1843: Nathaniel Pope Howard to John Penington

Leslie’s drawing of the Richmond Capitol floor collapse in May 1870. N. P. Howard was one of 62 persons killed.

This letter was written by Nathaniel Pope Howard (1811-1870), the son of Thomas Calthorpe Howard (1785-1834) and Catherine Eliza Pope (1789-1849) of Hanover County, Virginia. He was among the 62 persons killed when the 2nd floor court room of the Court of Appeals in the State Capitol collapsed and fell into the Hall of the House of delegates below. A brief biography of Howard was printed in the Richmond Equirer following his death:

N. P. Howard was born in this city and educated at Hampden Sidney college. In his early life he was deputy under his father, the late Thomas Howard, clerk of the Hustings Court, whom he succeeded in office. After holding this position for a time, he commenced the practice of law in this city, where he remained until called to fill the law professorship of the University of Virginia, made vacant in 1845 by the death of Professor Davis. He subsequently gave up the position to accept the clerkship of the chancery court of Richmond, tendered him by Judge John Robertson; this he held until that court was merged into the common law court. He was also clerk of the general court until its abolition by the constitution of 1850. From that time to the present he has practiced law in al the high courts of this city — being a portion of the time a partner of the Hon. William MacFarland, and Powhatan Roberts, Esq. Mr. Howard was regarded by the members of his profession as among the most learned in the State, and was selected by Conway Robinson, Esq., to examine and revise the proof-sheets of his legal works. He was aged about 53 years, and leaves a widow, but no children. — Richmond Enquirer 28 April 1870

The letter was sent to John Penington (1799-1867), the son of Philadelphia sugar merchant Edward Penington (1766-1834). John Penington’s background, describing him of old Quaker stock, well-educated, a French scholar, and a collector of books, with particular taste in the belle lettres class of books. With his own substantial collection, he entered into business as a bookseller, opening his own book shop after a presumably unrewarding stint as a clerk in the Custom House.

Stampless Cover

Letter 1, Page 1

Letter 1, Page 2

Letter 2, Page 1

Letter 2, Page 2


Addressed to John Pennington, Esq., now or lately at No. 169 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia

Richmond, Virginia
22d April 1843

Dear Sir,

My brother, sometime ago, brought with him from Philadelphia one of your catalogues of the year 1841. Having been often exposed to vexatious delays in procuring books from the North through the agency of the booksellers here, (to say nothing of the considerable addition they make to Northern prices) I have taken the liberty of enclosing the sum of $100 with the request that you will box up and send to me, by the first vessel sailing for this place, so many of the subjoined list of books as will equal the value of the check, deducting the cost of packing and putting on board. Please make a bill of lading and enclose it to me, with a list of the books sent and the prices. The box will be addressed, “N. P. Howard, Richmond, Va.”

As to the selection out of the list which I subjoin, it is not a matter of very great consequence. They may be taken in the order in which they are here set down, unless the antiquity of any of them should make the price higher than it would otherwise be; in which case the antique may be passed by. A book derives no additional value in my estimation from the circumstance that it was printed long ago, or at a particular press. This is rather a vague instruction, I am aware: but perhaps you can understand me when I add that as I have no desire to procure mere curiosities of typography, the latest editions of any work are generally preferred to the most rare or ancient.

Very respectfully, — N. P. Howard

[List of Books]

Richmond [Virginia]
29 April 1843

Dear Sir,

YOur favor of the 25th inst. enclosing a bill of lading was duly received yesterday. The box has not yet arrived, but will no doubt reach me by the next boat. I feel much gratified both at the promptness with which my order has been executed, and the unexpected cheapness of most of the works furnished. As  you have been kind enough to indicate the prices of some other books mentioned in my original list, I am tempted to make a small supplement to my previous purchase. You will be good enough to send to my address, by the same mode of conveyance as before, the following works, of which the prices are stated i your letter.

Achilles Tatius
Alciati Emblemata
Apostolii paroemice et Cyrilli tractalus
Anecdota Groecia — Villoison
Fabricii bibliotheca latina
Juliani Opera

The above, at the prices you have mentioned, amount to $24.50. In addition, I wish to procure some annotated edition of Martial, it matters little what edition, sat — for instance, that which I see in your catalogue of 1841. Martialis, Lemaine, 3 vols. 8 vo. — Also (mentioned in same catalogue) Lycophion et Oppianus, in uno volume comprehensi.

I send you $30 in a note of one of our banks, which I suppose is liable to some small discount. If the two last mentioned works should cost so much as to make the whole order exceed the remittance, you can either leave out Apthonius or Lycophion, or both, or you can send all of the books mentioned in this order, and rely upon my promise to pay the excess above the present remittance as soon as I can find an acquaintance going from this place to Philadelphia. At this season, opportunities are frequent.

With much respect, — N. P. Howard


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