In show business timing is everything. It is the same at the American Antiquarian Society. Sometimes you acquire a piece when a researcher is here and it is just what he or she needs. Other times you acquire an item and you think it would have been perfect for that person that was here the previous month.
A few years ago I went to an auction with Marcus A. McCorison, former President of AAS. One of the items up for auction was a bound volume of the National Magazine; or, a Political, Historical, Biographical, and Literary Repository dated 1799-1800 and published in Richmond, Virginia by James Lyon. The publisher was originally a Vermont printer who fled to Virginia and then later to Washington to escape debts. Mr. McCorison had published a bibliography on Vermont imprints and was very interested in the career of James Lyon. The volume up for auction contained issues not at AAS, but unfortunately I was limited in what I could bid. Mr. McCorison kept insisting I bid higher, but I had reached my limit and was the underbidder. He never let me forget it. Over time the volume appeared twice in other dealers’ catalogs with the price going up each time. As each one came out, I knew I would get a photocopy of the entry in the mail from Mr. McCorison with the price underlined.
Marcus McCorison passed away on February 3rd. About a month later a dealer offered me an unrecorded periodical called Franklin; or A Political, Agricultural, and Mechanical Gazette published in Washington and dated October 31, 1801. The publisher was James Lyon. Inside the front wrapper is a note from James Lyon about his difficulties publishing the Friend of the People (Richmond, Virginia) and having to move to Washington before subscribers received “the full worth of the sums advanced.” This periodical was published at the office of the National Magazine, Or, Cabinet of the United States, another periodical that Lyons was publishing. The Franklin included articles originally printed in this publication as well as material from other sources. This is issue no. 1 of the Franklin and may have been the only one published. No evidence has been found so far of another one being printed and the National Magazine folded less than three months later.
I wish I could have shown Marcus McCorison this periodical. I am sure he would have loved it. Sometimes the timing is just a little off. I will miss him and the opportunities of showing him new acquisitions.
For those who wish to celebrate Marcus McCorison’s life, a reception will be held in honor of Mr. McCorison for dealers, collectors, and AAS members at the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America book fair in New York City this Saturday, April 13.