• <center><b>Gonnelli Auction House<br>Books and Graphics<br>26th-29th of October 2021</b>
    <b>Gonnelli Auction 31, Oct. 28th- 29th:</b><br>Books from XV to XX Century
    <b>Gonnelli Auction 31, Oct. 28th:</b><br>Manuscripts and autographs
    <b>Gonnelli Auction 31, Oct. 28th:</b><br>Artist books
    <b>Gonnelli Auction 31, Oct. 28th:</b><br>Cars & more
    <b>Gonnelli Auction 31, Oct. 28th:</b><br>Magazines
    <b>Gonnelli Auction 31, Oct. 28th- 29th:</b><br>Books from XV to XX Century
  • <b>Bonhams, Nov. 3:</b> STEVE JOBS REVEALS HIS SPIRITUAL SIDE. Autograph Letter to Tim Brown, 1974. $200,000 to $300,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Nov. 3:</b> DIDEROT, DENIS. 1713-1784; & JEAN LE ROND D'ALEMBERT. 1717-1783, EDITORS. <i>Encyclopedie, ou dictionnaire raisonne des sciences, des arts et des metiers.</i> $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Nov. 3:</b> Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist. Evanston, Illinois: Library of Living Philosophers, 1949. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Nov. 3:</b> APPLE MACINTOSH PROTOTYPE, 1982. Earliest known to appear at auction. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Nov. 3:</b> TRINITY PROJECT: STAFFORD L. WARREN. $50,000 to $70,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Nov. 3:</b> JIMMY HARE PHOTOGRAPH OF WRIGHT FLYER SIGNED BY BOTH WRIGHT BROTHERS, 1908. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Nov. 3:</b> HAGELIN CX-52 CIPHER MACHINE, Type D, Switzerland, Crypto AG, 1950s, no 33454. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Nov. 3:</b> FEYNMAN WORKING ON QUARK THEORY. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Nov. 3:</b> STEVE JOBS SETS THE STAGE FOR DESKTOP PUBLISHING. Signed document, 1982. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Nov. 3:</b> MEMORYMOOG PLUS, THE CLASSIC ANALOG POLYSYNTH OF THE 1980S. $7,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Nov. 3:</b> WRIGHT BROTHERS: DAYTON 1909, <i>The Nation State and City Welcome the World's Greatest Aviators.</i> $12,000 to $18,000.
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>The Ricky Jay Collection<br>October 27 & 28, 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Oct. 27-28:</b> "Remarkable Persons". A remarkable collection of remarkable characters. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Oct. 27-28:</b> Scot, Reginald. A serious debunking witchcraft and demonology. $50,000 to $70,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Oct. 27-28:</b> (Buchinger, Matthias). Buchinger's own family tree. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Oct. 27-28:</b> Bibrowski, Stephan. Most likely reading A Midsummer Night's Dream. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Oct. 27-28:</b> Kellar, Harry (Heinrich Keller). Kellar loses his head. $4,000 to $6,000.
  • <b><center>Hindman:<br>Fine Printed Books & Manuscripts,<br>Including Americana<br>November 9-10, 2021
    <b>Hindman, Nov. 9-10:</b> HOOKE, Robert (1635-1702). <i>Micrographia: Or Some Psychological Descriptions of Minute Bodies Made by Magnifying Glasses.</i> London: for James Allestry, 1667. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Hindman, Nov. 9-10:</b> [THE FEDERALIST PAPERS]. -- [HAMILTON, Alexander, James MADISON and John JAY. <i>The Federalist: A Collection of Essays, Written in Favour of the New Constitution…</i> $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Hindman, Nov. 9-10:</b> FUCHS, Leonhart (1501-1566). <i>Histoire des Plantes de M. Leonhart Fuschsius, avec les noms Grecs, Latins & Fraçoys.</i> Paris: Arnold Byrkman, 1549. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b><center>Hindman:<br>Fine Printed Books & Manuscripts,<br>Including Americana<br>November 9-10, 2021
    <b>Hindman, Nov. 9-10:</b> AUDEBERT, Jean Baptiste (1759-1800). <i>Histoire naturelle des singes et des makis.</i> Paris: Desray, An XIII [1799-1800]. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Hindman, Nov. 9-10:</b> [UNITED STATES CONTINENTAL CONGRESS]. <i>Journals of the Congress...</i>Volume I (Sept. 5, 1774-Jan. 1, 1776) through Volume XIII (November 1787-November 1788). $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Hindman, Nov. 9-10:</b> [UNITED STATES CONTINENTAL CONGRESS]. <i>The Journals of the Proceedings of Congress. Held at Philadelphia, from January to May, 1776.</i> $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b><center>Hindman:<br>Fine Printed Books & Manuscripts,<br>Including Americana<br>November 9-10, 2021
    <b>Hindman, Nov. 9-10:</b> [TEXAS]. <i>Map of Bexar County, Texas.</i> San Antonio and Austin: Samuel Maverick & John H. Traynham, 1889. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Hindman, Nov. 9-10:</b> GARDNER, Alexander (1821-1882). Imperial albumen Photograph. <i>Scenes in the Indian Country</i> [Fort Laramie]. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b>Hindman, Nov. 9-10:</b> WILLIAMS, H. Noel. <i>Madame Recamier and her Friends.</i> London and New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906. $1,000 to $1,500.
    <b><center>Hindman:<br>Fine Printed Books & Manuscripts,<br>Including Americana<br>November 9-10, 2021
    <b>Hindman, Nov. 9-10:</b> [MOSER, Barry, illustrator]. <i>The Holy Bible. Containing All the Books of the Old and New Testaments.</i> North Hatfield, MA and New York City: Pennyroyal Caxton Press, 1999. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Hindman, Nov. 9-10:</b> [PRINTS]. MOSER, Barry. Alice in Her Sister’s Reverie. [1982]. 433 x 552 mm. Signed and captioned by Moser in pencil, designated artist’s proof (“ap”). $1,000 to $1,500.
    16 <b>Hindman, Nov. 9-10:</b> [MOSER, Barry, illustrator]. A group of 4 wood-engraved plates for the Pennyroyal Press edition <i>The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.</i> [West Hatfield, MA: Pennyroyal Press, 1985]. $600 to $800.

