• <b>Bonhams, Dec. 15:</b> BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. Autograph Letter Signed ("B. Franklin"), to Benjamin Vaughan asserting the primacy of American independence in negotiating the Treaty of Paris, Passy, July 11, 1782. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 15:</b> BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. Autograph Letter Signed ("B. Franklin") to David Hartley addressing Hartley's final issues with the recently completed ratification of the Treaty of Paris, Passy, June 2, 1784. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 15:</b> MASON & DIXON. A hand-colored contemporary manuscript map titled in cartouche, "A Map of that Part of AMERICA where a degree of LATITUDE was measured for the ROYAL SOCIETY, by Chas Mason & Jer: Dixon," c.1768. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 15:</b> WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS. Autograph Manuscript Signed ("WB Yeats"), a fair copy of "When Helen Lived" for John Preece headed ("For John Preece"), framed. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 15:</b> "LINCOLN SEATED." KECK, CHARLES, sculptor. 1875-1951. Patinated bronze, 1950. Louise Taper Collection. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 15:</b> ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S FINAL HOURS. BURNS, J., painter. <i>Death-Bed of Abraham Lincoln.</i> Oil on canvas, 1866. Collection of Louise Taper. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 15:</b> FILSON, CHARLES PATTERSON, painter. 1860-1937. <i>Portrait of Edwin M. Stanton, Lincoln's Secretary of War.</i> $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 15:</b> A MATZOS BOX PRESENTED BY THE MANISHEVITZ BROTHERS TO WARREN G. HARDING. Louise Taper Collection. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 15:</b> LEWIS CARROLL. Original albumen print photograph, approximately 6 7/8 x 8 3/4 inches, Chelsea, London, October 7, 1863, of the Rossetti Family at home, one of only three known examples of the full image. $50,000 to $70,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 15:</b> CHRISTINA ROSSETTI. <i>Verses ... Dedicated to Her Mother.</i> Privately printed, 1847. First edition of her first book, printed at her grandfather's press, THE ROSSETTI FAMILY COPY. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 15:</b> CHRISTINA ROSSETTI. Original drawing of snowdrops in purple pencil, sent by CGR to Lucy Rossetti, inscribed "I doubt whether you will make out my copy from nature," 1887. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 15:</b> DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI, et al. The Germ: <i>Thoughts towards Nature in Poetry, Literature and Art.</i> Fine copy in a Doves binding by Cobden Sanderson. $12,000 to $18,000.
  • <i>Der Sturm.</i> 1922. Sold October 2021 for € 13,000.
    Diophantus Alexandrinus, <i>Arithmeticorum libri sex.</i> 1670. Sold October 2021 for € 18,000.
    <i>Cozzani Ettore e altri, l’Eroica. Tutto il pubblicato.</i> Sold October 2021 for € 11,000.
    Newton Isaac, <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica.</i> 1714. Sold October 2021 for € 7,500.
    Manetti Saverio, <i>Storia naturale degli uccelli.</i> 1767-1776. Sold April 2021 for € 26,000.
  • <center><br>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Maps & Atlases<br>Natural History<br>& Color Plate Books<br>December 9, 2021</b>
    <b>Swann, Dec. 9:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. Carolina Parrot. Plate 26. Hand-colored aquatint and engraved plate from Audubon's <i>Birds of America.</i> $80,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Swann, Dec. 9:</b> Francisco Henrique Carls. [Album de Pernambuco e seus Arrabaldes]. Fifty-three chromolithographed plates of landscape, town views and more of the state of Pernambuco, northeast Brazil. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann, Dec. 9:</b> Captain Thomas Davies, after. Group of 5 engraved topographical scenes of North American waterfalls. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <center><br>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Maps & Atlases<br>Natural History<br>& Color Plate Books<br>December 9, 2021</b>
    <b>Swann, Dec. 9:</b> William R. Morley. Morley's Map of New Mexico. Large lithographed pocket map with original hand-color in outline. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann, Dec. 9:</b> Frederick William Beechey, et al. <i>The Zoology of Captain Beechey's Voyage; Compiled from the Collections and Notes Made by Captain Beechey…</i> $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann, Dec. 9:</b> ZUDA ROKASHI (Priest Hotan.) Nansenbushu Bankoku Shoka No Zu. Woodblock wall map of the world on 16 sheets joined. $5,000 to $7,500.
  • <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>Live Auction<br>December 11, 2021</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 11:</b> De Wit’s composite atlas with magnificent full original color. $125,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 11:</b> Gardner's photographic sketch book of the Civil War. $200,000 to $250,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 11:</b> Waugh Oil Painting, 70 Degrees North; The Polar Bear. $400,000 to $600,000.
    <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>Live Auction<br>December 11, 2021</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 11:</b> Audubon aquatint, Ivory-Billed Woodpecker. $75,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 11:</b> Blaeu terrestrial table globe, 1602. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 11:</b> Audubon aquautint, Ruby-Throated Humming Bird. $35,000 to $45,000.
    <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>Live Auction<br>December 11, 2021</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 11:</b> Bessa original watercolor of a bouquet of flowers. $75,000 to $125,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 11:</b> John Gould's only work devoted to American birds. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 11:</b> Wyld & Malby pair of terrestrial & celestial globes, 1833. $50,000 to $75,000.
    <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>Live Auction<br>December 11, 2021</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 11:</b> Leutze map of the world oil painting. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 11:</b> Caula, the finest 18th century drawing of Lison. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Dec. 11:</b> Scolari / Blaeu map of Germania, 1650. $15,000 to $22,000.

