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A Catalogue of the books belonging to the New-York Society Library together with the Charter and By-laws of the same
Printed by C.S. Van Winkle, 122 Water-street, New York 1813 - 8, [5], 10-49, [4], 10-240 & 16 pages; This volume is one of the early (and rare) catalogues of the oldest cultural institution in New York City -- the New-York Society Library, founded in 1754. This copy belonged to William Prince, Jr., the author of the first treatise on horticulture published in the United States, and the proprietor of the first steamboat between Flushing and New York City. As it was established during the Colonial period of New York, the Society received a charter from George III, and was granted the use of a room in the original City Hall, at Wall and Broad streets by Colonial Governor James DeLancey. During the Revolution, the collections suffered, and reputedly, some books were ripped up so that their paper might be used as gun-wadding for muskets. After independence was won, the New York Society Library's charter was recognized by the new Legislature, and, as Congress was meeting in New York City, the library became the defacto Library of Congress. The Society's records show that books were borrowed by George Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, among other now-familiar names. [The NYSL held a press conference a couple of years ago to state its willingness to forgive the accumulated fines for two books charged out by and not returned by George Washington, a matter of nearly $300,000, but they do very much want the books back]. By the time this 1813 catalogue was printed, the collection had grown to 12,500 volumes, worth over $15,000; after some improvements, the Society's premises on Nassau Street were stated to be worth about the same. There were about 550 subscribers -- this copy was carefully preserved by one of the most interesting names on the list, with two distinctive ink signatures of William Prince (Junior). The Society's own website has short biographies of a few of the most interesting subscribers from its history; here is what they say about Mr. Prince: "William Prince, Jr. (1766-1842) was the son of horticulturist William Prince, the proprietor of Prince Nursery in Flushing, Long Island. He purchased land in the area of his father's nursery from Bayard, LeRoy, and Clarkson to form the Linnean Botanic Garden and Nursery. Prince married Mary Stratton in 1794 and served as a vestryman at St. George's Church in Flushing." Prince's father and namesake was also a subscriber (but had died before this 1813 catalogue was printed). Here is his biography from the NYSL site: "William Prince (1725-1802) was a horticulturist and the second proprietor of the Prince Nursery in Flushing, Long Island. It was established by his father Robert, and grew to be the first large commercial nursery in America. It continued throughout the British occupancy during the American Revolution under heavy guard by British troops. After the war, the original land was taken over by Prince's son Benjamin and named the Old American Nursery. Prince's other son, also named William, established the Linnean Botanic Garden and Nursery." The importance of the Prince family nursery is difficult to overstate. The following text is from the USDA special collections website -- (the Department of Acgriculture preserves some Prince family archives): "Around 1730, Robert Prince began growing plants for his own private use. When William Prince, Sr. (1725-1802) turned his father's personal gardens into a business enterprise some 20 years later, it was the beginning of the first commercial nursery in the United States and the foremost one in the country until the middle of the 19th century. At the death of William Prince, Sr., the business was divided between his two sons - Benjamin, the elder, and William, Jr. Benjamin kept the property under the name "The Old American Nursery" while William, Jr. purchased a portion of it. During his ownership, the nursery enjoyed its best years. Known throughout the United States and Europe, the establishment enjoyed being the leader over all other American nurseries in plant varieties and species. A [Attributes: First Edition; Hard Cover]
      [Bookseller: Antiquarian Bookshop]
Last Found On: 2014-02-01           Check availability:      AbeBooks    

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