Americana

Rare Americana Books, Manuscripts & More for Sale Online

If you’re looking for first edition books celebrating the American experience, you’ve come to the right place. At Raptis Rare Books we maintain an extensive collection of rare Americana, books, manuscripts and more. Browse through our entire collection online, use our sorting tools or search to find exactly what you’re looking for then call with any questions you may have or order online today.

Showing 1–20 of 281 results

  • "The longest letter signed and entirely in the hand of John Adams obtainable": Exceptionally rare 16-page autograph letter signed by Founding Father John Adams defending the ultimate necessity of American sovereignty

    ADAMS, John.

    John Adams Autograph Letter Signed.

    1809.

    Exceptionally rare 16-page autograph letter signed by and entirely in the hand of Founding Father John Adams defending the ultimate necessity of American sovereignty and its precedence over international alliances. Sixteen pages, entirely in the hand of John Adams and written on both the recto and verso of each page, the letter is dated January 9, 1809 and addressed to Speaker of the House of Representatives, Joseph Bradley Varnum. Although France and America shared a strong alliance which proved crucial to winning the Revolutionary War, at the onset of the French Revolution in 1789, Washington's fear that American involvement would weaken the new nation before it had firmly established itself created tensions and a new war between England and France broke out in 1793. The British Navy soon began targeting French vessels and trading interests across the Atlantic, and although many Federalists thought that America should aid its ally, Washington proclaimed that the United States would be “friendly and impartial toward the belligerent parties.” The Neutrality Proclamation was ignored by Britain and angered France, which then allowed its navy and privateers to prey on American trade. To protect American sailors and merchants without provoking Britain, in March 1794, Congress passed a 30-day embargo, which it then extended. Britain, the strongest sea power, began to seize American ships suspected of trading with France, and stepped up its practice of impressment. From 1806-1807, the British navy, in desperate need of men to oppose Napoleon, forced roughly 5,000 American sailors into service on the pretense that they were deserters. In 1807, King George III proclaimed his right to call any British subjects into war service and claimed that Britain had full discretion to determine who was a British citizen. The crisis reached one peak for America in June of 1807 when the HMS Leopard attacked the USS Chesapeake off the coast of Virginia. Three American sailors were killed, eighteen were wounded, and the Chesapeake surrendered after firing only one shot. The Leopard seized four American seaman, claimed as deserters from the British navy, and hanged one of them. Jefferson and Madison, his Secretary of State, responded with the Embargo of 1807, a ban on all American vessels sailing for foreign ports. Meanwhile, Russia allied with Napoleon and pressed Denmark to turn over her fleet. In September 1807, Britain preemptively bombarded Copenhagen and seized the Danish-Norwegian fleet. While Jefferson’s Republicans still generally favored France, a schism grew in the Federalist party. Men like Timothy Pickering downplayed impressments while focusing on trade and access to British manufacturing. On October 16, 1807, King George III aggravated already high tensions with American following the British attack of the USS Chesapeake off the coast of Virginia by issuing a Royal Proclamation expanding the British right to impressment (the King’s right to call any British subjects into war service and determine their citizenship). News of the King’s Proclamation arrived in the United States in December 1807 and, lacking military options, President Jefferson proposed an embargo to ban all U.S. exports on American vessels in order to protect American sailors’ lives and liberties, despite its potential to cripple American trade. The Embargo Act was signed on December 22, 1807, causing immediate economic devastation. In protesting the Embargo, rather than wrestling with the difficulty of defending American sovereignty, some opponents chose to declare the legality of impressments as defined by King George’s Royal Proclamation. John Adams’ former Secretary of State, Timothy Pickering, took a leading role in fighting the embargo, arguing that Jefferson was using it to draw America closer to Napoleon’s France. Given the devastating economic effects of the embargo, Pickering’s message found a wide audience. Adams, on the other hand, recognized the dire threat the King’s Proclamation posed in denying America the right to determine its own rules for citizenship and in December, took his arguments to Speaker of the House Joseph Varnum. As he stated in the present letter, “He [Pickering] thinks that as every Nation has a Right to the Service of its Subjects, in time of War, the Proclamation of the King of Great Britain, commanding his Naval Officers to practice Such Impressments, on board, not the Vessells of his own Subjects, but of the United States, a foreign Nation could not furnish the Slightest ground for an Embargo! … But I Say with Confidence that it furnished a Sufficient ground for a Declaration of War. Not the Murder of Pierce nor all the Murders on board the Chesapeake, nor all the other Injuries and Insults We have received from foreign Nations, atrocious as they have been, can be of such dangerous, lasting, and pernicious Consequence to this Country, as this Proclamation, if We have Servility enough to Submit to it.” Adams suggested repealing and replacing the Embargo Act with one that allowed international trade with all but the belligerents, while building up the navy. Varnum asked to publish it. Before assenting, Adams completely reworked his argument, mustering all the reason and rhetoric at his disposal into a stirring defense of sovereignty and citizenship, resulting in the present letter. On March 1, 1809, Congress repealed the Embargo Act, following Adams’ suggestion to replace it with the Non-Intercourse Act which allowed trade with all nations except Britain and France. In fine condition. A remarkable piece of early American history illustrating the second President of the United States’ impassioned devotion to the pursuit of American liberty. The longest letter signed and entirely in the hand of John Adams obtainable.

