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>Koller Auctions: Books & Autographs. March 26, 2019</b>
    <b>Koller Auctions, Mar 26:</b> Jacques Gamelin. <i>Nouveau recueil d'osteologie et de myologie, dessine d'apres nature...</i> 2 parts in 1 vol., large folio, 82 copper plates. CHF 12,000 to 18,000
    <b>Koller Auctions, Mar 26:</b> Melchior Pfintzing. <i>Die geverlicheiten und einsteils geschichten des loblichen streytparen...</i> 118 woodcut engravings, first edition. CHF 30,000 to 50,000
    <b>Koller Auctions, Mar 26:</b> Book of hours. Handwritten Latin text on vellum. With 17 large miniatures, Flanders, c.1460. CHF 70,000 to 90,000
    <b>Koller Auctions, Mar 26:</b> Maria Sibylla Merian. <i> Dissertatio de generatione et metamorphosibus insectorum Surinamensium,</i> 72 copper plates, Den Haag, 1726. CHF 60,000 to 90,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 21:</b> Princess Diana, group of 6 ALS to the editor of British Vogue, 1989-92. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 21:</b> Joseph Brant, Mohawk Chief, ALS, writing with news after pledging support to King George III against the American rebels, 1776. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 21:</b> Ulysses S. Grant, photograph dated & signed as President, portrait by Brady, 1875. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 21:</b> Alexander Graham Bell, ALS, accepting an invitation to tea during his only trip to Japan, 1898. $1,000 to $2,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 21:</b> Nikola Tesla, signature & date on his monogrammed correspondence card, 1935. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 21:</b> Richard Wagner, ALS, concerning his opera Rienzi, 1869. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 21:</b> Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, autograph note signed, requesting the address of Yvette Guilbert, 1895. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 21:</b> Claude Monet, ALS, to painter Harry Lachman, complaining that his vision has not improved, 1920s. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 21:</b> Friedrich Hölderlin, autograph manuscript, unsigned, 7 lines quoting Michael Denis's <i>Ossians und Sineds Lieder.</i> $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 21:</b> Guestbook for Lüchow's restaurant, over 400 signatures, including W.H. Auden, Grace Kelly & drawings by Charles Addams, NYC, 1950-56. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 21:</b> George Washington, lottery ticket, signed, 1768. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 21:</b> Vaslav Nijinsky, postcard dated & signed, showing a drawing of him in <i>Schéhérazade,</i> 1916. $2,500 to $3,500.
  • <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 28, 2019</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Greco (Gioachino). <i>Primo modo del gioco de Partito…</i> Manuscript, France, 1624 or 1625. A collection of partiti, or 'chess problems' by one of the most important figures in the history of chess. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Herodotus. <i>Historiae,</i> translated into Latin by Lorenzo Valla and edited by Antonio Mancinelli. Venice, 1494. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Darwin (Charles). Autograph Letter signed to his cousin Reginald Darwin, Down, Beckenham, Kent, 27th March 1879. £12,000 to £18,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 28, 2019</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Nicolay (Nicolas de). <i>The Navigations, peregrinations and voyages, made into Turkie,</i> first edition in English, Imprinted at London by Thomas Dawson, 1585. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Saint-Exupéry (Antoine de). <i>The Little Prince,</i> number 66 of 525 copies signed by the author, 1943. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Catlin (George, 1796-1872). Tuch-ee, A Celebrated War Chief of the Cherokees, watercolour, [circa 1834]. £6,000 to £8,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 28, 2019</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Genetics.- A collection of c.300 pamphlets on genetics comprising many of the major contributions from the first half of the 20th century. £5,000 to £7,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> India.- Rajasthan.- Kota School (probably late 18th c.). Elephant in a landscape with chains around his feet, brush and black ink with opaque pigments. £5,000 to £7,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Commelin (Caspar). <i>Horti medici Amstelaedamensis plantae rariores et exoticae,</i> first edition, 48 finely hand-coloured engraved plates, Leiden, F.Haringh, 1706. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 28, 2019</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Plague-water and cookery & medical recipes.- Jackson (Mrs Sarah). Medical and cookery recipes, manuscript in several hands, title and 134pp., 1688-1755. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Vernet (<i>After</i> Joseph, 1714-1789). <i>[Vues des ports de France],</i> sixteen plates (of 18), etchings and engravings by Charles Nicolas Cochin fils and Jacques Philippe Le Bas, [c.1760-1780]. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Detmold (Edward Julius, 1883-1957). Parrots and Butterflies, watercolour. £2,500 to £3,500.
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Walt Whitman. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> First edition, first issue, SIGNED in block letters by Whitman. 1855. $200,000 to $300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Isaac Newton's copy of John Greave's <i>Pyramidographia,</i> London, 1646. $50,000 to $70,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Colonel John Mosby. Robert E. Lee's autograph letter to Samuel Cooper reporting on Mosby's exploits, with Cooper's autograph note ordering his appointment to Major.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Gyula Halasz Brassai. Large archive of autograph and typed letters, over 260, to his family including his wife Gilberte, 1947-1978. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Archive of drawings and letters from Harper Lee to Charles Carruth, including an inscribed first edition of <i>To Kill a Mockingbird.</i> $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> VESALIUS, ANDREAS. 1514-1564. <i>De humani corporis fabrica libri septem.</i> Basel: Johannes Oporinus, June 1543. $300,000 to $500,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. 1578-1657. <i>De motu cordis & sanguinis in animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Leiden: Joannis Maire, 1639. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> BERENGARIO DA CARPI, GIACOMO. 1460-1530. <i>Isagogae breves perlucide ac uberrimae in Anatomiam humani corporis.</i> Bologna: Benedictus Hectoris, 15 July 1523. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams NY, Mar 11:</b> FRANKLIN, BENJAMIN. 1706-1790. <i>Experiments and Observations on Electricity, made at Philadelphia in America…</i> London, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams NY, Mar 11:</b> BENIVIENI, ANTONIO. 1443-1502. <i>De abditis nonnullis ac mirandis morborum et sanationum causis.</i>Florence: Filippo Giunta, 1507. $8,000 to $12,000

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