Thursday, July 28, 2011

Rufus K. Sewell and the Minorcans

The offending page. Click photo to enlarge.

In 1848, travel writer Rufus King Sewell turned his sights on the city of St. Augustine, writing a book of the sort that was proving popular as Florida was becoming known as a health retreat, a place where the chronically ill could find some respite. It is titled Sketches of St. Augustine with a view of its History and Advantages as a Resort for Invalids.


The book, a copy of which is in the collection of rare and unusual books at Lighthouse Books, ABAA, contains the usual chapters on history, geography, climate and so forth.

Sewell also shares the story of Dr. Andrew Turnbull, a Scottish physician who tried to establish the agricultural colony of New Smyrna in 1768, using 1,500 Minorcan settlers he had recruited from the Mediterranean. Turnbull mistreated the settlers and they rebelled, eventually ending up in St. Augustine, then the seat of British government in the region.

With an apparent degree of skepticism, Sewell's account of the beleaguered Minorcans, and their arrival in St. Augustine, is followed by his opinions about the industriousness -- or, lack -- of the Minorcan descendants still resident in the city.

As might be expected, Sewell’s criticism of Minorcans brought consternation to his publisher, but apparently not before the book was in print. In most copies, the offending passages (on pages 39 and 40) have been neatly excised. Rare copies, including the one at Lighthouse, contain those pages.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Eunice Beecher stood by her man

Life at the home of Harriet Beecher Stowe in Mandarin often included knitting and card games on the porch.


Henry Ward Beecher
In the 1860s, Henry Ward Beecher was the era’s equivalent of a rock star. He was a fiery preacher and a vehement abolitionist, who wrote newspaper columns and made impassioned speeches around the country.

In the 1870s, a close associate and protégé accused him of having an affair with the associate’s wife. The subsequent investigations and trial became a drawn-out soap opera, every salacious tidbit covered in detail in The New York Times. Throught it all, Beecher’s wife, Eunice, in the grand Tammy Wynette-style tradition, stood by her man, visiting her dour expression upon the proceeding as she attended court sessions every day.

Beecher was eventually found to be not guilty of adultery, although public sentiment at the time was similar to the public sentiment in recent well publicized murder trials.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Just before the California Gold Rush

In 1848, the United States was vitally interested in the western territories of the continent that eventually became California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico.

The United States had just forced a defeated Mexico into the Tready of Guadalupe Hildago to end the Mexican-American War. An 1848 map of the region published for the United States Senate is in the collection of rare and unusual items at Lighthouse Books, ABAA. It shows the territory contained in the Mexican Cession.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

We'll see you in Tennessee

We’re off this weekend to the Tennessee Antiquarian Book Fair in tiny Cowan, Tennessee. This is the land of poet and novelist Robert Penn Warren, poet Allen Tate, and poet and magazine editor John Crowe Ransom, not to mention folk hero and frontiersman Davy Crockett.

Warren, of course, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1947 for his novel All the King’s Men, thought to be inspired by the life of the populist governor of Louisiana, Huey P. Long. Warren taught at Vanderbilt University and was one of a dozen writers who became known as the Southern Agrarians, along with Tate and Ransom.

The Agrarians saw industrialization as anathema, fearing the loss of Southern identity and culture. They wrote of the importance of traditional agrarian roots in a collection of essays published as I’ll Take My Stand; The South and the Agrarian Tradition.


Monday, July 11, 2011

The demise of an old book shop


We were sad to learn that our friends at Bartleby's Books in the Washington, D.C., neighborhood of Georgetown, are closing the bricks-and-mortar store. The good news is that John Thomson and Karen Griffin aren't getting out of the antiquarian book business. The new permanent home for Bartleby's will be BartlebysBooks.com. The video above is from the Georgetown Patch Web site, which did an article on them. Read the story, too. Bartleby's is a regular fixture at the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Kerouac: The road, the books, the people

Jack Kerouac was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1922. He died in St. Anthony’s Hospital in St. Petersburg 47 years later. In the intervening years, he went to Columbia University, did a stint in the Merchant Marines, joined the Navy twice, hitchhiked across America, wrote 19 novels as well as books of poetry and other works, and drank -- a lot.