    Price: $125,000.00     Item Number: 121560

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  • First Octavo Edition of the The Birds of America from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories; In the Rare Original Publisher's Morocco

    AUDUBON, John James.

    The Birds of America from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.

    New York: Published by J.J. Audubon, 1840.

    First octavo edition of this landmark work. Octavo, bound in original publisher’s morocco, 7 volumes, gilt titles and ruling to the spine, marbled endpapers, complete with 500 hand-colored lithographed plates by J.T. Bowen after J.J. Audubon; woodcuts in the text. From the library of Boston businessman and Ambassador T. Jefferson Coolidge, with his bookplate to the front pastedown. Coolidge was born to a prominent Boston Brahmin family and was a great-grandson of the 3rd United States President Thomas Jefferson, through his maternal grandparents, Thomas Mann Randolph Jr. and Martha Jefferson Randolph. His uncles were Thomas Jefferson Randolph, George Wythe Randolph, Andrew Jackson Donelson, and a relative of Calvin Coolidge. He was an uncle to Archibald Cary Coolidge through his older brother, Joseph Randolph Coolidge. He was appointed by President Benjamin Harrison as United States Ambassador to France on May 12, 1892, a role his great-grandfather had held from May 1785 to September 1789. Coolidge presented his credentials on June 10, 1892 and he presented his recall on May 4, 1893, terminating his mission. In 1898 and 1899, he was a member of the American delegation to the commission to resolve the Alaska boundary dispute. Historian Ernest May says Coolidge was, “a prototype member of what today we call the foreign policy establishment.” In 1898, Coolidge donated a collection of Thomas Jefferson’s personal papers to the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston. The collection contained more than 8,000 items: Correspondence, including 3,280 letters that Jefferson had written and 4,630 letters that he had received; Jefferson’s garden book (1766-1824) and farm book (1774-1824); annotated almanacs from 1771-1776; account books for 1783-1790; manuscript expense accounts from 1804-1825; notes on the weather spanning the years 1782-1826; plans of American forts in 1765; law treatises, 1778-1788; legal papers, 1770-1772; and Jefferson’s 1783 catalog of his personal library. In near fine condition. An exceptional set with noted provenance, rare in the original publisher’s morocco.

    Price: $75,000.00     Item Number: 111832

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  • Rare collection of the works of Thomas Paine; finely bound with a rare early printing of John Quincy Adams' response to Paine's Rights of Man

    PAINE, Thomas.

    Common Sense: Addressed to the Inhabitants of America, Plain Truth, Rights of Man Parts I & II, and An Answer to Pain’s Rights of Man.

