New-York: Published by W. Gowan [sic, for Gowans], 121 Chatham-Street, 1833. First American edition. 12mo (7.75 x 4.75 inches), original pebbled cloth spine, drab boards, printed paper spine label, 209, , 2 pages. Label rubbed, with loss; some general bumping and rubbing; some light foxing and soiling; a very good copy. Item #20356
The first publication from New-York antiquarian bookseller and sometime publisher William Gowans (1803-1870)—born in Scotland, briefly a hand on a flatboat in Indiana, then a bricklayer and theatre superintendent (among other odd jobs) in Manhattan, before he settled down in 1830 for some 40 years in the rare and second-hand book business, with occasional publishing ventures on the side. (After his death, a sketch of Gowans in the American Bibliopolist of March, 1871 notes his last shop on Nassau Street, where the “floors were nearly two hundred feet in depth from front to rear. Originally the sides were shelved to the ceiling, and two rows of tables ran down the length of the first floor. But as the stock increased it was piled, first on tables, then on the floors, until the mass of books was everywhere impenatrable, except by narrow alleys running here and there, and at length the piles began to topple over and fall into the alleys, so that the careless investigator was likely to tread on books at every step.”) This first American edition of Plato is dedicated by the anonymous editor to Washington Irving (one suspects the editorial hand of Gowans himself, working from a copy of one of the London Works of Plato Abridg’d that had come into stock), the dedicatee hailed here as an author at once “the Plato and Addison of the New World; the Author of Knickerbocker, the Sketch Book, and other works of lasting renown; whose productions, as Plato’s now are, will be read in future ages with delight and undiminished applause, on the banks of the Ganges, the Wolga, the Niger, and Columbia rivers.” The final leaf is two pages of ads for prospective publications from Gowans (very few seem here advertised seem to have made it to press), as well as advertisements for the purchase of books or libraries, and a list of second-hand and antiquarian titles—the most expensive a six-volume quarto set of Boyle, priced at $30. Spine label price of $1; those in boards with paper spines were priced 75 cents. American Imprints 20742. Early ink ownership signature A. Laussat at the head of the title, likely one of the Laussat brothers, Antony (d. October, 1833) or more probably Alfred (d. 1838).