Michelle Ann Kratts

Meet the Oldest Book in the Lewiston Public Library

In Lewiston, Lewiston Public Library, Old Lewiston on December 20, 2013 at 9:31 pm
Front cover, animal hide sewn together

Front cover, sewn together

The oldest book in the Lewiston Public Library is, The Young Mill-wright’s and Miller’s Guide.  Although inscriptions within the book claim that it was published in 1789, research reveals that the first edition of this work was published in 1796 in Philadelphia.  Written by Oliver Evans, the book went through many editions.  Interestingly, Evans had been granted one of the first U.S. patents and his inventions  were licensed by people such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson in their business enterprises.  Throughout the book the name “Chappel” is written in various places.

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson listed as subscribers

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson listed as subscribers

In the front of the book is an inscription which reads:

Robt. Miller his book bought

in Lewistown Monday the 8 day

of February  AD 1796

Price three Dollars

Steal Not This Book for fear of

Shame, look up, behold the owner’s




As the origin of the book is unknown, we are not positive that this book was actually purchased in Lewistown, New York.  Lewiston, New York, as we know it, did not exist at the time this book was first published.  It wasn’t until 1798, when the State Surveyor, Joseph Ellicott, selected Lewiston as a village site.  There were only a few dwellers in what is now Lewiston.  Mostly Lewiston was comprised of occasional squatters, cattle drovers, people connected to the business of the portage, soldiers and Native Americans.

The back of the book reveals another interesting inscription:

“Robert Miller his book

Bought of Gen Elliott

Market in Lewistown February

the 8 AD 1796″

Back page inscription

Back page inscription

I am unsure of who “Gen Elliott” might be.  There was a Matthew Elliott who had been in the area during this time period.  He was a trader, an Indian Department official and a Loyalist militia officer who succeeded in maintaining a British influence among the Native Americans along the borders of Upper Canada.  Before 1796, much of this area (including Fort Niagara), was still held by the British.  In fact it was during August of 1796, that the British officially evacuated Fort Niagara.   Perhaps this book was a sort of “goodbye” present for Mr. Miller.

last pic of book

The story of this book will probably forever remain a mystery.   For who was Robert Miller,  Mr. Chappel, Gen. Elliott?  Over 200 years ago, a man purchased a new book about operating a mill–supposedly, right here, in Lewiston–and here it remains.

two pages book

The book cover is handstitched

The book cover is handstitched


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