Early Books and Manuscripts from Liber Antiquus
- by Michael Stillman
Early Books and Manuscripts from Liber Antiquus
Liber Antiquus, Early Books & Manuscripts prepared a catalogue for, and titled after, the Oakland Book Fair 2017. Technically, that's the annual ABAA California International Book Fair, held every other year in Oakland. Their name, "Early Books & Manuscripts," can be taken literally. You will find more items from the 15th century (incunabula) than the 18th, nothing as recent as the 19th. The concentration is in 16th and 17th century material. The catalogue is filled with highly collectible items for those who are attracted to words like Renaissance and Discovery. Here are some samples from this Chevy Chase, Maryland, veteran bookseller whose material mostly predates printing in his homeland.
When Champlain and early French missionaries arrived in Canada, the most populous of the Indian tribes in Quebec and Ontario was the Huron people. They lived around the Great Lakes, some on what is today the other side of the border, notably Ohio. Numbering something in the area of 30,000, the French began trading with them and missioning to them. European desire for furs was a hallmark of their trade with the French. Unfortunately, the introduction of smallpox and other European diseases, to which the Hurons had no immunity, devastated the tribe. Fifty percent, likely even more, were wiped out by epidemics. Then, with furs in high demand, they ran into conflicts with the Iroquois nation for hunting grounds. The Iroquois were backed by France's rival, the British, who supplied better weaponry. The Huron had little chance. Item 3 is Breve Relatione d'alcune Missioni de' PP. della Compagnia di Giesu nella Nuoua Francia. This is an account of Jesuit missions to the Huron by Francesco Bressani, an Italian Jesuit priest. Bressani at one point was captured and tortured by Mohawks, and had colleagues killed by this Iroquois tribe and rival of the Hurons. Bressani was involved in peace talks with the Mohawk later on, but in 1649, they attacked the Huron settlements and missions and destroyed them. Bressani, who returned to Italy in 1650, describes that history in his book, published in 1653. The surviving Huron hooked up with other tribes and are found today in a few relatively small groups known as the Wyandot people. Priced at $15,000.
There were few women poets in 17th century England. They would not have been taken seriously. Katherine Philips may well have been the first. Married at age 16 to a man of means, she began writing poetry to share with her friends. She had no intention of ever having it published. The only work she had published was a translation of someone else's text. She used the name "Orinda" so as not to have her poems associated with her. Mrs. Philips' poems were all quite proper. She spoke of love between women, but it was strictly friendship and platonic love. As such, her poems were acceptable for publication, even if she did not so wish. Item 131 is Poems. By the Incomparable, Mrs. K. P. She was not pleased. This was a pirated collection of her poetry published in 1664. It was forced to be withdrawn, making copies quite rare today. $15,000.
Mrs. Philips did not have to suffer her indignity for long. During the year of its publication, she contacted smallpox and died. However, after she died, a friend gathered up her poems and published them in 1667. This time she did not object. The "Incomparable Mrs. K. P." became the "Matchless Orinda," with this family authorized collection entitled Poems by the Most Deservedly Admired Mrs. Katherine Philips, the Matchless Orinda. Item 132. $8,000.
Katherine Philips may have been a very proper British lady, but the same cannot be said of Elizabeth Chudleigh. No, not even close. Item 25 is her posthumous biography, An Authentic Detail of Particulars Relative to the Late Duchess of Kingston, published in 1788 (the Duchess died that year at age 67). Chudleigh was not a brilliant woman, but she was beautiful, charming, licentious – everything an 18th century Englishman could want. Many did. She was married, hid the marriage so she could work at the court of Augusta Princess of Wales, carried on various liaisons, married the Duke of Kingston who generously died four years later leaving her a fortune, was sued by his heirs when discovering her other marriage and charged her with bigamy, to which she was convicted. The Duchess took off for the continent with her money, never to return. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography describes a masquerade ball she attended bare-breasted: "She wore a smile, some foliage rather low round her middle, and a covering of the flimsiest flesh-coloured gauze. Princess Augusta reacted to this audacious impression of nakedness by throwing her veil over Elizabeth. The infatuated George II asked if he could place his hand on her bare breasts; with great presence of mind, she offered to put it on a still softer place and guided it to the royal forehead. Far from taking offence, the king gave her a 35 guinea watch and made her mother a housekeeper at Windsor." $3,800.
Roger Ascham was a noted 16th century English educator. He tutored Queen Elizabeth in her princess days. Ascham was known for a kinder and gentler form of education, advocating gentle coercion instead of beatings. Spare the rod. Item 6 is a third edition of his Toxophilus: The Schoole, or Partitions of Shooting Contayned in Two Books, published in 1589 (the first edition was from 1545). It is instructive in archery, while advocating such activities and better writing as well as describing the conduct of an English gentleman. The book was dedicated to King Henry VIII. Henry VIII? English gentleman? Henry was no gentleman. Item 6. $15,000.
Item 67 is "the first scientific expedition to New Spain." The title is Rerum Medicarum Novae Hispaniae Thesaurus, Seu Plantarum, Animalium, Mineralium, Mexicanorum Historia. This is a third issue of the first Latin edition, published in 1628. The author was Francisco Hernandez, a Spanish physician and naturalist. He served as physician to King Philip II who, in 1570, sent him to the New World to study the medicinal properties of the region's plants and animals. He spent seven years primarily in Mexico where he collected thousands of specimens of plants, edible and medicinal. Some plants new to Europeans included corn, vanilla, tomatoes, and chilies. He described intoxicants such as peyote, and, for the first time, new animals including coyote, armadillo, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, buffalo, and lizards. To that he added 47 gemstones and minerals. Many of the varieties of plants and animals are illustrated. $40,000.