He hung out with the likes of Beat poets Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder and Gregory Corso, writers Williams S. Burroughs and Herbert Huncke, and editors Robert Giroux and Lucien Carr.

An eclectic selection of Kerouac's writings is in the collection of rare and unusual books at Lighthouse Books, ABAA. Among them: Visions of Gerard, The Dharma Bums, Big Sur, Vanity of Duluoz, Pomes All Sizes and Pic. Another slim volume, The Kerouac We Knew, contains essays by people who had met Kerouac at various stages in his life.

When Jack was four years old, his big brother, Gerard, died of rheumatic fever. Gerard was nine. Jack always believed that his brother followed him as a guardian angel, though some suggest that given Kerouac’s lifestyle, he might have needed a whole platoon of such guardians. Kerouac wrote about his brother in Visions of Gerard in 1956, just before his most famous novel, On the Road, was published. Gerard wasn’t published, however, until 1963.

For a time in the 1950s, Kerouac lived in the College Park section of Orlando with his mother. That’s where he wrote The Dharma Bums. It’s also where he lived when On the Road was published and came quickly to fame. The Dharma Bums is an account of a mountaineering adventure Kerouac undertook with poet Gary Snyder (who introduced him to Buddhism) and friend John Montgomery. The trip proved a sharp contrast with the city life Kerouac knew well.

Kerouac’s native language was French (His parents were French-Canadian). He didn’t speak English confidently until he was a teenager. Early on, Kerouac attempted to write books in French, but eventually wrote mostly in English. Interestingly, this is the first French edition of The Dharma Bums.

After the success of On the Road, Kerouac sought refuge in the mountains as a guest at Ferlinghetti’s cabin to escape the demands of an adoring public. His book, Big Sur, is a fictionalized version of that episode in his life. It depicts a popular writer, Jack Duluoz, who is mentally and physically exhausted. The book was published in 1962.

Six years later, Kerouac published another book about his alter ego, Vanity of Duluoz. This one dealt with the writer’s teenage years and coming of age. It includes his time at Columbia and in the Navy during World War II. It ends at the beginning of the Beat movement. Kerouac lived in St. Petersburg when this book was published. It was the last published before his death.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Legacy of Chief Justice John Marshall


He didn’t sign the Declaration of Independence like his president, John Adams, did but John Marshall was about as busy as any one patriot could be.

He was a friend of George Washington and wrote his biography, he was a member of the U.S. House and a White House cabinet member, and he served as fourth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court for 35 years, longer than any other Supreme Court Justice in history.

A letter he wrote in 1800, a few months before he became Chief Justice, is in the collection of rare and unusual items at Lighthouse Books, ABAA. It is framed along with an engraved portrait taken from a painting by Henry Imman, a noted New York artist. Asher Brown Durand, one of the best engravers in New York at the time, is responsible for the engraving. (Later Durand became one of the leaders of the Hudson River School painting style.)

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Our specialties include Floridiana (Florida History, Florida Authors, Florida Related Ephemera), American History, Literature of the South, Military History (including, but not limited to, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Vietnam, Korean War), Children’s Literature, Maps, Leather Bindings and Rare & Unusual items.

We also have a wide variety of general stock, including a large Landscape/Gardening section, a great selection of Christian/Church History/Bible Study titles, Beat Literature, and much more. Please browse our extensive category list.

Appraisal service

Michael F. Slicker, is one of about 450 qualified members of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, Inc., and its affiliate the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers.

Condition of the book, demand for it and history of comparable sales are among the factors considered in evaluating the value of a book. Other factors may apply as well.

Please contact us for more information regarding our certified appraisal services. We encourage you to visit our website, Lighthouse Books, ABAA

Florida Antiquarian Book Fair

Michael Slicker was the founding president of the Florida Antiquarian Booksellers Association and has served as chairman of its annual Florida Antiquarian Book Fair since its inception.

The 36th annual book fair is set for April 21-23, 2017 at The Coliseum in St. Petersburg.

The fair is the oldest and largest antiquarian book fair in the Southeast. Learn more about the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair and the Florida Antiquarian Booksellers Association.

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