Nov 7, 2023 10:00 EST

Rare Books, Autographs & Maps including the Esmond Bradley Martin Collection

 
Lot 28
 

28

An uncommon 17th century Boston court document relating to a divorce case

Estate / Collection: The Victor Gulotta Collection

ATHERTON, HUMPHREY

Document signed as Justice of the Peace relating to the attempted divorce of Martha and William Clements. Boston: 15 March 1656. One page manuscript testimony in ink signed by John Thorne (possibly Trane) and likely prepared in his hand. The document also signed and inscribed at foot “Taken upon oath this 15 (3) 1656 before me Humphrey Atherton” by Atherton in his role as Justice of the Peace. 6 1/4 x 7 1/4 inches (16 x 19 cm); framed. Light spotting and one puncture touching two words, clean overall, dark and legible, not examined out of frame.

A rare manuscript testimony relating to an attempted divorce, one of the more infrequently heard cases in colonial New England. This document provides "The testimony of John Thorne aged 46 years testifieth that he heard the wife of William Clements of Cambridge say in the presence of Mr. Wintroyd Mr. Bellinger and Mr. Howell that she never loved the said Mr. Clements, her husband, and never had societie with him nor never the desire to have and that she loved one that went out of Salem better than her husband, and that to my knowledge the said Clements her husband hath(?) ... lovingly towards his said wife… "

Of all 17th-century documents issued by New England courts, papers relating to marital disputes are particularly scarce. Roger Thompson in Sex in Middlesex reports “that there were seventeen cases involving marital problems, other than adultery or adulterous carriages, in the county court between 1649 and 1699.” The current document is testimony on behalf of William Clements, who petitioned the General Court in 1656 “craving a divorce from his wife, who for several years refused marriage fellowship with him.” Other testimony in the case indicated that Clement’s wife, Martha (misrecorded in some places as Susan) said that “her heart died within her when her husband would have kissed her” and described the marriage as “forced business.” Unfortunately, the court took a full year to respond and in June 1657 the divorce petition was refused. The court ordered the Clements to “treat each other according to their Marriage Covenant & that upon Complaint made by such party as shall be found faulty shall be severely punished.” Such a harsh ruling likely discouraged future attempts at divorce and there is much to research in the language of the present document.

Humphrey Atherton (1607-1661) was an early settler of Dorchester arriving on the ship James in August 1635. He is best remembered for achieving the rank of Major-General, the highest in colonial New England, and formed the first militia in Dorchester. From 1654, he served as a magistrate in the judiciary of the colonial government, a selectman, and a Justice of the Peace, in which he “solemnized many marriages" including the wedding of Myles Standish, Jr. and Sarah Winslow in Boston in 1660.

A tough enforcer, Atherton is associated with the persecutions of the period and believed in witches. As written in Epitaphs from the Old Burying Ground in Dorchester, Atherton "felt it to be a duty which he owed to God and to his Country to mete out to the poor creatures, against whom accusations were brought, the punishment, which, in his opinion, they so richly merited.” Atherton was instrumental in bringing about the execution of Mrs. Ann Hibbins for witchcraft in June 1656, just months after this document was signed but decades before the hysteria that overtook Salem. Humphrey Atherton was also instrumental in the 1660 execution of the Quaker woman associated with Anne Hutchinson, Mary Dyer, of which he insultingly said, "She hangs there like a flag for others to take example by." Some Quakers believed that Atherton’s death from a fall off a horse a year later was God’s wrath upon him for these actions.

An unusual 17th century divorce document signed by a harsh enforcer of 1650s Boston.

See: Thompson, Roger. Sex in Middlesex: Popular Mores in a Massachusetts County, 1649-1699. Amherst: University of Massachusetts, 1989 edition, p. 115; Woodward, Harlow Elliot. Epitaphs from the Old Burying Ground in Dorchester. Boston, 1869. p. 6.

Provenance: PBA Galleries, 1 July 2010 in Books, Manuscripts & Ephemera from the Library of Calvin P. Otto, lot 86.

