Becoming America (Rarest of Rare Collectibles)

In honor of  Independence Day, we feature three books emblematic of the nation’s growing pains. The first, written near the country’s beginnings as a democracy, is a seminal work that helped define our legislative branch. The second, written thirty-four years later in 1821, provides detailed descriptions of the lives of Native Americans of that time before so much changed in their world. And the third selection provides a rare contemporaneous account of the Underground Railroad. Ironically, all three of these editions were published in the United Kingdom.

For this Fourth of July, along with your fireworks and hot dogs, find a little time to explore our country’s history in books!

A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America
John Adams
1787, London. Printed for C. Dilly, in the Poultry
First Edition. In original binding.


Adams intended to write a single volume. The first, published in London, was so successful that Adams was encouraged to write a second volume, and then a third. The book promotes a mixed government, in which “the rich, the well-born and the able” are separated into a senate, unable to dominate a lower house of representatives.

Our copy is in remarkable condition, considering its age and historical importance. The book is fragile but complete. There is an owner inscription from 1787, and a presentation inscription from 1909.

The Indian Tribes of North America, with Biographical Sketches and Anecdotes of the Principal Chiefs
Thomas McKenney, James Hall
1933, Edinburgh. John Grant


Three volumes in publisher’s dark blue cloth, with gilt titling and pictorial blindstamping.

In Very Good condition, $750
This edition of the classic study features 123 color plates, primarily portraits of prominent Native Americans, including Pocahontas, and many chieftains. The original oil paintings upon which these portraits were based were nearly all destroyed by a Smithsonian fire. The set also includes two foldout maps.

McKenney was a United States official who served as Superintendent of Indian Trade from 1824–30. He was dismissed from his post in 1830 by President Andrew Jackson when Jackson disagreed with McKenney’s position that “the Indian was, in his intellectual and moral structure, our equal.”

The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom
Reverend W.M. Mitchell
1860, London. William Tweedie
Second Edition


This topic was too hot to handle in the U.S.: the story of the Underground Railroad, told by a black minister in 1860! Mitchell was an abolitionist who traveled to the UK and made speeches to garner support for the movement in America. It is said that this book was the first written about the Underground Railroad while it was still illegal.

The book is extremely scarce and very important. This copy is solid and tight, with expected minor foxing and bumping. It features a frontispiece portrait of the author.

If you’re interested in finding out more about any of these books, contact the Buy Guy.

Steve is the”Buy Guy” at Half Price Books Corporate.

One thought on “Becoming America (Rarest of Rare Collectibles)

  1. Very interested in the Mckinney Hall book but need to see it in person. Would be able to make it to the Marion Store, late afternoon tomorrow.

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