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2017 Issue

Isert: A Voyage Through Slavery

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Why do we read travel books instead of travelling ourselves? Well, only an old book like Paul Erdman Isert’s Voyages en Guinée & dans les îles Caraibes en Amérique (Maradan, 1793) will take you to the West coast of Africa in... the 1780s! Right in the middle of the slave trade. And that’s what his book will do—carry you away.

 

We know about the role played by the English, the Dutch or the French in the slave trade—but what about the Danish? They had a few forts in what was then called Guinea (today’s Ghana), Africa, at the time our author went there—Denmark was then the fifth most active nation in the trade. Paul Erdman Isert was a Danish Buffon, so to speak—a botanist. And the African tribes he met fascinated him. “Some of my readers might wonder, with irony: “Why telling us about the customs and stupid beliefs of those savages and barbarians?” I shall answer them with Raynal, that every historian should consider his holy duty to preserve the customs and the lifestyle of these savage people.” The progressive ideas of the abolitionist societies were, in the late 1700s, gaining ground in Europe; yet Isert’s statement remains unusual for the time. In fact, he obviously fell in love with Africa—the land, of course; but also the people. As a matter of fact, he focused on the “natural history of man”. And what makes his book especially interesting—and moving—is the fact that he did not go back straight to Denmark—he embarked on a slave ship bound to the West Indies before, thus giving a testimony of the two main aspects of the triangular trade.

 

Isert’s book is made up of a series of letters sent to some friend in Denmark, and written from 1783 to July 1787. He left Copenhagen, Denmark, in November and reached Fort Christiansburg (in today’s Ghana), sixteen weeks later. “Oh my God! What a difference with the land I had left!” He was soon dispatched to Fort Ada on the Volta River. And everything attracted his attention, from the customs of the African tribes to their clothes to the new plants he came across. While caught in the heat of a bloody and scorching battle (“the most terrible day in my life,” he writes), he still remained a naturalist at heart, finding time to “botanize” in a nearby morass.” A footnote reads: “At this occasion, I found a sort of wetlands snail, which I sent to some friends in Copenhagen.” These intellectuals from the 18th century were just incredible.

 

Isert quoting the French philosopher—and abolitionist—Raynal in his forewords says it all. Yet, he didn’t seem to be that outraged at the slave trade while in Africa, where it seemed to be a part of everyday life. Some Africans sold themselves to pay their debts of game; others were captured at war, and sold according to their “value”. Isert gives details about the price of a slave, which sadly reminds us of the old books business: “When a Negro shows no defect, you can not bargain; but if he misses a tooth, for example, you get a discount of 2 risdallers. If he misses greater parts like an eye, a finger or any other limb, you get a greater discount.” The slave trade was very lucrative, but slaves were expensive. For a healthy male, one would give five gunshots, eighty pounds of powder, two silver bars, a portion of brandy, four dozens of small knives, two pewter dishes, a piece of Indian clothes with flowers, ten handkerchiefs from India, a brass basin, three copper bars, and two lead bars—for a total amount of 160 risdallers (a European soldier in Africa, later states Isert, earned 10 risdallers a month). Far from the stereotype of the ignorant African merchant ripped off by some cunning white folks, Isert says the Negroes were very good businessmen—though, he adds, they usually refused to work more than what was necessary to keep them at ease. He even talks about one Lathe, “the richest Negro of the country”, who spoke three foreign languages, including Danish, and who had sent one of his sons to England and the other one to Portugal for business’ sake!