    J. Almon, J.S. Jordan, and J. Stockdale: London, 1776-1793.

    Finely bound collection of the works of Thomas Paine, including the rare first British editions of Common Sense and Plain Truth (London: J. Almon, 1776), second editions of Rights of Man Parts I & II (London: J.S. Jordan, 1791-1792), complete with half-titles present, and a rare early printing of John Quincy Adams’ response to Paine’s Rights of Man (London: J. Stockdale, 1793), attributed to his father John Adams and written when John Quincy Adams was 26 years old. Octavo, bound in three quarters morocco over marbled boards with gilt titles and tooling to the spine, red morocco spine label, all edges speckled black. In near fine condition. A rare and desirable collection.

    Price: $60,000.00     Item Number: 96237

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  • “Give me liberty, or give me death": Scarce 1776 separate edition of the Large Additions to Common Sense

    PAINE, Thomas.

    Large Additions to Common Sense; Addressed to the Inhabitants of America.

    Philadelphia: Printed and sold, by R. Bell in Third-Street, 1776.

    Scarce 1776 separate edition of the Large Additions to Common Sense. The title reads in full: Large Additions To Common Sense: Addressed To The Inhabitants Of America On The Following Interesting Subjects. I. The American Patriot’s Prayer. II. American Independancy, defended by Candidus. III. The Propriety of Independancy, by Demophilus The dread of Tyrants, and the sole resource Of those that under grim Oppression groan. Thomson. IV. A Review of the American Contest with some Strictures on the King’s Speech. Addressed to All Parents in the Thirteen United Colonies by a Friend To Posterity And Mankind. V. Letter to Lord Dartmouth, by an English American. VI. Observations on Lord North’s Conciliatory Plan, by Sincerus. To Which Is Added And Given An Appendix to Common Sense; Together with an Address to the People Called Quakers on their Testimony concerning Kings and Government and the Present Commotions in America. Octavo, bound in three quarters morocco over boards, gilt titles and five raised bands to the spine, marbled endpapers. In very good condition, internally very clean. Rare with only two examples appearing at auction in the last 80 years.

    Price: $50,000.00     Item Number: 106523

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  • “AMERICA’S FIRST GREAT SCIENTIFIC CONTRIBUTION”: Rare First Complete Edition of Franklin's Experiments and Observations on Electricity, Made at Philadelphia in America

    FRANKLIN, Benjamin.

    Experiments and Observations on Electricity made at Philadelphia in America… To which are added, Letters and Papers on Philosophical Subjects. The Whole corrected, methodized, improved, and now first collected into one Volume, and Illustrated with Copper Plates.

    London: Printed for David Henry and sold by Francis Newbery, 1769.

    First complete edition of “the most important scientific book of 18th-century America” and “America’s first great scientific contribution” (PMM). Octavo, bound in contemporary half calf over marbled boards, morocco spine label. Advertisement & errata leaf inserted following preface. Illustrated with 7 copper-engraved plates, 2 of which are folding. In very good condition. First editions are rare, exceptionally so in a contemporary binding.

    Price: $40,000.00     Item Number: 116750

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  • Rare first edition of Hamilton's Reply to Wood

    HAMILTON, Alexander.

    Observations on Certain Documents Contained in No.V & VI of “The History of the United States for the Year 1796,” in which the Charge of Speculation against Alexander Hamilton, Late Secretary of the Treasury, is Fully Refuted.

    Philadelphia: John Bioren for John Fenno, 1797.

    Rare first edition of one of the major causes célèbres in American governmental history. Octavo, bound in contemporary morocco, marbled endpapers. In near fine condition. This first edition of 1797 is rare as it was bought up by the Hamilton family in an effort to suppress it, but was ultimately reprinted in 1800 by Hamilton’s political enemies. Housed in a custom half calf clamshell box.

    Price: $35,000.00     Item Number: 52680

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  • “THE MOST AMBITIOUS PUBLICATION EVER UNDERTAKEN, UP TO THAT TIME, UPON AMERICAN SOIL… RICHLY DESERVING OF ITS GREAT REPUTATION AT HOME AND ABROAD”: FIRST EDITION OF WEBSTER’S LANDMARK AMERICAN DICTIONARY, 1828

    WEBSTER, Noah.

    American Dictionary of the English Language.

    New York: Published by S. Converse. Printed by Hezekiah Howe, 1828.

