in pencil "C.C. Fillmore." We are not certain of the timing, but since the Former President died in early March, it is likely she was already a widow at the time. $300.
A Wide Mix of Books and Manuscripts from Thomas Cullen
A manuscript of witchcraft spells.
Here is a fascinating diary of a wealthy teenage girl, a descendant of one of America's early statesmen. Laura Prime Jay was the great-great-granddaughter of John Jay, America's first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and diplomat during the Washington administration. She was born in 1874, and kept this diary from 1890-93. We know the family was well off as they had a home in Manhattan, another, "The Locusts," in Rye, New York, and a third in East Harbor Maine, where they undoubtedly went during the heat of summer. In her diary she describes, among much else, the funeral procession through New York for General William T. Sherman, and the family gathering after the death of her grandfather, John Clarkson Jay, whose life overlapped that of their illustrious ancestor by 20 years. We have not been able to find a great deal about Ms. Jay, but she married Frederick De Witt Wells in 1899, 1921 found the Wells living in Manhattan, and in 1938 she published a book about the Jay family genealogy under the name Laura Jay Wells. It also appears that she died in that year. Item 82. $2,200.
Item 117 is the manuscript book on witchcraft. Written around 1890, it includes spells "to cause calamities, to felicitate childbirth, for agreement of married couples, for divorce, against fevers and pains in the belly, to destroy a person, to multiply cattle, to protect virginity..." and so on. Cullen warns us that "Most of these spells do not work," which leaves us with the question, which of them do? $1,200.
Item 59 is an interesting letter relating to the Library of Congress and the destruction of its collection in 1814. When the British set fire to the Capitol in 1814, the library's collection was destroyed. Evidently, New Haven, Connecticut, bookseller Hezekiah Howe offered to purchase new books in Europe on behalf of the library. However, Congress chose to purchase the extensive personal library of Former President Thomas Jefferson in January 1815 instead. This letter, dated February 28, 1815, from Connecticut Congressman Timothy Pitkin to Howe notes, "I would inform you that Mr. Jefferson's library has been purchased, the committee at present do not intend to purchase any more books." $500.
You may reach Thomas Cullen, Rockland Bookman, at 716-662-2082 or firstname.lastname@example.org.