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2021 Issue

Birdman and Boinayel, The First Gods of Jamaica


Birdman, Boinayel and friends.

As a long-time Jamaica fanatic, I was excited to come across an in-4° plate engraved by James Basire and entitled Antient Wooden Figures Found in Jamaica. It was, as the caption reads, “published by the Society of Antiquaries of London”—although my plate is detached, it was originally bound in Archaeologia, or Miscellaneous Tracts relating to Antiquity (London, 1803). It represents three pre-Columbian artefacts, made by the Taino Indians (from the Arawak group), who were the first inhabitants of the island of Jamaica. The conquistadores exterminated them in the early part of the 16th century, so very little is known about them.


Looking at the plate, I wondered: what had become of these figures? Were they formally identified as being Taino? It brings us back to the second voyage of Christopher Columbus, in 1494, when Jamaica was the most populated island in the West Indies—around 60.000 inhabitants. Ten years later, Columbus wrecked his ships on the north coast, where he was stuck for several months. He then had many exchanges with the Taino. When they grew tired of feeding the Spaniards, Columbus cunningly took advantage of an eclipse to pretend his God was angry at them. According to this dubious tale, the Indians fell on their knees, begging Columbus to bring back the sun. He did, and was fed with no further ado until he departed from Jamaica—never to return. In 1507, his son and heir, Diego sent an emissary to capture Jamaica. Hard work, diseases, massacres—the Taino were exterminated in less than a century. Unfortunately, they haven’t left much behind them. Today, only 12 Taino sculptures from Jamaica are known, including the ones on the plate—so they have an important historical value.


After they were found, the figures were immediately taken to London, where one Isaacs Alves Rebello exhibited them to the Society of Antiquaries on April 11, 1799. They were later “acquired by the Museum from the prolific London collector and dealer in ethnographic art, William Ockleford Oldman (1879-1949). Unfortunately, details of their acquisition are unclear. (...) There's no record of their provenance history before that date and, in particular, no information on the circumstances of their removal from Jamaica,” the returningheritage website underlines. In the minutes of the 1799 exhibit, we read that they are “supposed to be of Indian deities in wood, found in June 1792, in a natural cave near the summit of a mountain, called ‘Spots’, in Carpenters Mountain, in the Parish of Vere, in the island of Jamaica, by a surveyor in measuring the land. They were discovered placed with their faces (one of which was that of a bird) toward the east.”

The statue in the middle has a canopy over its head, “suggesting similar appendages in certain wooden idols from Santo Domingo,” the 25th Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology (Washington, 1907) states. The one on the right is quite expressive, giving us a screwface, as Jamaicans would say—grinning—, while pointing at its penis. The last one has the face of a bird—it is therefore known as the Birdman**—, and its legs are quite peculiar. It reminded the observers of “a habit of the natives of the island of Guadeloupe of wearing ‘two bands of woven cotton, the one fastened around the knee and the other one around the ankle; by this means, they made the calf of the leg large and above-mentioned parts very small.” The report concluded by hoping that “some ethnologist may publish later more detailed descriptions of these objects.” And one did—her name is Joanna Ostapkowicz from the University of Oxford, and she published a fascinating article in 2015*: “A link between the Carpenter’s Mountain figures and the cohoba*** ceremony has long been assumed: the smallest of the carvings is an anthropomorphic cemí (representation of a spirit, deity or ancestor) with a round platform above its head—a feature associated with ‘cohoba stands’, whereupon the drug was placed to be inhaled.” Smoking to get high in Jamaica? Come on...