    Rare first edition of Webster’s monumental American Dictionary, one of only 2500 copies, with frontispiece portrait of the pioneering lexicographer, in full contemporary calf. Quarto, two volumes, bound in full contemporary calf, marbled endpapers, illustrated frontispiece, tissue guard present. In near fine condition, light toning to the text. Most rare and desirable bound in contemporary calf. An exceptional example, most rare without any restoration.

    Price: $27,500.00     Item Number: 102755

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  • Rare Society of the Cincinnati membership certificate signed by George Washington as president of the society of the Cincinnati

    WASHINGTON, George.

    George Washington Autograph Document Signed.

    Philadelphia: May 5th, 1784.

    Rare autograph document signed by George Washington as President of the Society of the Cincinnati during the first general meeting of the Society and 5 years prior to his election and inauguration as the first President of the United States of America. One page partially printed on vellum with engraved vignettes by Auguste L. Belle after Jean-Jacques Andre LeVeau depicting America in knight’s armor trampling upon the British standard and the American eagle casting the British lion and Britannia out to sea with thunderbolts, engraved seal of the Order of the Cincinnati. The document reads: Be it known that Lieutenant William Andrews is a member of the society of the Cincinnati instituted by the Officers of the American Army at the Period of Dissolution, as well to commemorate the great Event which gave Independence to North American, as for the laudable Purpose of inculcating the Duty of laying down in Peace Arms assumed for public Defence, and of uniting in Acts of brotherly Affection and Bonds of perpetual Friendship the Members constituting the same. In Testimony whereof I, the President of the said Society have hereunto set my hand at Philadelphia in Pennsylvania this fifth day of may in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Eighty Four and in the Eighth Year of the Independence of the United States. By Order, ” “H.Knox” Secretary “G. Wahsington” President. William Andrews was commissioned a lieutenant on 1 January 1777 with the Third Continental Artillery. His regiment wintered at Valley Forge, andthe following June, Andrews was captured and held by the British in New York until he was exchanged in September 1781. In fine condition. Double matted and framed with an engraved portrait of Washington. The entire piece measures 36 inches by 23 inches. An exceptional example.

    Price: $22,500.00     Item Number: 101412

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  • "I have never advocated war except as a means of peace": Rare Henry Shrady Ulysses S. Grant Bronze Bust

    GRANT, Ulysses S.] Henry Merwin Shrady.

    Ulysses S. Grant Bronze Bust.

    Original bronze bust of Ulysses S. Grant by Henry Shrady, the famed sculptor of the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial on the west front of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. Mounted on socle and base, the entire piece measures 18.5 inches in height. In fine condition. An exceptional piece of Americana.

    Price: $22,500.00     Item Number: 102885

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  • "I WILL FIRST ENDEAVOR TO GIVE SOME INFORMATION AS TO THE MANNER OF STRICTLY KEEPING A JEWISH HOUSE": Rare First Edition of The First Jewish Cookbook Printed in America

    LEVY, Esther.

    Jewish Cookery Book, on Principles of Economy, Adapted for Jewish Housekeepers, with the Addition of Many Useful Medicinal Recipes, and Other Valuable Information, Relative to Housekeeping and Domestic Management.

    Philadelphia: W.S. Turner, 1871.

    Rare first edition of the first Jewish cookbook published in America, with extensive instructions on keeping a kosher household in addition to recipes. Octavo, original cloth. In very good condition, rebacked. Housed in a custom half morocco clamshell box. First editions are exceptionally scarce of this milestone in American Jewish history.

    Price: $22,000.00     Item Number: 74060

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  • "The first surgical work by an American and printed in North America": John Jones' Plain Concise Practical Remarks, on the Treatment of Wounds and Fractures

    JONES, John.

    Plain Concise Practical Remarks, on the Treatment of Wounds and Fractures.

    Philadelphia: Robert Bell, 1776.

    Exceptionally rare edition of the first surgical work by an American and printed in North America. Octavo, bound in nineteenth century three quarters morocco over marbled boards, gilt titles and tooling to the spine, frontispiece. Jones’ work was the accepted guide to surgical practice during the American Revolutionary War” G&M 2155; Austin 1843; Evans 15100 and 14814; Sabin 94063 and 36524. In near fine condition.

