This Little Book of Poetry Made History

Phillis Wheatley wrote the first book in English by a person of African descent. Bonhams is selling a first edition of her work this week.

This Little Book of Poetry Made History

Good morning. We will look at the mystery and history behind a New York-sold book. Find out why the new Brooklyn hospital is similar to a fort.


A little book of poems that was first published in 1770s is being sold online at an auction in New York.

What was the location of the book from the first printing in the early 1940s until then?

The book is a first edition, and it's not a mystery. It's titled 'Poems On Various Topics, Religious And Moral'. The book is being auctioned at Bonhams and ends Thursday. Phillis Wheatley wrote the poems. She was a formerly enslaved teen who is enjoying renewed attention, in part, because of a biography which stated that 'Poems on Various Subjects,' the book she wrote, was the first English book written by a person with African descent, and the only third book of poetry published by a female in North America.

David Waldstreicher teaches at City University of New York's Graduate Center. His biography, "The Odyssey of Phillis Wheatley," also states that it 'became a antislavery argument'. Waldstreicher, as my colleague Jennifer Schuessler noted in March, placed Wheatley "smack in middle of the raging controversy over the relationship between slavery and the American Revolution."

Wheatley was named after the ship which brought her to America at age seven. She was swaddled with a dirty rug and disembarked without any clothes. She was so frail, that the captain worried she would die on the ship before she could be bought, according to the descendant of the family who 'purchased' her.

Darren Sutherland said that the Wheatleys were remarkable in providing her with an education. By the time she reached her teens, her poetry had appeared in several New England papers. When she was 18 years old, Susanna had 28 poems ready for publication. A British countess who supported abolitionist cause found a publisher.

Sutherland stated that the book was important because it is the nexus for American culture and identity. It speaks about issues that are still relevant today, such as race and the question of who controls the narrative.

Wheatley was released in 1773. This was the year that 'Poems on Various Subjects was published in Britain.

What happened to the first edition copy Bonhams sells for the next 170 years is the mystery. Sutherland stated that it was purchased in the 1940s, by Raymond Adams. He is the founder and first president of Thoreau Society, with its headquarters at Henry David Thoreau’s birthplace, Concord, Mass. Sutherland stated that Adams, who passed away in 1987, after a long career as a professor of English, at the University of North Carolina had left no clues about where or how he obtained the Wheatley book.

He stated that an earlier owner bound 'Poems on Various Subjects,' with another short book by Scottish poet and preacher Robert Blair, titled 'The Grave'. He speculated the binding was done by British workers. Was the copy of 'Poems on Various Subjects,' which was printed in London and shipped to Massachusetts for purchase, then sent back to Britain to be bound with 'The Grave? This is part of the mystery.

Wheatley was able to reach a large audience. Sutherland stated that Wheatley wrote in May 1774 about receiving 300 more copies of her book to sell in the U.S. This suggests that they have already completed the first part and are now preparing for another 300 copies. This suggests very good sales.

After Wheatley's passing a decade after, the book continued to be sold. Sutherland stated that 'Poems on Various Subjects,' had been printed 20 times by 1820.


April showers bring May flowers, right? After a weekend that saw washed out roads and basements flooded, flowers better be spectacular. 5.2 inches of rainfall fell in Central Park between 9 a.m. on Friday and 9 a.m. on Monday.

In those three days, the rainfall average for the month was 1.1 inches higher. It's no wonder that April 2023 will go down in history as the seventh wettest month ever.

Today's weather forecast calls for more rain. Showers are expected with temperatures in the mid-50s. There's only a slight chance of rain at night. The temperature will fall to mid-40s.

The law is in effect until 18 May (Solemnity of the Ascension).


The Met Gala, (officially the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Benefit) was back on May 1st with an homage to Karl Lagerfeld.

Trump case: In Manhattan, the writer E. Jean Carroll continues to accuse Donald Trump of raping. The judge rejected a defense request for a mistrial on Monday. What you need to know so far about the trial

Expanded dental coverage. A class-action suit will expand coverage for common, but expensive dental procedures. This lawsuit is for five million adults on Medicaid in New York State.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg hospital is opening in Brooklyn


Svetlana Libyanskaya stated that despite the fact that signs would indicate it is a hospital, they literally built a "fort".

Lipyanskaya was speaking about the new $923 million building replacing Coney Island Hospital which was flooded by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. 370 patients were evacuated from the hospital as seawater flooded the emergency room and a turtle washed up in I.T. Department

Sharon Otterman, my colleague, writes that hospital leaders in the city convinced the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that building a new facility would be the same price as retrofitting and repairing the old. The city's public hospitals designed a building that could withstand a flood of this magnitude.

The hospital campus is completely surrounded by a 4-foot high barrier wall. Other barriers can be placed at the entrances to keep out water. On the fifth floor, the mechanical systems of the building, which include two generators the size of freight train engines, are out of the reach of storm-driven floodwater. The second-floor emergency room is painted in a soothing shade of blue. It's above the worst flood projections. The new one is also twice as big as the old.

John Flanagan is an architect at the NBBJ firm who worked on this project. He said that the building was protected by a glass curtain wall resistant to hurricane damage. It is also built to withstand "large and small missile impacts," meaning it won't break even when hit with large flying debris.

A bronze statue of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is located in the lobby. She died in 2020. Lipyanskaya explained that the Brooklyn-born Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was honored by the name of the building. The building will be open to the public on Sunday.

Kerala sari


Dear Diary:

The date is late September 2019. I was walking through East River Park, on my way to East Village. I was wearing a white and golden Kerala sari I wore for an event near Kips Bay at my children's elementary school.

I was surprised to see that despite New Yorkers' reputation of not paying attention to other people's clothes, mine had received a lot of thumbs up and double-takes.

I acknowledged all of them and continued walking to my destination at East 10th Street Avenue A.

I heard a voice calling me out as I stopped to cross the street at 10th Street & Avenue C.

I saw a South Asian woman, in her mid-40s or early-50s, running towards me and waving at me to stop.

Is that a Kerala-style sari' She asked, panting slightly.

I smiled and replied 'Yes'.

She said: 'You're crazy. I've been living in this city 35 years and have never seen anyone in a Kerala-style sari walking down the streets.

She continued, "I moved from Kerala to here in '84." My mom died last year and I now own all of her saris. Although I have never worn them, seeing you walking down the street reminds me of my mother giving me a message. Can I hug you?

She wished me good morning with teary eyes and then we parted ways.