My collecting story… M.R. in Singapore…

May 8, 2020 by  
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Below we continue our series in which we post the “stories” graciously submitted by our collecting friends during the pandemic of 2020.

My fascination with antiquity generally and old publications specifically began when I was a young child, although I clearly didn’t have the means to acquire them way back then. I have always been fascinated with history, and thus old publications (newspapers, magazines and books) accord one a precious opportunity to come face-to-face with the very publications people read contemporaneous to the events of the period, be they revolutions, a civil war, a presidential inauguration or assassination, or a whole host of other events of historical import. There is even a ‘tactile sensation’ that gives much pleasure in knowing that you are actually leafing through pages originally perused by others up to 300 or even 400 years back! In the case of newspapers in particular, there is also that intellectual joy of reading what are basically primary historical sources, thereby relishing the very


‘flavour’ of the reports of the times and the sometimes strong or biased opinions put forth by editors or letters published from readers.

It is exceedingly difficult to identify the one publication that I would value the most, over any other. In my case it is a tie between two very different historical periods: the 1760s and 1770s, in which one finds myriad accounts of the events leading up to the American Revolution; and the newspapers of April 1865, which came out in the wake of the assassination of one of America’s greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln. What makes the former category especially interesting in both British and American papers is the fact that on neither side of the ‘pond’ was opinion monolithic by any means with respect to the stirrings in the colonies which ultimately led to revolution. There were British political leaders and merchants who were strongly in favour of letting the Americans have their independence. One in particular was highly prescient in that he foresaw that one day America would emerge as a great power and that it was therefore best to cultivate good relations with was to become a new republic sooner rather than later. At the same time, there were American loyalists who could not envisage a total break with the Crown and thus regarded the revolution as an unwanted tragedy. What makes the newspapers subsequent to Lincoln’s assassination especially interesting is the fact that one can feel a palpable sense of grief and anger in the immediate aftermath – regardless of what they may have been saying about President Lincoln when he was still alive! I feel teleported back in time and place to the scene of the crime as well as to the intense mourning that followed as Lincoln’s funeral train wound its way from Washington back to Illinois, with outpourings of sorrow all over the nation.

Finally, there was indeed a most pleasant surprise awaiting me in an entire volume of ‘The Gentleman’s Magazine’ for 1776, which I happened upon in an antiquarian shop in my part of the world (Singapore) many years ago. I acquired it for an amount so small that I considered it insignificant. While I felt sure there would be many articles of interest with regard to the outbreak of the American Revolution, I was absolutely beside myself with joy to discover that the American Declaration of Independence had been reproduced in it! I certainly hadn’t expected that. Interestingly, the following month’s issue had some sharp critiques of the rationale upon which the Americans had clamored and then declared their independence of Britain. The condition of the whole collection was uniformly good indeed, and the binding appeared to be original as well.

For these reasons and many more, collecting old publications is a hobby – or perhaps I should say a *passion* – that brings unending joy!

As additional “stories” are posted they will be available at: MY COLLECTING STORY. We did this many years ago as well – and their posts are also included.


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