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Manhattan Rare Books and Fine Press Bookfair
Saturday, April 6, 2024
Church of St. Vincent Ferrer
869 Lexington Ave at 66th St.
New York, NY
9am – 4pm

1829: Treaty 156, two million seven hundred sixty-two thousand eight hundred eighty acres

*A work in progress*

February 2024

Wau-kaun-hah-kaw, Snake Skin, lithograph from the painting by Charles Bird KingWau-kaun-hah-kaw, Wakąhaga, Snake Skin, by Charles Bird King

The first volume in a collection exploring themes of colonial greed and manifest destiny during the early nineteenth century. Through successive treaties with the U. S. government, indigenous tribes were coerced into selling and relinquishing their ancestral homelands.

The Ho-Chunk’s displacement from their lands in Wisconsin and Illinois territories led them to the "Neutral Ground" in northeast Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, and eventually Nebraska. Throughout this forced migration, a few of the Hocąk persistently made their way back to Wisconsin, amid profound adversity.

"Territorial Acquisition", painting by David Esslemont

1829:Treaty 156, examines in detail a treaty in which the Ho-Chunk (known then as the Winnebago) relinquish the resource-rich "Lead Mine Region" – around 2.76 million-acres, for a paltry 0.195¢ per acre. Letters exchanged between the organizers, together with the official journal of the council or “talk”, before the treaty is drafted, shed light on the political intricacies of the time and the struggles facing the Ho-Chunk.

Within this narrative, the story exposes an array of characters – on the one hand, the “Great Father” (the president of the United States), generals, governors, Indian agents, fur traders and many others who play significant roles in the treaty’s orchestration, revealing a tapestry of power, wealth, familial connections and influence that extended well beyond the council fire – on the other, the chiefs, head men, families, and friends of the Ho-Chunk.

With maps (both old and new), portraits, documents and Esslemont’s artwork.

Fireman's Park Beach, Verona, Wi (watercolour)

De Cataractis

A Roman account of cataracts and their removal

February 2023 || Thirty copies: $400

Gazania flower with half of the image blurred to represent the efect of cataracts

Following recent cataract surgery I now see a brighter, sharper world with great clarity.

Curiosity led me to the medical treatise De Medicina, written around 30 AD by Aurelius Cornelius Celsus. Thought to be part of a larger encyclopedia it includes a chapter on the description and treatment of cataracts: ‘De Cataractis’.

I am pleased to present three pages from a fifteenth-century copy of De Medicina in the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence, together with a Latin transcript and an English translation.

MrBeast didn’t pay for my surgery but I can wholly recommend the procedure. I hope the curious will find Celsus’s description an interesting read and enjoy lifting the veils of Gampi paper to reveal the effect of phacoemulsification with intraoculaur lens Model DCB00 implantation.

30 copies: printed inkjet

Opening from Manuscript copy of De Medicina


Simon Armitage

May 2022 || Thirty copies: $800 – out of print
Original unique copy, please enquire

Resistance front cover

David Esslemont responds to Simon Armitage’s poem written in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022. "It’s war again", writes the British Poet Laureate, and Esslemont’s illustrations remind us of the recurrent and ubiquitous nature of war. Based on contemporary and archive images he weaves calligraphic words drawn not only from the poem but also transcripts of Pathé newsreels, a list of wars spanning two thousand years, Putin’s menacing declaration of his mission (in Russian), the Ukrainian national anthem, news headlines, and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s speech to the British parliament. The poem is set in Genau, a typeface designed by Aleksey Popovtsev. Solmentes Press will donate 5% of net sales to Ukraine TrustChain whose teams are helping families in Ukraine.

30 copies: printed inkjet

Resistance front cover


March 2020 || Regular edition: $1800
Deluxe edition: $4800

Jabberwocky title opening

In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, Alice climbs through a mirror into another world where she finds many strange things including a book written in mirror-writing. David Esslemont illustrates each line of this classic nonsense poem with linocuts. His calligraphic text is printed in reverse.

Pizza from Scratch

September 2017 || Regular edition: $2400
Deluxe edition: Out of print

This visual narrative tells the story in woodcuts and linocuts of how Esslemont literally grew a pizza on his farm in rural Iowa. Wholly embracing the farm-to-table movement, he grows wheat, garlic, tomatoes and basil; designs and builds an adobe clay oven (scale plans included); gives instructions on how to make the dough, tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese; fire up the oven, assemble the pizza and cook it in less than three minutes.

Taxi Driver Curry

May 2015 || Regular edition: $300
Deluxe edition: $3600

There are many different ways to cook curry – this transcript of a conversation with a taxi driver describes just one approach and was recorded at 4.30 a.m. while traveling between terminals at London’s Heathrow airport.

The illustrations are woodcuts based on kolam, Indian designs that are created outside homes to bring prosperity and ward off evil spirits.

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Copyright © David Esslemont 2024