 

Slavery haunts the pages of this book, like a contagious disease. But not only before 1786—when Isert left Africa on board of a slave ship bound to the West Indies—, does it reveal its true ugliness. After a dreadful voyage that almost cost him his life under the vengeful hands of the rebellious slaves, Isert reached the West Indies where he witnessed the harsh reality of slavery. “Exhausted, beaten and ill-fed (...), the slaves are exploited to such an extent that you hardly recognize them. How many times have I said to myself, contemplating the broken faces of these half-dead men, Ô! Consider what you once were, and what you are now!

 

The condition of slaves in the West Indies was terrible—“a Negro is always wrong. Any white man can, at any time, beat him sorely—and he does not even have the right to defend himself. If he does, he is unerringly put to death.” Isert seemed to come to his senses at this occasion—this was the true face of the “trade”. “Those who stand for slavery will tell you: “We have some Niggers here who answer “NO!” when asked if they want to go back to Africa.” I have nothing to tell these gentlemen but to go to Africa if they really want to be cured from all their prejudice. There they will witness the innocence, the simplicity and the sincerity of these men.”

 

Discussing about the origins and the skin colour of the Africans—which he intelligently linked to the effect of the sun—, Isert makes it clear that he did not consider them as inferior: “Don’t you ever tell me about a so-called mixed race of men and monkeys! This you could say, should you be able to prove that the Negroes are deprived of intelligence, but they miss nothing on this side, to equal the Europeans as soon as they shall have access to the same culture.” Yet he thought, like many of his contemporaries, that slavery was an incurable evil. “Should we stop eating sugar, drinking coffee and all these things which have now become essential to us in Europe? Of course not, that would make as many miserable men.” The mistake had been done, and it was too late. The Europeans, he says, should have exploited Africa, its fertile soil, its numerous and cheap labour supply; “but the conquest of America was too flattering a project!” he regrets. “Africa appeared so vast, so populated—and its people more willing and ready to defend themselves. It was easier to slaughter the weak Indians and to replace them by slaves. And no one opposed this evil plan, which still remains unpunished!” Despite this dark surrounding, Isert still found time to “botanize” in the French West Indian islands before heading back to Europe. The intellectuals from the 18th century...

 

Isert’s voyage is a thrilling read, and quite valuable a book, as it gives a genuine insight into the slave trade from both the African and the West Indian perspectives. It is an in-octavo volume, and it comes with two engravings, including a folding one, and some meteorological observations—which are quite tedious. It is rare. It popped up only once on eBay.fr over the past 10 years, and only a handful of copies are for sale on the main research sites. A nice copy is worth around 1,000 euros if you buy it from a professional bookseller. In The Danish Slave Trade and Its Abolition, E.Gobel states: “Isert's descriptions of African societies, of the Europeans in Africa, and of slavery and the slave trade were authentic and detailed.” But it is also a genuine and very human piece of work, written during a very inhuman period.

 

