It’s an unusual occurrence when a customer to whom you sold a book actually mentions that fact in his article. I just got a copy of an offprint from Anglican & Episcopal History (Vol. 77, No. 2) June 2008. In it J. Robert Wright has an article entitled “Anglican Slaveholding in Brooklyn: Phillis Jackson and the ‘Elegant’ American Prayer Book of 1819” appearing on pp. 150-159. The author, J. Robert Wright, is the Historiographer of the Episcopal Church and the St. Mark’s Professor of Ecclesiastical History at the General Theological Seminary in New York City. Every year I did the New York ABAA book fair–sadly I no longer participate due to its exceedingly high cost–Professor Wright would stop by my booth to see if I brought along anything of interest. Back in 2003 I did indeed have a very curious and quite handsome copy of Mergarey’s Elegant Edition of the Book of Common Prayer according to the Use of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America (1819). Not only was it beautifully printed and illustrated being the first “elegant” Book of Common Prayer published in America, but it was also the copy belonging to one Mary Gilford, and some of the Gilford family papers were loosely inserted in the volume. One particular note mentions the death of a family servant, Phillis Jackson (d. June 30, 1826), who was owned by Mrs. Penelope Codwise and later by her daughter, Mrs. Penelope Gilford. Mary Gilford was the granddaughter and daughter of these two women respectively. Professor Wright’s article is all about this book (described in great detail I might add), the family ownership, and the high probability that Phillis Jackson was a slave servant of this early family in Brooklyn. It’s a fascinating read, and as Professor Wright concludes, with this book and its manuscript contents “professional genealogists and historians of slavery have a new source whereby to explore and interpret slavery in nineteenth-century New York City.” (p. 159)
On the front of the offprint Professor Wright pens in red ink “For Philip Bishop — You may recall this prayer book that you sold me! See p. 154, and enjoy! J. R. Wright” and he checked his article in the Table of Contents supplied with the offprint. I turned to p. 154 and read that this “copy was purchased in April 2003 from Philip R. Bishop of Mosher Books, then of Millersville, Pennsylvania, for the price of $330.” Well I’ll be. It’s very unusual for a scholar to mention from whom a book was purchased, and I greatly appreciate not only the mention and his sending me a copy for my records, but most importantly knowing that something I found and provided to the right customer and going to the right home has actually turned out to be of printing and historical significance. I just love it when a whole story evolves out of a book in someone’s collection, and am gratified to have played a role in it.
Philip R. Bishop
July 3, 2008
This article is Copyright © by Philip R. Bishop. Permission to reproduce the above article has been granted by Gordon Pfeiffer, president of the Delaware Bibliophiles and editor of that organization’s newsletter, Endpapers, in which the article appeared in the September 2008 issue. No portion of this article may be reproduced or redistributed without expressed written permission from both parties.