    Price: $20,000.00     Item Number: 91322

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  • Complete Set of First Editions of Isaac Leeser's Discourses on the Jewish Religion

    LEESER, Isaac.

    Discourses on the Jewish Religion.

    Philadelphia: Sherman & Co, 1866-68.

    First editions of one of the ‘major builders of American Judaism’, Isaac Leeser’s Discourses on the Jewish Religion. Octavo, 10 volumes, bound in full leather, gilt titles to the spine, raised bands. In near fine condition. Complete sets are of the utmost rarity.

    Price: $20,000.00     Item Number: 107732

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  • Rare Original Photograph of General Ulysses S. Grant Taken By Mathew Brady; Boldly Signed By Grant As President

    GRANT, Ulysses S. (Mathew Brady).

    Mathew Brady Ulysses S. Grant Photograph Signed.

    Rare original Mathew Brady photograph of Ulysses S. Grant. Boldly signed by Grant as the 18th President of the United States, “U.S. Grant March 18th 1875.” One of the earliest photographers in American history, Mathew B. Brady brought home the reality of the Civil War to the American public with his innovative use of a mobile studio and darkroom to capture thousands of war scenes throughout the Civil War. Brady was also recognized as one of the premier photographic portraitists of the 19th century, taking photographs of numerous celebrities including Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, and Robert E. Lee among others. Double matted and framed. The entire piece measures 19 inches by 16.5 inches. In near fine condition. Rare and desirable with such a strong signature signed by Grant during his presidency.

    Price: $18,500.00     Item Number: 94709

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  • "I have been accepted in Boston University Graduate School as a regular student and a candidate for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the field of Systematic Theology": Exceptionally Rare Autograph Letter Signed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. before beginning graduate studies at Boston University in 1951

    KING, Jr. Dr. Martin Luther .

    Martin Luther King Autograph Letter Signed.

    Boston: 1951.

    Typescript autograph letter signed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. requesting housing upon his acceptance to Boston University Graduate School. The letter, dated June 15th 1951 and addressed to Dean Charles W. Alter, Boston University Graduate School, reads, “Dear Dean Alter, I have been accepted in Boston University Graduate School as a regular student and a candidate for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the field of Systematic Theology. I am now interested in finding living accommodations on the campus, or at least very near by. A single room would be preferable. If such is possible I would appreciate having it reserved. I am also interested in applying for a graduate Fellowship. Please send me the necessary information at this point along with an application blank. Thanks in advance for your cooperation, I am Sincerely yours, Martin L. King, Jr.” King later recalled his experience with housing bias in 1951 Boston in an interview with the Boston Globe in 1965, “I remember very well trying to find a place to live. I went into place after place where there were signs that rooms were for rent. They were for rent until they found out I was a Negro, and suddenly they had just been rented.” Double matted and framed, with a photograph of a young King. The entire piece measures 14 inches by 21.75 inches. This letter offers an extraordinary glimpse into the education of the great African-American Civil Rights leader, exemplifying his own experiences with the systemic racism in 1950s American society.

    Price: $18,500.00     Item Number: 82416

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  • "I was very happy to hear that you are going to be a mother, be allah willing": Rare typed letter signed by civil rights leader Malcolm X to his wife

    MALCOLM X. (EL-HAJJ MALIK EL-SHABAZZ),.

    Malcolm X Letter Signed To His Wife.

    April 4, 1958.

