Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2018 Issue

The History of Jamaica 1494-1838 by Thibault Ehrengardt – This Book Captures Its Tragedy, Brutality, Pirates, Revolts, and Earthquake, All Sweetened by a Massive Dose of Sugar

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History of Jamaica by Thibault Ehrengardt.

Many of our readers have been enjoying and learning from the essays written by our French correspondent, Thibault Ehrengardt. Enhrengardt writes of both events current in the book world and reviews of antiquarian works from his homeland. Certainly, one of the most notable learnings from these old works is how fortunate we all are not to have lived in the 18th century. We may see France as a sophisticated, liberal and enlightened country today. That was not always the case.

 

What you may not know is that M. Ehrengardt has written numerous books. Perhaps his favorite subject is not France, but Jamaica. That may seem surprising. Jamaica was once Spanish, once British, but was never a French colony. Nevertheless, if you have an abiding love of reggae music, you are not going to find its roots in Algeria, nor even Haiti. That can only take you to Jamaica, a journey Ehrengardt has made many times. Ehrengardt ran a European magazine on reggae music a few years back. What he learned while there extended far beyond the borders of modern Jamaican music. He learned enough to write a history of Jamaica, at least three and a half centuries worth of it through 1838. While naturally it is available in French, it is also now available in English. Ehrengardt can write fluidly in either language, two more than many of us can.

 

The title of Ehrengardt's book is The History of Jamaica from 1494 to 1838. The year 1494 was a major turning point in Jamaican history. The land had been settled a few millennia earlier by the Arawak or Taino people, traveling from the South American mainland. They had settled villages throughout the island, primarily near the coast. All that changed with the arrival of Christopher Columbus on his second voyage in 1494. Columbus would bring with him killing, brutality, forced labor, and disease. Welcome to the civilized world. So began the colonial era. The natives were practically wiped out within a few decades. With the addition of slaves forced from Africa, a new native population would arise.

 

Jamaica would not become a major colony for the Spanish. She controlled most of South America, Central America, and southern North America. Portugal got Brazil, Britain and France got the rest of North America and a few crumbs. The remainder was Spanish. Jamaica was just a drop in the bucket. Some settlers arrived, and of course there were slaves, but Jamaica was not a major Spanish colony. In 1655, the British attacked Hispaniola, hoping to seize that large island from the Spanish. They failed. It was too well defended, and they suffered an ignominious defeat. They needed to do something to save face, so they turned to the poorly defended island of Jamaica. There, they were successful.

 

The British period would be noted for sugar, slaves, and pirates. The early part would feature the colony as a haven for pirates, often made "privateers," working with the cooperation of the British government. Jamaica was a safe port. In return, the privateers protected the colony from the Spanish and gave some of the loot they stole to the crown. As this behavior became less acceptable internationally, the British brought in slaves, quite literally by the boat load, to work the sugar plantations. In time this too became socially unacceptable. First, Britain banned the slave trade, and later, slavery itself. In 1838, the year this history ends, the slaves were granted their freedom.

 

That is the condensed version of the history of Jamaica from 1494-1838. For the details, you will need to see the book. Henry Morgan and his fellow "respectable" pirates, the terrible Port Royal earthquake of 1692, and the many attempted slave uprisings dot the landscape. Plantation owners, descending to the depths of the brutality their system produced, use newer African slaves to fight the descendants of previously freed Spanish slaves, the Maroons. Little good ever came of slavery. For Jamaica, its sugar produced a bitter aftertaste.

 

Rather than taking the latest history and moving on from there, Ehrengardt turns to the original sources, books and manuscripts written by contemporaries centuries ago. As readers of his articles here well know, Ehrengardt's strength is in digging up old and forgotten sources to bring their times back to life. As an outsider, from a country that was never intimately involved in the country's life, he is able to tell the stories of the many participants free from the influence of personal connection. It has been a long time since the history of Jamaica was written in the neutral country of France, the last such book going back to 1751. This book is definitely due.

 

You can purchase The History of Jamaica from 1494 to 1838 on Amazon. Here is a link:  Jamaica. If you search Thibault Ehrengardt's name, you will also find two other titles concerning more recent events in Jamaica by the author available on Amazon, The Gangs of Jamaica and Jamaican Greats. Meanwhile, Ehrengardt is finishing up a new book, and this one takes us to Paris rather than Jamaica. It is based on Le Tableau de Paris, by Louis-Sébastien Mercier. It was published in 1780 and provides a look at the seamy side of Paris in the days before the Revolution. For a teaser of what is to come, you can see two articles Ehrengardt wrote for Rare Book Monthly on Mercier and his book. Click here and here.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, wallpaper sample book, circa 1919. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Archive from a late office of the Breuer & Smith architectural team, New York, 1960-70s. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> William Morris, <i>The Story of the Glittering Plain or the Land of Living Men,</i> illustrated by Walter Crane, Kelmscott Press, Hammersmith, 1894. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustave Doré, <i>La Sainte Bible selon la Vulgate,</i> Tours, 1866. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustav Klimt & Max Eisler, <i>Eine Nachlese,</i> complete set, Vienna, 1931. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>Eric Allatini & Gerda Wegener, <i>Sur Talons Rouges,</i> with original watercolor by Wegener, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>C.P. Cavafy, <i>Fourteen Poems,</i> illustrated & signed by David Hockney, London, 1966. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jean Midolle, <i>Spécimen des Écritures Modernes...</i>, Strasbourg, 1834-35. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>E.A. Seguy, <i>Floréal: Dessins & Coloris Nouveaux,</i> Paris, 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. SOLD for $131,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. SOLD for $516,500
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. SOLD for $106,250
    <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. SOLD for $16,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. SOLD for $275,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. SOLD for $118,750
  • <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> E.H. SHEPARD, Original drawing for A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner.<br>$40,000-60,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> BERNARD RATZER, Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767. $80,000-100,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph letter signed comparing Logan, Tecumseh, and Little Turtle to the Spartans. Monticello: 15 February 1821. $14,000-18,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN C. FREMONT, Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in the Year 1842.. Abridged edition, the only one containing the folding map From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ZANE GREY, Album containing 94 large format photographs of Grey and party at Catalina Island, Arizona, and fishing in the Pacific. From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $5,000-$8,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> WILLIAM COMBE, A History of Madeira ... illustrative of the Costumes, Manners, and Occupations of the Inhabitants. produced by Ackermann in 1821; From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ERIC TAVERNER, Salmon Fishing... One of 275 copies signed by Taverner, published in 1931,From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN WHITEHEAD, Exploration of Mount Kina Balu, North Borneo. Whitehead reached the high point of Kinabalu in 1888. Part of a major group of travel books from the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN LONG, Voyages and Travels of an Indian Interpreter and Trader, describing the Manners and Customs of the North American Indians... The first edition of 1791. $3,000-$5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> SAMUEL BECKETT, Stirrings Still. This, Beckett’s last work of fiction with original lithographs by Le Brocquy, limited to 200 copies signed by the author and the artist. From the Estate of Howard Kaminsky.. $1,500-$2,500

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