Some of the American Antiquarian Society’s collection materials have been on our shelves for almost 200 years, but other items are “new” antiquities. New, that is, in the way that hand-me-downs from your older sister are new. They are new to us even if they have existed for hundreds of years elsewhere.
The AAS curators specialize in attracting these ones that got away. The curators are avaricious hunters (it’s not a sin if you’re doing it for the good of all), ready to pounce on materials that belong at AAS. Of course, you can help support the collecting mission of AAS by bringing us items you have that were printed in the U.S. before 1876. But not all of us have antiquarian goodies stashed in the closet or attic.
Now the rest of us can help AAS acquire “new” materials though the annual Adopt-a-Book event. This year the bash will be held on Tuesday, March 30th, at 6pm. Tickets cost $30 and include drinks and hors d’oeuvres. The party makes for a wonderful evening in itself. When else can you have a glass of wine and mingle with fellow bookish folks in one corner of the reading room while in a separate alcove (because we all know wine isn’t good for books!) you can browse though over one-hundred original items all well over 100 years old and begging for you to adopt them? RSVP information is online. Even if you are unfortunate enough to be busy that night, you can check out the Adopt-a-Book catalog online.
Here is how the book adoption process works: generous friends of AAS donate the money that it cost the curator to purchase your adoptee. This gives the curator more money to go out and purchase more items. Although you can’t take your adoptee home, we will put a bookplate in it and will add your name to the online record so you will be immortalized as the donor. If you tell us your adoption story we may even feature your reasons for adopting on our blog, but only if you want us to do so.
Many people adopt materials in honor of a loved one. This post highlights a few items from the Adopt-a-Book catalog that would be great gift ideas. They are roughly in numerical order so you can easily find the illustrations and full descriptions of each item in the Adopt-a-Book catalog. The gift-giving options are limitless, or at least up to 147. No promises, though, that the items highlighted here are still available for adoption — if the past is any indication, they will be claimed fast!
For a New Reader, or an Animal Lover, or Both:
6. ANIMAL ALPHABET. Adopt me for: $250
Alphabet of Natural History. Hartford: D.W. Kellogg & Co., [ca. 1830-1842]
A Christmas Gift for the Chocolate Lover in Your Life:
8C. ANGEL’S CHRISTMAS. Adopt me for: $50
Walton, Mrs. O.F. Angel’s Christmas. New York: American Tract Society, [ca. 1870s]
12. AFTER … Adopt me for: $75
Baillie, James. Married. Hand-colored lithograph. New York, [1848 or 1849]
Paired with the title Single, by the same lithographic publisher, this image forms a lovely pendant on the role of the man in family life. No longer smoking and surrounded by symbols of leisure, the young bachelor from the first print now appears seated in a formal parlor with his wife and four children.
~ Lauren Hewes
For A Bachelor Party:
12. Before …
Adopt me for: $75
Baillie, James. Single. Hand-colored lithograph. New York, 1848.
This newspaper issue is unusual because of the large, crude woodcut, taking up almost the entire second page, which celebrates the victory of General Franklin Pierce as 14th president. At this time the symbols of the Democratic and Whig parties were, respectively, the rooster and the raccoon. The rooster was carved on the side of a single wooden plank.
~ Vincent Golden
For Your Nephew’s Birthday:
22. BOYS’ PUMP BOOK. Adopt me for: $200
The Boys’ Pump Book: Showing how to Make Several Kinds of Miniature Pumps and a Fire Engine. New York: Anson D. F. Randolph, 1860.
For the Coolest Bibliophile You Know:
23. BIBLIOPEGISTICAL VERSE. Adopt me for: $150
Bradford, John. The poetical vagaries of a Knight of the Folding-Stick, of Paste Castle: to which is annexed, The history of the garret, &c. Gotham [i.e. Newark, NJ?]: The author, 1815.
A rare copy in original printed boards of an extraordinary and little-known verse collection. Although published anonymously, the book’s copyright was taken out by one John Bradford, who worked as a bookbinder in New York City from 1809-1819. Indeed, the first section consists mostly of poems about bookbinding—one of the very, very few instances of bibliopegistical poetry in all of Western culture. The poems include “This World’s a Huge Bindery,” “Receipt for Binding a Book,” “The Binder’s Curse,” and “An Enigmatical List of Binder’s Tools,” consisting of 34 devilishly difficult verse riddles. Here’s a simpler one that this curator managed to solve:
The two ninths of one who commences a suit,
O.U. G—and the eleventh of a hot biting root.
One of the two inserted engravings depicts the Knight of the Folding-Stick, a fantastical creation fashioned from binder’s tools. The book concludes with “The History of the Garret,” a facetious prose history of Newark, NJ.
~ David Whitesell
For A Newspaper Enthusiast (or your paper boy if he’s really amazing?)
26. ALL THE NEWS THAT FITS. Adopt me for: $350
Centinel of Freedom (Newark, NJ). Dec. 5 extra, 1799.
An extremely rare extra edition—only one other copy can be found in institutional collections. It contains the speech President John Adams made to the opening of the sixth Congress, as well as King George III’s speech opening a new session of Parliament. Interestingly, to accommodate the text, the printer used the right margin by turning the text 90 degrees to fit it all in.
~ Vincent Golden
Coddington (1742-1830) was the fourth pastor of the Baptist church in South Brimfield (later Wales), MA from 1773 until 1826. This notebook contains records of marriages, diary entries, accounts, and various religious comments including the following: “The Apostles were men abstemious in their lives & plain in their attire, humble in their walk and mighty in their Conversation. One sickens at the contrast between the Apostles & modern Clergymen—do mitred heads & powdered locks, Silken gowns & couloured Shews, Gilded pulpits, threadbare Sermons & rounded Salaries bespeak these the Successors of fishermen & tent makers?”
~ Thomas Knoles
For a Numismatist:
30. COIN COLLECTOR’S HANDBOOK. Adopt me for: $450
The coins of the world. Philadelphia: Matthew T. Miller, 
First edition of one of the earliest American numismatic publications.
~ David Whitesell
34. A “PHILOSOPHICAL” BOOK.
Adopt me for: $200
The complete master-piece of Aristotle, the famous philosopher. Displaying the secrets of nature in the generation of man … New York: Printed for the publishers, 1842.
The latest addition to AAS’s peerless collection of over 50 editions of the standard early American sex manual: Aristotle’s master-piece. AAS’s holdings begin with the “25th” edition of 1748—possibly an American printing, though perhaps an English import—and ends with this 1842 printing, by which time Aristotle was being superseded by newer, competing manuals. Unusual for such a work, the well-preserved binding of yellow paper boards loudly calls attention to itself through two appropriate wood engravings: an American Eden on front, and a contemporary American Venus on the back.
~ David Whitesell
For a Military Enthusiast:
37. MEXICAN WAR PRINT. Adopt me for: $75
Currier, Nathaniel. Landing of the American forces under Genl. Scott at Vera Cruz March 9th. 1847. Hand-colored lithograph. New York, 1847.
For a Democrat:
43. VOTE DEMOCRATIC!
Adopt me for: $25
Election ballot, Liberal Democratic ticket, “Adams and Liberty.” [Massachusetts, 1870]
In case you thought I was exaggerating about items being adopted fast, in the time since I started this post someone just adopted #44, which was going to be my recommendation for a gift for a Republican! Best of luck in adopting, and remember, even if you miss out on the one you’ve always wanted, you can come see all the adoptees in person on Tues., March 30th.