BOLDLY SIGNED AND DATED BY PRESIDENT CHESTER ALAN ARTHUR AS PRESIDENT: ARTHUR'S OWN COPY OF RUSSELL’S LIBRARY NOTES, 1879
(ARTHUR, Chester) RUSSELL, A[ddison] P[eale]. Library Notes. Boston: Houghton, Osgood, 1879. Octavo, original green cloth, top edge gilt. Housed in a custom chemise and half morocco slipcase. $5500.
Revised and enlarged edition of Russell’s popular literary work, an exceptional personal association copy owned and signed by Chester Alan Arthur at the height of his presidency with his date of “Mch 5, 1883”—an exceedingly scarce signed work by this often embattled president—who would order “the destruction of his personal papers and records shortly before his death” in 1888.
Chester Alan Arthur was sworn in as America's 21st president in September 1881 following the assassination of President James Garfield. Arthur, who was very ill from kidney disease during much of his tenure, died in November 1888, only five years after he inscribed this copy—signed and dated by him as president—of Library Notes. While Arthur was once disparaged by both contemporaries and historians, largely due to his association with the shady machine politics of Senator Conklin, he nevertheless met the challenges of an unexpected presidency with such dignity that many have found Arthur to be "a better President than anyone expected him to be… No man ever entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted, and no one ever retired from [it] more generally respected, alike by friend and foe." Variously known as "Gentleman Boss" and "Elegant Arthur," Chester Arthur was praised in an 1888 elegy by future Secretary of War Elihu Root as a man who had entered the presidency almost entirely alone. "He had no people behind him for Garfield, not he, was the people's choice… He was bowed down by the weight of fearful responsibility and crushed to the earth by the feeling, exaggerated but not unfounded, that he took up the heavy burden surrounded by dislike, suspicion, distrust and condemnation… [Yet] he was wise in statesmanship and firm and effective in administration…. Good causes found in him a friend and bad measures met in him an unyielding opponent" (New York Times).
President Arthur is especially remembered as an outspoken abolitionist and as a major backer of the 1882 Pendleton Act, "a landmark civil service bill. The popular legislation created the Civil Service Commission and reformed a number of long-standing abuses. Arthur… won applause for signing it, appointing reformers to the commission, and administering the act effectively… He strongly endorsed the creation of a modern navy and signed two bills authorizing construction of the nation's first steel ships… Highly sensitive about his personal reputation, Arthur had ordered the destruction of his personal papers and records shortly before his death" (ANB). As such, works with Chester Arthur's signature are quite scarce. Library Notes was reviewed by Henry James shortly after its initial publication in 1875, and praised as "the fruit of a real passion for literature… It justifies its title, and the reader, in turning its leaves, seems to inhale the pleasant, half-musty atmosphere of a well-conditioned but well-used library" (Nation). This is the "new edition, revised and enlarged," published four years after the first. Subsequent owner signature below that of President Arthur.
Text fresh and clean, front inner paper hinge split, small closed tear at inner edge of front free endpaper, slight edge-wear to bright cloth-gilt. A highly desirable near-fine copy with an impressive presidential association.