T. Ehrengardt

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Fonsie Mealy’s<br>Christmas Rare Books<br>& Collectors' Sale<br>December 7th & 8th, 2021</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 7-8:</b> Ortelius (Abraham). <i>Theatrum Orbis Terrarum,</i> folio, Antwerp, 1570, First Edition (2nd Issue), 53 double-page maps, contemporary hand colouring. €40,000 to €60,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 7-8:</b> An original engraved facsimile copy of the Declaration of Independence of 4 July 1776, issued by order of Congress on 4 July 1823 in a limited edition of 200 copies on fine parchment. €20,000 to €30,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 7-8:</b> Joyce (James). <i>Ulysses.</i> Shakespeare & Co., Rue de l’Odeon, Paris 1922. No. 559 of 1000 Copies of the First Edn.,, one of 750 Copies on handmade paper. €10,000 to €15,000.
    <center><b>Fonsie Mealy’s<br>Christmas Rare Books<br>& Collectors' Sale<br>December 7th & 8th, 2021</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 7-8:</b> Malton (James) [1761-1803]. A fine quality set of twenty-five hand coloured aquatint Views of Dublin, as published for <i>A Picturesque and Descriptive View of the City of Dublin</i>. €6,000 to €7,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 7-8:</b> 'Bloody Sunday.' An original Admission Ticket to Croke Park, Great Challenge Match (Football), Tipperary v. Dublin, Sunday, November 21,1920. Pink card, 3 ins x 4 ¼ ins. €4,000 to €5,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 7-8:</b> Joyce (James). <i>Haveth Childers Everywhere - Fragment from Work in Progress,</i> Paris & N.Y., 1930, First Edn., Signed and Limited No. 50 (100) Copies. €4,000 to €6,000.
    <center><b>Fonsie Mealy’s<br>Christmas Rare Books<br>& Collectors' Sale<br>December 7th & 8th, 2021</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 7-8:</b> Edward Lyons, Irish (1726-1801). Genealogy: <i>The FitzGerald's Arms of Carton House, Kildare,</i> pen and ink and watercolour on laid paper. €3,000 to €4,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 7-8:</b> Yeats (William Butler). <i>Poems.</i> Cuala Press, D. 1935, stiff blue paper covers, unlettered as issued, coloured initials and ornaments hand-drawn by Elizabeth Corbet Yeats. One of 300 copies. €2,000 to €3,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 7-8:</b> A fine and important collection of Ulster Wit. Belfast Political Scrapbook, 19th century. €1,500 to €2,000.
    <center><b>Fonsie Mealy’s<br>Christmas Rare Books<br>& Collectors' Sale<br>December 7th & 8th, 2021</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 7-8:</b> Rare Views of the Giant's Causeway. Coloured Prints: Drury (Susanna) [1698-1770]. A rare pair of original Engraved Prints. €1,200 to €1,500.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 7-8:</b> [Johnson (Rev. Samuel)]. <i>Julian the Apsostate Being a Short Account of his Life, together with a Comparison of Popery and Paganism,</i> L., 1682, First Edn. €800 to €1,200.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 7-8:</b> Aringhi (Pauli). <i>Roma Subterranea Novissima,</i> 2 vols. lg. folio Rome (Typis Vitalis Mascardi) 1651. €350 to €750.
  • <b><center>Doyle<br>Rare Books, Autographs & Maps<br>December 9</b>
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 47. Roosevelt, Theodore. Photograph inscribed to Morris J. Hirsch. May 7th 1918. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 178. Whitman, Walt. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> Brooklyn, New York: [Printed for the author], 1955. First edition in the first issue binding. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 38. Mather, Cotton. <i>Magnalia Christi Americana; or, the Ecclesiastical History of New-England.</i> London: Printed for Thomas Parkhurst, 1702. First edition. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 55. Taylor, Zachary. Autograph letter signed as President-Elect. Baton Rouge: January 15, 1849. $5,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 203. Picasso, Pablo. <i>Verve</i> Vol. V, Nos. 19-20. Paris: Editions Verve, 1948. Inscribed on the title page by Picasso. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b><center>Doyle<br>Rare Books, Autographs & Maps<br>December 9</b>
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 211. Domergue, Jean-Gabriel. L'Ete a Monte Carlo. Lithographed poster, Lucien Serre & Cie, Paris, circa 1937. $1,000 to $1,500.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 105. Manuscript Illumination attr. to Neri da Rimini. Large excised initial "N" from a choirbook, extensively historiated. [Likely Rimini: first quarter of the 14th century]. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 40. McKenney, Thomas L. and Hall, James. <i>History of the Indian Tribes of North America, with Biographical Sketches and Anecdotes of the Principal Chiefs.</i> Philadelphia: Rice, Rutter & Co., 1870. $3,00
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 222. Searle, Ronald. [Pets--a dog, cats and a parrot-- surrounded by books, and inspecting a globe, perhaps planning global domination]. Original drawing, 17 3/8 x 13 1/2 inches. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 98. Faden, William; Scull, Nicholas and George Heap. A Plan of the City and Environs of Philadelphia, Survey'd by N. Scull and G. Heap. London: William Faden, 12 March 1777. $3,000 to $5,000.
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Zang Tumb Tuuum:<br>la révolution futuriste<br>Online Auction<br>30 November – 7 December</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Nov. 18:</b> The "Official Edition" of the United States Constitution and the First Printing of the Final Text of the Constitution, 1787. $15,000,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Nov. 30 – Dec. 7:</b> Marinetti, Filippo Tommaso. I Paroliberi Futuristi. 1914-1915. 8 p. Unique corrected proofs, for an anthology that remained unpublished. €40,000 to €60,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Nov. 30 – Dec. 7:</b> Cangiullo, Francesco. Studenti in Lettere. Università. 1915. Seminal work, featured in 3 historical futurist exhibitions. €20,000 to €30,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Nov. 30 – Dec. 7:</b> Cangiullo, Francesco. Chiaro di luna. Circa 1915. Collage and gouache on paper. €15,000 to €20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Nov. 30 – Dec. 7:</b> Marinetti, Filippo Tommaso. Manicure. Faire les ongles à l'Italie. Circa 1915. A fantastic parody of an advertising poster. €20,000 to €30,000.

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