Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - April - 2017 Issue

Voyages and Travel from Maggs Bros.

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Voyages & Travel from Maggs Bros.

Maggs Bros. Ltd. has published their Catalogue 1485 Voyages & Travel. The catalogue of "fifty or so travel items" (52 to be exact) was issued to celebrate their own move to new premises in London. You can be sure that their move is the shortest among those described in this catalogue. Undoubtedly, it was the easiest too, considering the primitive ships, far off lands, diseases, sometimes restless natives, and other times extreme climatic conditions these travelers endured. The travels are presented in chronological order, ranging from around 1350 to 1922. Naturally, the first account is in manuscript form. The trips described emanated from Europe, but traveled around the globe, as far east as Asia, as far west as the Americas, as far south as Antarctica and north as the Arctic. Have a nice trip! Here we go.

 

We begin with the first, which is to say the oldest item in the catalogue. It is one of the most famous travels of all. Item 1 consists of two manuscript leaves, circa 1350, from the account of Marco Polo's journey to China. Polo's father and uncle, merchants as was Marco, had already visited China when the three left together in 1269. They returned 24 years later. Other westerners had preceded the Polos to China, but Marco's was the first detailed account of the land by a westerner. The two leaves offered include Polo's description of Tibet. They have some glue residue on the recto of each leaf as they were used as pastedowns in another (unidentified) book. That sounds like a terrible thing to do and yet, had they not been so used, the leaves would not have survived at all. They are written in the Franco-Italic language rather than Latin as most often seen. That is the language in which Polo wrote, indicating it is a very early, and likely most accurate, copy. Polo's original manuscript has been lost. The timing of these leaves, based on expert appraisal, appears to be within a generation of Marco Polo's death. Priced at £200,000 (British pounds, or about $249,629 U.S. dollars).

 

Marco Polo went east, but Hernan Cortes went west. Less than three decades after Columbus discovered America, Cortes set out to conquer it. Specifically, Cortes, the quintessential Spanish Conquistador, sought to conquer the area he called "New Spain," better known today as Mexico. With an army of about 500 men, he had to conquer an entire empire, plus fend off attacks from his rival, Cuban Governor Velazquez. He succeeded in gaining assistance from some natives unfriendly to the Aztecs, and tore through their territory, capturing the capital city. A great empire quickly fell. Cortes wrote Holy Roman Emperor Charles V describing events in his first letter, now lost. Item 2 is a copy of his surviving Second Letter, a first Latin edition of 1524 (the letter was written in 1520). The Cortes letter is bound together with Peter Martyr's De Rebus... as is usually the case. Item 2. £30,000 (US $37,444).

 

Henry Morgan is probably the best known pirate ever, which makes this manuscript letter to the Commissioners of His Majesty's Navy all the more amusing and ironic. Morgan's attacks on Spanish shipping made him more of a hero than villain back home in England. In fact, much of his activity was sanctioned by the British government, making him a "privateer" rather than a pirate, though the behavior was similar. Morgan was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica, and on occasion, such as when this letter was written, he served as Acting Governor. As such, he was called on to deal with... pirates! On July 14, 1681, he writes, "Wee have taken the Sloop of one of Jacob Evertson, a most notorious Pyrate and make use of her to accompany the Norwich in crewsing after the many villainous Pyrates that now infest these coastes." Morgan continues, "I have lately had some Pyrates brought in, whereof one was according to his demerits executed, and one Thoms, a most famous villain, who lately took a Vessell of this island of considerable value, is taken and now under Tryall." Morgan did not enjoy executing pirates and often sought reprieves, perhaps because he had a spark of humanity, or because he could relate to their situation. However, it should be noted that Morgan did not consider himself a pirate but a privateer attacking Spanish shipping on behalf of the British government, which authorized him to do so. Item 8. £40,000 (US $49,926).

 

Next we have a scarce account of the French and Indian War, one which Howes described as the "best contemporary chronicle of this war": The History of the Late War in North-America and the Islands of the West-Indies, published in 1772. The author was Thomas Mante, who served in the war, though not until its very end and in Cuba. Nonetheless, he evidently had access to many contemporary sources, enabling him to provide detailed accounts of the various actions. Of particular note, he provides a description of Washington's intelligence gathering activities on the frontier in 1753 and his escape from an assassination attempt by his Indian guide. This copy contains all of the 18 maps. Over a century ago in his American bibliography, Sabin wrote, "Copies with all the maps are scarce. It is probable that but few were printed, though the large and beautiful plans and military maps (which gave it so great a value), must have made its production a work of much expense." Item 18. £70,000 (US $87,349).

 

Here is a personal letter which, like that of Morgan, has a bit of irony. It was written by the noted British Antarctic explorer, Ernest Shackleton, in December of 1909. He notes the dispute between two Americans as to which of them, Robert Peary or Frederick Cook, reached the North Pole first. Today, Cook's claim is dismissed but Peary's is sort of accepted. Writes Shackleton to a Mr. Gwatken, "It may interest you to know that Captain Scott is announcing on Monday that he will lead a new Expedition to the Antarctic next year I am daily in touch with him now. We cannot let America get this South Pole as well." Shackleton and Scott had their issues, but they were united in Britain beating the Americans to the South Pole. And they did. Scott reached it in 1912, before any American. However, it was a pyrrhic victory for Scott, who froze to death on the way back to his ship. And in the ultimate irony, though he beat the Americans, Scott did not achieve the real goal of being first to the South Pole. Norwegian Roald Amundsen beat him there by five weeks. Item 49. £5,000 (US $6,239).

 

Maggs Bros. Ltd. may be reached at ++44 (0)20 7493 7160 or enquiries@maggs.com. Their website is www.maggs.com.

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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