    Rare typed letter signed by celebrated civil rights leader Malcolm X. One page, typescript. The letter reads in full, “1431 W. Jefferson Blvd Los Angeles, California April 4, 1958 As-Salaam-Alaikum In the Holy Name of ALLAH, the One True God, to whom all praise is due; and in the Holy Name of His Divine Messenger, the Honorable ELIJAH MUHAMMAD. My Dear Wife: It was a pleasure to find your letter awaiting me here at the office this morning. ALLAH blessed us to come safely through three TORNADOES, one HAILSTORM, two THUNDERSTORMS, and a SNOWSTORM. We averaged a “good pace” all the way, and arrived safely in record time. Please take the liberty of giving all the Muslims the Greeting for me at the Temple Sunday, and tell them that they key to success at #7 is to stay ing[sic] unity, and follow the instructions that come from the officials there. The officials at number Seven, under Secretary John, and Captians Yusaf and Francis are doing a wonderful job, and I pray ALLAH will bless them with the reward of peace, prosperity and happiness. I was very happy to hear that you are going to be a Mother, be ALLAH willing. I was not surprised. My reaction was “as it was” only because I didn’t appreciate the timing you took to announce it to me. May ALLAH bless you with understanding so you will have peace of mind. Let me know when you need some more money, but spend AS LITTLE as possible, for it is costing me tremendously here to get things as the should be. The Messenger would consent to you visiting me, and would even provide the plane fare himself, but I am against it at this time. This does not mean that I do not love you, it rather means that I have a job to do, know the circumstances and conditions under which I best work, and try to create such. As for your becoming a Mother, you couldn’t give me better news. Concerning the project that the committee wanted: if they can get Bros John and Joseph to accept it, it will be alright with me. But have someone explain it to them other than yourself. That is a wonderful Committee, and had done great work. Be a FRIEND to everyone in the temple, and everyone in the temple will be a friend to you. May ALLAH bless you with Peace and Happiness. As-Salaam-Alaikum: your husband Malcolm X Tell Gloria 2X that she should really be proud of her husband, and that I am proud of HER, for making such grand sacrifice. ALLAH will really bless her. Signed by Malcolm X and with a post script in his hand, “PS: In your letter you sounded like an understanding wife.” In very good condition. An exceptional association. Letters signed by Malcolm X are scarce.

    Price: $18,500.00     Item Number: 122553

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  • Rare Official American League Baseball signed by baseball legends Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig

    RUTH, Babe and Lou Gehrig.

    Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig Signed Baseball.

    Rare Official American League Baseball signed by baseball legends Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, the dynamic duo of Muderers’ Row. Signed by Babe Ruth on the sweetspot and Gehrig on the west panel. In very good condition.

    Price: $18,500.00     Item Number: 109536

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  • "I salute you with continual friendship & respect. Th. Jefferson”: one page autograph letter signed by thomas jefferson regarding his library

    JEFFERSON, Thomas.

    Thomas Jefferson Autograph Letter Signed Regarding His Library.

    One page autograph letter signed by Thomas Jefferson regarding duties for a shipment of books for his second library at Monticello. Address to David Gelston, esq, who was the Collector of the Port of New York (appointed by Jefferson in 1801). The letter reads, “On my return home after some absence I found here your favors of Sept. 2 & 15. stating the amount of freight & duties on my books … Having no medium of remittance but in the bills of our banks I enclose 8.D presuming they are negotiable with you, and that the fractional surplus may cover their discount at market. I salute you with continual friendship & respect. Th. Jefferson.”  The letter measures 9.75 inches by 7.75 inches. Matted and framed with a portrait.

    Price: $17,500.00     Item Number: 26064

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  • “A Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever”: First Edition of John Adams' A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America; In the Rare Original Boards

    ADAMS, John.

    A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America.

    London: Printed for C. Dilly, 1787.

    First edition of John Adams’ landmark work. Octavo, original boards, minor wear. In very good condition. Housed in a custom half calf clamshell box. Rare, especially in the original boards.

    Price: $16,000.00     Item Number: 50010

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  • "GOD IS INTERESTED IN THE FREEDOM OF THE WHOLE HUMAN RACE": FIRST EDITION OF STRIDE TOWARD FREEDOM: THE MONTGOMERY STORY; SIGNED BY MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

    KING JR., Martin Luther.

    Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story.

    New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1958.

    First edition of Dr. Martin Luther King’s first book. Octavo, original half cloth, illustrated. Boldly signed by the author on the front pastedown, “Best Wishes, Martin L. King Jr.” Near fine in a near fine dust jacket with light rubbing. Housed in a custom half morocco clamshell box. Rare and desirable signed.

    Price: $15,000.00     Item Number: 117338

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