Blog posts by John Waite

John Waite is a specialist in Appraisals, Autographs, Documents, Manuscripts and Ephemera. John has a particular interest in the appraisal and placement of archives, large and small.

The New England Primer

By John Waite

A rarity among rare books: The New England Primer Enlarged with an engraved portrait of George Washington attributed to Paul Revere. Among Americana collectors, one of the most desirable class of books remains the 18th century New England Primer – 17th century examples being known, but entirely unavailable. The New England Primer was not only the first primary reader designed for use in the American Colonies – a cornerstone of early American education – but in the hundreds of editions that were produced, it was among the most successful educational texts ever published. In his 1934 check-list of New England Primers, bibliographer and bookseller extraordinaire Charles F. Heartman recorded more than 450 editions published between 1727 and 1830, many of these printed in editions of thousands of copies. According to Heartman, even befor... [more The New England Primer]

“Nothing is more important to medical science & no part of medical education in this part of the country is obtained with so much difficulty” as the study of anatomy with the use of cadavers. So wrote Dr. Nathan Smith to New Hampshire Governor John Langdon in June 1806. One of the leading medical practitioners and educators of early 19th century America, Smith founded or helped establish four schools of medicine in New England, including those at Dartmouth, Yale, Bowdoin, and the University of Vermont. In the United States, cadavers for anatomy classes were difficult to come by – legally – until at least the 1830s. Anatomical dissection of the human body was viewed with deep suspicion, if not revulsion, especially in New England's clergy-dominated culture. In the early decades of the Republic, traffic in human remains remained lar... [more The Doctor, the Murderer, and the Governor]

We may be in the age of smart phones, tablet computers, and e-readers, but in sheer numbers, one household device still rules: television. Today in the United States, there are 2.86 TVs for every 2.5 people. More than half of U.S. households have three TVs. Yet the story of how television became ubiquitous in the American landscape remains mostly fragmented. There are several intertwining threads, including the narrative of technological development at individual manufacturers (especially RCA in the US), the development of appealing programming and a wide viewership, and the emergence of key institutions of contemporary market culture, notably mass advertising. Books and articles have been devoted to each of these, and there are a handful of institutions with excellent websites that provide further insight and documentation. (See here, he... [more Collecting the History of Early Television]

Dear Mr. Dearborn…

By John Waite

A New England Correspondence Archive: Descriptive Notes and Approach to Valuation Recently a Massachusetts antiques dealer sought me out to evaluate an archive of approximately 100 autograph letters received by one Edward B. Dearborn (1807-1886), including many related to teaching, mostly in rural New England schools in the late 1820s and early 1830s. What at first appeared to be a boring batch of correspondence written by a group of nobodies turned out to be a fascinating window into the culture and practice of teaching in early 19th Century New England, and also provided a case study of how an appraiser assesses a unique collection of material that doesn't include traditionally collectible famous personalities. Most people are familiar with Teach for America, the organization that recruits “high-achieving” recent college graduates a... [more Dear Mr. Dearborn…]