Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - July - 2017 Issue

Science, Medicine, and Natural History from Jonathan A. Hill Bookseller

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Science, Medicine, and Natural History.

Jonathan A. Hill Bookseller has published a catalogue of Recent Acquisitions in Science, Medicine, and Natural History. The acquisitions are recent, the books not. These are mostly very old books, some dating back as far as the 16th century. Much of the science is not entirely accurate, updated by centuries of new developments. The medical practices would be a disaster if taken seriously today. There are good reasons most people didn't live past their 30's in those days and some are displayed here. However, in fairness, medicine was just emerging from over a thousand years of stagnation, nothing much new having been learned since Roman times. These books provide a fascinating look at science and medicine as it developed from primitive to advanced on the shoulders of many great thinkers. Here are a few examples.

 

We begin with someone who did get it right, although it took almost two millennia before his theory received much serious consideration. Aristarchus of Samos was a Greek astronomer and mathematician who lived in the third century BC. He proposed a heliocentric world, one with the sun at the center, the earth and other planets revolving around it. He also theorized that stars were really other suns, just at a far greater distance. Aristarchus also tried to estimate the relative distances of the sun and moon from earth, but substantially underestimated how much farther away the sun is. While Aristarchus managed some followers, the great minds of the ancient world, Plato, Aristotle, and Ptolemy, rejected his theory, opting for the geocentric universe which common sense seemed to dictate. However, if not accepted, it does not appear that it resulted in any great controversy or condemnation of the theorist. When Copernicus revived the theory 18 centuries later, and particularly when Galileo promoted it after 19 centuries, it resulted in his persecution by church authorities as being heretical. Item 4 is Aristarchus' De Magnitudinibus, et Distantis Solis, et Lunae... the first edition of Commandino's translation published in 1572. Priced at $37,500.

 

Speaking of Mr. Galilei, item 31 is a 1619 first edition of Galileo's Discorso delle Comete... a discourse on three comets that appeared in 1618. It was attributed to his student, Mario Guiducci, but few were fooled by who was its actual writer, including the Jesuit Father Orazio Grassi, to whose theory it was a biting response. Grassi had postulated that comets traveled between the sun and moon, not a correct theory, but then again, Galileo didn't offer much of an alternative. The book is more focused on what was wrong with Grassi's theory than on what comets actually were. Galileo questioned whether they were even real, speculating that they were more of an optical illusion, like rainbows, which would, of course, make an attempt to place their location fruitless. Grassi was offended by Galileo's sharp reply, and published an answer (also "anonymously" attributing it to a student), which in turn led to another Galileo reply, his well-known book Il Sagiatore (The Assayer). This latter book is more a discussion of how one should reach scientific conclusions rather than a continuing debate on the nature of comets. $40,000.

 

Item 69 is one of those lengthy titles more common among books centuries ago: Miscellaneous discourses concerning the dissolution and changes of the world : Wherein the primitive chaos and creation, the general deluge, fountains, formed stones, sea-shells found in the earth, subterraneous trees, mountains, earthquakes, vulcanoes, the universal conflagration and future state, are largely discussed and examined. Published in 1692, the author was John Ray, an English naturalist and botanist. Ray is well regarded for his early studies of plants and the classification of them, basing the latter on similarities between species. While a scientist, Ray was still a believer in the Bible as historical fact, and in this book he explains the existence of various geological features, notably the existence of fossil sea shells in places where they don't belong, consistently with the stories of the Bible. Ray believed fossils were the remains of once living organisms, but that their unexpected distribution could be explained by changes in the earth. The flood of Noah was one possible explanation for their locations. Being quite familiar with classification of plants and animals, Ray was cognizant that some fossils were from species unknown to man. Species becoming extinct would seem out of place with God's plan (why would He have created them in the first place?), but Ray argued that these species might exist somewhere but had not yet been discovered by man. This copy of Ray's book comes in an exquisitely gilt tooled red morocco binding and is in exceptional condition. $15,000.

 

Here is another long title (we have only reproduced part of it), a vitriolic attack on urine testing: The Anatomie of Urines. Containing the Conviction and Condemnation of them. Or, the second Part of our discourse of urines. Detecting and unfolding the manifold falshoods and abuses committed by the vulgar sort of Practitioners in the judgement of diseases by the urines onely... Urine testing is a common practice today used by doctors in assessing health factors of their patients. What made 17th century physician James Hart attack the procedure so strenuously? The problem was that urine testers of the day frequently used this as the sole means of assessing a person's health, or lack thereof, often using it as a replacement for physicians, such as Dr. Hart. While useful, urine testing is hardly a substitute for actually examining a patient. Hart exposes the fallacies of urine examination by ignorant people, noting three types of such persons in particular, unlicensed quacks, meddlesome old women, and in particular, clergymen. Item 39. $5,000.

 

Item 5 is a "beautifully illustrated" treatise on artificial limbs. The author/inventor was Pierre Ballif, surprisingly, a dentist from Berlin. Published in 1818, the title is Description d'une Main et d'une Jambe artificielles inventées par Pierre Ballif... (description of an artificial hand and leg invented by Pierre Ballif). Up to this time, existing artificial hands could not be operated separately. Lifting the arm, or closing the fingers had to be done with the other hand. Ballif's mechanical arm was attached to the stump and the shoulder by a harness. Gut strings and springs within the artificial limb enabled the wearer to manipulate the hand and arm independently. $5,000.

 

Jonathan A. Hill Bookseller may be reached at 646-827-0724 or jonathan@jonathanahill.com. The website is www.jonathanahill.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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