New-York: Burgess, Stringer and Company, 1845. Item #03755
"The Growing Corruption of Civilization"
James Fenimore Cooper's The Chainbearer in the Original Printed Wrappers
A Remarkable Survival
COOPER, James Fenimore. The Chainbearer; or The Littlepage Manuscripts. Edited by the Author of "Satanstoe," "Spy," "Pathfinder," "Two Admirals, " etc. In Two Volumes. New-York: Burgess, Stringer and Company, 1845.
First American Edition. Two octavo volumes (7 11/16 x 4 9/16 inches; 196 x 117 mm.). [i]-iii, iv-vi, 7-212; [1-3], 4-228 pp. Publisher's pale buff paper printed wrappers.
The wrappers have been noted by BAL in three different states. No sequence has been determined and the order presented is arbitrary. The wrappers may have been printed simultaneously. In the present copy the wrappers on volume I are in State 'B' with inner front "Mrs. Ellis's Housekeeping"; inner back "History of All Christian Sects…" and back wrapper with "The Great Book". The wrappers on volume II are in State 'A' with inner front "New and Beautiful Edition"; inner back "The Great Book" and back wrapper with "Cheap Books".
Some light scattered foxing and or staining. Clean tear to lower margin of pp. iii/iv of preface in volume one. Lower wrapper of volume one with small piece (1 5/8 x 9/16 inches maximum) torn away from blank margin not touching any of the print on recto or verso, a couple of stains on the front and rear wrappers. A remarkable survival, generally bright and fresh, with no restoration whatsoever. Individually chemised and housed in a quarter red morocco over red cloth board slip-case.
The first London edition, which preceded the American edition by about one month, was published in three volumes on November 22nd, 1845.
The Chainbearer; or The Littlepage Manuscripts is the second book in a trilogy starting with Satanstoe (1845) and ending with The Redskins (1846). The novel focuses mainly on issues of land ownership and the displacement of American Indians as the United States moves Westward.
Critical to the trilogy of these novels, is the sense of expansion through the measuring and acquisition of land by civilization. The title The Chainbearer represents "the man who carries the chains in measuring the land, the man who helps civilization to grow from the wilderness, but who at the same time continues the chain of evil, increases the potentiality for corruption." The central position of the "Chainbearer" allows Cooper to deal with the cultural lack of understanding Native Americans had of European concepts of land ownership. This in turn allows Cooper to critique ownership in general.
Also, Cooper, like in many of his novels, focuses on the growing corruption of individuals in "civilization" as it expands. This Cooper attributes "an inherent principle in the corrupt nature of man to misuse all his privileges. . . . If history proves anything, it proves this." Two characters, in particular, represent this growing corruption of civilization, Andries Mordaunt, the chainbearer, and Aaron, known as "Thousandacres". The men represent different types of the civilization, Mordaunt as the usurper of old civilization and Thousandacres representing an older society which the new "civilization" means to usurp. Eventually this new civilization decides to embrace force in order to lay full claim on the land. This displacement of Native Americans by the ever expansionist Americans repeatedly becomes an issue for Cooper throughout the trilogy of novels. In so doing, Cooper presents a very strong critique of Americans and America. (Wikipedia).