Travel and Expeditions from Antiquariat Kainbacher

- by Michael Stillman


Travel and Expeditions from Antiquariat Kainbacher

Antiquariat Kainbacher has issued their Katalog XXIX Reisen Und Expeditionen Erster Teil: A-H (Catalogue 29 Travel and Expeditions, First Part: A-H). These travels take us back to an earlier time when much of the world was still a mystery to Europeans, the 19th century and earlier. It was the Age of Discovery, and much of the excitement of that era can still be experienced through the pages of these books. This catalogue is presented in German though you will find numerous books in English too. The authors' last names are alphabetical between A and H, telling us what to expect in Kainbacher's next catalogue. Here are a few selections.


We will start by going all the way back to the 16th century. This is a 1567 rare second edition of a book originally published in Portuguese in 1540, Kurtze und Warhafftige Beschreibunge aller gründlicher erfarnus von den Landes des mechtigen Königs in Ethiopien/ den wir Priester Johan nennen (brief and informative descriptions of all the more thorough experiences of the lands of the mighty king in Ethiopia we call Prester John). The author was Francisco Alvarez, a Portuguese missionary who spent six years in Ethiopia from 1520-1526. He served in the Portuguese embassy during the reign of Emperor Lebna Dengel. This book was the first European authoritative description of the country and the main source of information about Ethiopia for a century. It covers the ecclesiastical institutions along with descriptions of the cities, agriculture, and geography. Ethiopia fascinated Europeans as it was an outpost of Christianity on a continent otherwise dominated by indigenous religions and Islam. No one knew how that came to be. That is what led to the legend of the Prester John named in the title. He was a mythical figure, a powerful Christian King in an isolated land. Originally, he was believed to have been in India, but as that land became better known with no sign of such a man, legend shifted him to Ethiopia. While Prester John was a myth, in 1540, he was believed to have been a real King of Ethiopia. Priced at €18,000 (euros, or approximately $17,806 in U.S. currency).


This next item comes from a lady from Frankfurt whose life turned around when she became a writer. Maria Belli-Gontard was born in 1788 of a prosperous family which provided her with many valuable contacts. She was prominent in the city's cultural life as she hosted writers, artists, musicians and actors in her circle. However, her life changed when she decided to take a trip, alone, to Constantinople. She was always of poor health and thought the trip might help her. It didn't, but after she returned, she began writing, and that seemed to rejuvenate her. She wrote many stories, biographies, and descriptions of Frankfurt society, but this early book in her writing career was about her trip to Constantinople. The title is Meine Reise nach Constantinopel im Jahre 1845 (my voyage to Constantinople in 1845) published in 1846. She took several more trips, alone and later with her son, and continued to write through a long career, living to age 94. €1,900 (US $1,878).


This book is about an amazing tale, though many believe it is a very tall tale. It is about an American seaman, named “Robert Adams,” though his real name was Benjamin Rose. He signed onto the ship Charles in America. Eventually, the Charles was shipwrecked off the African coast and the men were taken in by Moors to be slaves, all except the Captain and mate who were executed. He would then be passed around to several owners before eventually being ransomed by a British consul. In his account, Adams speaks to terrible brutalities but also a six-month period when he was given to the King of Timbuktu where he was allowed to roam freely. That claim is what really got people's attention as no westerner had been there and the belief at the time was that it was a place where the streets were paved with gold. Adams described it as much less, a poor squalid place. Eventually, though an American, Adams made his way to England, ended up poor and living on the street as a beggar, when he was recognized by a man he had met after being released a few months earlier. The man took him to a merchant who wrote down his story, Adams being illiterate. That story appears in the book The Narrative of Robert Adams, a sailor, who was wrecked on the Western Coast of Africa in the year 1810, was detained three years in slavery by the Arabs of the Great Desert, and resided several months in the city of Timbuctoo, published in 1816. The book was a sensation when it was published, but it soon had its detractors. Much of it seemed unbelievable. Adams or Rose's background could not be verified. Too much seemed amiss. It also should be noted that many in London were not pleased to be told that the holy grail of exploration, being the first to see Timbuktu, was achieved by a poor American (Britain had just been at war with America). They were also unhappy to be told that their dreamed city of gold was filled with shanties, though Adams' description was closer to the truth than the myths. The consensus now appears to be that it was Adams' tale that was the myth, but I do not have the knowledge one way or the other to make a judgment. €1,800 (US $1,780).


This is a book about Alaska when it was still part of Russia. Who knows, maybe if Putin conquers Ukraine, Alaska will be the next neighbor he seizes. After all, Alaska was once part of Russia too. Anyway, here is an account of two trips by two Russian officers working for the Russian Alaska Company between 1802-1804. They were Davydov and and Khvostov. The author was Gavril Davydov. He provides descriptions of settlements, the Aleutians, history, customs of the natives, etc. The book is Reise der russisch-kaiserlichen Flott-Officiere Chwostow und Dawydow von St. Petersburg durch Sibirien nach Amerika und zurück in den Jahren 1802, 1803 und 1804 (Voyage of the Russian Imperial Navy Officers Khvostov and Davydov from St. Petersburg through Siberia to America and Back in 1802, 1803 and 1804). This is a German translation published in 1816. Davydov never got to finish the account of the second trip, leaving behind only some notes and letters. It seems that the two naval officers liked to drink a lot, and one night they tried to cross a river in St. Petersburg and drowned. A different officer finished the book. €6,500 (US $6,378).


Antiquariat Kainbacher can be reached at 0043-(0)699-110 19 221 or Their website is found at