April 2012 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Steve Finer Rare Books

Catalogue Review: Steve Finer Rare Books, #197

Steve Finer of Greenfield, Massachusetts, issues your traditional antiquarian booksellers' catalogue: a solid selection of books described in clear and witty prose, preceded by a personable letter. He calls the topics here his "predictable line of attack" -- i.e., agriculture, beverages, culinary history, domestic economy, and women.

The section of beer books is strong. One unique, ephemeral item caught my attention -- a "Receipt for making Doct. Cronk's Beer" circa 1850-60. Finer calls the handbill "evidently unknown & unrecorded" ($150). In addition to menus and antiquarian cookbooks, he also offers several manuscript recipe books from the mid-to-late nineteenth century, ranging in price from $100-$250. Mock pigeon, anyone?

In domestic economy, we have all manner of good housekeeping advice. Catherine E. Beecher (Harriet's sister) gave us Letters to Persons Who Are Engaged in Domestic Service in 1842, and Finer has the first edition ($100).

In the field of women's books, Sarah Josepha Hale (The Lecturess: Or Woman's Sphere; $100), Catherine Maria Sedgwick (The Poor Rich Man, and the Rich Poor Man, $35), and Lucy Larcom (Similitudes From the Ocean and the Prairie; $250) stand out.

And in the category of 'subject headings I've never seen in booksellers' catalogues: Barbed Wire. A truly interesting find here, Memorial of Philip Louis Moen, who was the head of Washburn & Moen, America's chief manufacturer of barbed wire ($50).

Contact Steve Finer by email or phone, and stay tuned for his next catalogue, Books about Books and Printing History. Or see him in Boston next weekend at the Boston Book, Paper, & Photo Expo, sponsored by the Massachusetts and Rhode Island Antiquarian Booksellers.