In fact, these figures are very famous among connoisseurs, and it didn’t take long to find out their current location: the British Museum, in London. The Birdman—listed as artefact Am1977, Q.2—is 87 centimetres high, and “made by: Arawak” around AD 1028–1156. “The prominent beak and extended wings identify him as a bird, probably alluding to the idea of shamanic flight,” the website of the Museum reads. “This spirit being (cemi) of a bird-man seems to embody the archetypal husband whose long beak is celebrated in myths and folktales as the instrument for activating the reproductive potential of "proto-women", creating sexual beings to ensure the continuity of the social group.” The screwface one is also listed (Am1977, Q.3): “According to Bercht et al. 1997, p.73 this figure has been identified as the Boinayel the Rain Giver. The tears that stream from his eyes signify the magical tears that created rain.” The British Museum goes on: “Like most of the other surviving wooden objects, it is carved from the dense, black tropical hardwood, guayacan (Guaiacum officinale L.). The prepared surface was polished with rounded river pebbles to bring the wood resin to the surface and help achieve an alluring deep black lustre.” What the plate fails to render is the fact that it is 1 meter high! As a matter of fact, although this gorgeous plate printed on thick paper has a unique flavour, the British Museum’s pictures beat it by far! Here, the figures appear shiny and raw; the wood density makes their presence even more powerful; so much that the government of Jamaica would like to get them back.


In 2018, Jamaican Minister of Culture Olivia Grange publicly called on the British Museum to return several Jamaican cultural artefacts, including the Birdman and Boinayel. During an interview with the Jamaica Gleaner, she said:They are priceless, they are significant to the story of Jamaica, and they belong to the people of Jamaica. They are not even on display.” The British Museum dismissed the accusation of not displaying the artefacts—they are, the Museum spokesperson said, lent extensively. Over the last decades, the Birdman went to Norwich, Barcelona, Paris, Madrid, etc.; for his part, Boinayel went to Tokyo, Mumbai, Paris, and was last in New Delhi, India, in 2018. In her article, Ostapkowicz gives a precise idea of everything that has happened to them since 1799. Some parts remain obscure, though: Rebello died (...) in 1805, and it is unclear as yet whether he donated the carvings to the British Museum during his lifetime, or whether they remained with his family after his death; in either case there is no mention of them in his will.” In 2019, the returningheritage website pointed out: “There’s no suggestion that (...) the British Museum acquired the two Taíno sculptures illicitly. Even despite the restrictions on disposals imposed by the British Museum Act 1963, it’s hard to see how any formal application for their return could be entertained by the British Museum without more information from the claimants on how these carvings arrived in Britain and what specific grounds there may be for their return.”


These figures seem to legitimately belong to Jamaica. As Ostapkowicz puts it, despite their absence from the island for over two hundred years, they have become icons for Jamaica’s indigenous history.” Yet they are also the common heritage of mankind—especially since there’s no Taino left in Jamaica. Their being kept in London reflects the interconnections of human societies that very often exterminate each other, indeed; but that are also fascinated with each other. This is what these figures tell us from London, and what they might stop telling us if ever returned to Jamaica—but who knows what story they might tell us from there?





** “Since Handler popularised the title in 1977,” Ostapkowicz states.

*** “Cohoba, also called Yopo, hallucinogenic snuff made from the seeds of a tropical American tree (Piptadenia peregrina) and used by Indians of the Caribbean and North America at the time of early Spanish explorations.” (Britannica)


Pictures © The Trustees of the British Museum

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 28:</b> Pancho Villa, passport for a news correspondent covering the Mexican revolution, signed, 1914. $1,000 to $2,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 28:</b> Nirvana’s <i>Nevermind,</i> CD insert signed & inscribed days after release by Cobain, inscribed by Novoselic, 1991. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 28:</b> Robert Indiana, <i>The Book of Love,</i> complete portfolio, artist’s proof set, 1997. $100,000 to $125,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 28:</b> Marcel Vertés, Colette, <i>Chéri,</i> two volumes, deluxe edition, signed by the artist, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 28:</b> Virginia Woolf, <i>Orlando,</i> first trade edition, first impression, London, 1928. $1,200 to $1,800.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 28:</b> Mark Twain, receipt for payment of the Mark Twain Public Library Tax, 1908. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 28:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk von Gustav Klimt,</i> portfolio, collotype plates, 1918. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <center><b>The 19th Century Rare Book & Photograph Shop<br></b>Catalogue 190:<br>Magnificent Books & Photographs<br><b>Free on request</b>
    <b>19th Century Rare Book & Photograph Shop:</b> William Shakespeare. <i>The Second Folio</i> (1632).
    <b>19th Century Rare Book & Photograph Shop:</b> Abraham Lincoln. Autograph note on Black troops in the Union Army (1865).
    <b>19th Century Rare Book & Photograph Shop:</b> Neil Armstrong. The largest known U.S. flag flown to the Moon on Apollo 11 (1969).
    <b>19th Century Rare Book & Photograph Shop:</b> William Henry Fox Talbot. <i>The Pencil of Nature</i> (1844-1846) the first photo illustrated book.
    <b>19th Century Rare Book & Photograph Shop:</b> Albert Einstein. Letter on relativity and the speed of light (1951).

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