Sep 28, 2017 - Sale 2455

Sale 2455 - Lot 126

Price Realized: $ 10,625
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 6,000 - $ 9,000
(HAWAII.) [Wilcox, P.S.?] The Honolulu Merchants' Looking Glass. 18 pages. 16mo, later full morocco gilt, original wrappers bound in with later pencil notes; 1/2-inch repaired closed tear to front wrapper, vertical fold throughout, inner margin of page 13 reinforced with tape, moderate dampstaining, heavier to final two leaves, rear wrapper worn and laid down on paper. 1941 postcard addressed to prior owner is laid in. [San Francisco, 1862]

Additional Details

first edition. This slim volume offers bracingly frank descriptions of 31 leading Honolulu merchants, in terms which bordered on slanderous. Issued anonymously and distributed to its subjects in the dead of night, it remains one of the great curiosities--and rarities--of Hawaiian literature.
The book arrived by ship from San Francisco on New Year's Day, 1863, and soon caused a stir throughout the city. It begins with a brief preface revealing the author's intent allow his neighbors "to see themselves as others see them" so that "in all their underhanded dealing, they may hesitate." John Hackfield "has saved quite a small fortune through being mean and parsimonious," John T. Waterhouse is "eccentric, and full of tricks," and William Stott "has a weakness for attending native feasts, and admiring native dancing girls." Thomas Spencer "has a most notorious reputation for women of a tender age." Perhaps the harshest words are reserved for Alexander Cartwright, often regarded as the inventor of baseball from his days back in New York: "Has probably a better capacity for pulling wool over shipmasters' eyes than any other man in the community. . . . Is very vindictive, and does not scruple at anything where there is money to be made. Is generally disliked, and by many considered a dangerous man to confide in."
The provenance of this copy is significant. It was originally owned by Honolulu merchant Charles Lewis Richards (1830-1883), passed on to his daughter Ada Richards Chase (1877-1966), and then by descent to consignor. Richards was a partner in the mercantile firm of Wilcox & Richards. According to a 1913 note attached to the only other known surviving first edition, "this booklet was published by P.S. Wilcox of Wilcox & Richards. . . . At the suggestion of Wilcox it was written out by Widderfield, printed for Wilcox in S.F., sent down on the Comet and Wilcox delivered it in person at night by placing a copy at each doorway in town." This, then, would be the copy belonging to the instigator's business partner.
If the attribution is correct, we should not be surprised that the pamphlet takes it easy on the firm of Wilcox & Richards on pages 11-12: "P.S. Wilcox apparently delights in opposition, and is a man who would do a great deal to carry his own point. . . . Has no particularly visible weakness. C.L. Richards, the junior partner . . . is a good buyer, a smart salesman, and shrewd in a trade . . . and, as currently reported, has a weakness for women." Laid in is a 1941 postcard from former United States Senator (and Machu Picchu explorer) Hiram Bingham to the daughter of Charles L. Richards, passing on a reference to the Looking Glass in a recent book.
Forbes describes the pamphlet in detail, as well as two later reprints, as entry 2499. He traces only one surviving copy of the first edition, at the Hawaiian Mission Children's Society Library. The present copy matches this lone library copy in every particular of typeface and typesetting. Not in OCLC, and none known at auction--a true rarity.