Sold for $6,300
Estimated at $1,000 - $1,500

Includes Buyer's Premium


 

Estate / Collection: The Victor Gulotta Collection

ATHERTON, HUMPHREY

Document signed as Justice of the Peace relating to the attempted divorce of Martha and William Clements. Boston: 15 March 1656. One page manuscript testimony in ink signed by John Thorne (possibly Trane) and likely prepared in his hand. The document also signed and inscribed at foot “Taken upon oath this 15 (3) 1656 before me Humphrey Atherton” by Atherton in his role as Justice of the Peace. 6 1/4 x 7 1/4 inches (16 x 19 cm); framed. Light spotting and one puncture touching two words, clean overall, dark and legible, not examined out of frame.

A rare manuscript testimony relating to an attempted divorce, one of the more infrequently heard cases in colonial New England. This document provides "The testimony of John Thorne aged 46 years testifieth that he heard the wife of William Clements of Cambridge say in the presence of Mr. Wintroyd Mr. Bellinger and Mr. Howell that she never loved the said Mr. Clements, her husband, and never had societie with him nor never the desire to have and that she loved one that went out of Salem better than her husband, and that to my knowledge the said Clements her husband hath(?) ... lovingly towards his said wife… "

Of all 17th-century documents issued by New England courts, papers relating to marital disputes are particularly scarce. Roger Thompson in Sex in Middlesex reports “that there were seventeen cases involving marital problems, other than adultery or adulterous carriages, in the county court between 1649 and 1699.” The current document is testimony on behalf of William Clements, who petitioned the General Court in 1656 “craving a divorce from his wife, who for several years refused marriage fellowship with him.” Other testimony in the case indicated that Clement’s wife, Martha (misrecorded in some places as Susan) said that “her heart died within her when her husband would have kissed her” and described the marriage as “forced business.” Unfortunately, the court took a full year to respond and in June 1657 the divorce petition was refused. The court ordered the Clements to “treat each other according to their Marriage Covenant & that upon Complaint made by such party as shall be found faulty shall be severely punished.” Such a harsh ruling likely discouraged future attempts at divorce and there is much to research in the language of the present document.

Humphrey Atherton (1607-1661) was an early settler of Dorchester arriving on the ship James in August 1635. He is best remembered for achieving the rank of Major-General, the highest in colonial New England, and formed the first militia in Dorchester. From 1654, he served as a magistrate in the judiciary of the colonial government, a selectman, and a Justice of the Peace, in which he “solemnized many marriages" including the wedding of Myles Standish, Jr. and Sarah Winslow in Boston in 1660.

A tough enforcer, Atherton is associated with the persecutions of the period and believed in witches. As written in Epitaphs from the Old Burying Ground in Dorchester, Atherton "felt it to be a duty which he owed to God and to his Country to mete out to the poor creatures, against whom accusations were brought, the punishment, which, in his opinion, they so richly merited.” Atherton was instrumental in bringing about the execution of Mrs. Ann Hibbins for witchcraft in June 1656, just months after this document was signed but decades before the hysteria that overtook Salem. Humphrey Atherton was also instrumental in the 1660 execution of the Quaker woman associated with Anne Hutchinson, Mary Dyer, of which he insultingly said, "She hangs there like a flag for others to take example by." Some Quakers believed that Atherton’s death from a fall off a horse a year later was God’s wrath upon him for these actions.

An unusual 17th century divorce document signed by a harsh enforcer of 1650s Boston.

See: Thompson, Roger. Sex in Middlesex: Popular Mores in a Massachusetts County, 1649-1699. Amherst: University of Massachusetts, 1989 edition, p. 115; Woodward, Harlow Elliot. Epitaphs from the Old Burying Ground in Dorchester. Boston, 1869. p. 6.

Provenance: PBA Galleries, 1 July 2010 in Books, Manuscripts & Ephemera from the Library of Calvin P. Otto, lot 86.

Auction: Rare Books, Autographs & Maps including the Esmond Bradley Martin Collection, Nov 7, 2023

  • Successful Auction of Rare Books, Autographs & Maps Tops $1 Million!
  • November 7, 2023 Sale Featured the Esmond Bradley Martin Collection of Africana & Travel
  • Consignments Are Currently Being Accepted for Future Auctions


NEW YORK, NY -- Doyle's successful auction of Rare Books, Autographs & Maps on November 7, 2023 topped $1 million amid competitive international bidding. Offerings in this popular sale spanned early illuminated manuscripts to modern literary first editions.

The Esmond Bradley Martin Collection of Africana and Travel comprised fascinating material that attracted bidders from around the world. Highlighting the collection was a copy of the first Latin edition of the earliest published collection of voyages, including those of Columbus and Vespucci: the 1508 Milan Fracanzo da Montalboddo, which achieved a strong $239,400. The collection also featured a rare uncut copy of Livio Sanuto's 1588 atlas of Africa that doubled its estimate at $25,200, as well as a group of 19th and early 20th century material relating to Zanzibar that attracted intense competition, sending the lots soaring over expectations. (Read more about Esmond Bradley Martin below.)

Property of other owners was highlighted by a first edition of Charles Darwin’s groundbreaking scientific work, On the Origin of Species, 1859, which realized $94,500. This copy bore provenance of Charles Darwin's great-grandson Quentin Keynes, to the naturalist Richard Bayard Dominick, thence by descent to the consignor.

Robert Browning's first edition copy of John Keats’ poem, Endymion, 1818, sold for $37,800, many times its $7,000-10,000 estimate. The poem begins with the well-known verse, "A thing of beauty is a joy for ever."

The selection of livres des artistes featured François-Louis Schmied's Daphne in a major Art Deco binding by Pierre Legrain, 1924, one of 140 copies. The book tripled its $8,000-12,000 estimate, selling for $32,760.

Manuscripts in the sale were highlighted by a medieval manuscript on paper, Calculus temporum Ecclesiasticus, which sailed past its estimate of $3,000-5,000 to achieve an exceptional $31,500. This fascinating calendrical manuscript in Latin, circa 1360, possibly English in origin, was once the property of antiquary and collector Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872).

100 years before the Revolution: from Plymouth Colony to the Salem Witch Trials - The Victor Gulotta Collection, offered a curated collection of 17th and 18th century manuscripts documenting life in colonial New England. Among the rarities were a 1691 document signed by two notorious Salem witch trials magistrates John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin that realized $5,670, a document from 1686/87 signed by Edmund Andros as Governor of the Dominion of New England that sold for $5,670, and a 1656 Boston court document relating to a divorce case that achieved $6,300, all three exceeding their estimates.

Esmond Bradley Martin

Esmond Bradley Martin (1941-2018) was educated as a geographer and philosopher. He and his wife Chryssee had an enduring fascination with Africa, and settled in Nairobi, Kenya, in the mid-1970s. He wrote extensively, oftentimes in conjunction with his wife, publishing works including Zanzibar. Tradition and Revolution, Hamish Hamilton, 1978; Cargoes of the east. The ports, trade, and culture of the Arabian Seas and western Indian Ocean, Elm Tree Press, 1978; and many other works on African history and conservation. In the late 1970s, he began extensive research into the illegal trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn, which included substantial stints incognito posing as a buyer of illicit wildlife products. For a while, he served as special envoy for rhino conservation for the United Nations. He continued this work until 2018 , when tragically he was stabbed to death in his Nairobi home

For about thirty years, beginning in the mid-1960s, Esmond Bradley Martin assiduously collected books and manuscripts on Africa and its history, acquiring a phenomenal collection of letters by many of the major English explorers of the nineteenth century, as well as numerous rarities from earlier centuries. He was buying at a time when troves of such material surfaced frequently at English auctions. Doyle was privileged to offer the first selection of his collection in the November 7 auction. A second and final portion will be offered early next year.


We Invite You to Auction!

Consignments are currently being accepted for future auctions. We invite you to contact us for a complimentary auction evaluation. Our Specialists are always available to discuss the sale of a single item or an entire collection.

For information, please contact Peter Costanzo at 212-427-4141, ext 248, or Edward Ripley-Duggan at ext. 234, or email Books@Doyle.com

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