Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2012 Issue

Exploring the Downtown National Library of Jamaica

Hsloanevoy

Hans Sloane's account of Jamaica.

BOTANY & CHOCOLATE

Though a work of natural history, Sloane’s book is still quoted in every civil history of Jamaica, its lengthy and versatile preface being one of the most interesting readings about the island. Everything of interest would attract his attention, as the oldest Spanish ruins in Jamaica, for example. When the conquistadore Juan de Esquivel took possession of the island in the name of Diego Columbus, in 1509, he established a colony named Nueva Sevilla. In the late 17th century, almost nothing remained of this first (or second, according to some) settlement that had been abandoned more than a hundred years ago. As a matter of fact, little was known of the Spanish reign in Jamaica. Sloane went to the North Coast to visit the ruins of Nueva Sevilla, especially those of the famous Peter Martyr d’Aghiera’s church. Martyr, the author of a respected body of work about the New World, never set a foot in Jamaica. He had been, nonetheless, appointed Abbot of the island – an honorary title - as he was an influential member of the Council of the Indies. The Spanish historian Padron suggests he was upset at the magnificent church the Abbot of the nearby Hispanola had erected ; so he ordered a bigger one to be built in Jamaica. Sloane gave a description of what remained of the ambitious front door of the building, including the wooden head of a saint with a knife going through his head. The size the church should have reached, if ever completed (which was never the case), gave an idea of the opulence of the colony at a time. The historical value of this testimony is so unique, it was reproduced word by word by the Barbadian Charles Leslie in his later A New and Exact History of Jamaica (1 vol. in-12°, Edinburgh, 1739, wrongfully credited to Sloane by Barbier in its French translation*, and still sold by most booksellers as Sloane’s account), and by almost every historian who wrote about the island ever since.

Hans Sloane also gave accounts of the sick he attended all over the island, including a certain « H.M » (Henry Morgan), whom he visited shortly before his passing, giving the last – and dull - description of the buccaneer. Sloane probably did not rest a lot. Still working as the personal physician of the Duchess, he would find time to roam the island to collect every natural specimen encountered. He loved plants and put them between two sheets of paper to dry them, planning to bring them back to the old and ignorant World. Whenever the subject of his attention was not so easily captured, he would ask his friend, the Reverend Garret Morr, to draw it from life – most of the copper-plates of the first volume were engraved from his drawings. Amongst the most intriguing things the botanist gathered were a live crocodile, an Iguana and a giant snake he said was tamed by an Indian it would follow like a dog to its master. Sloane noticed the inhabitants of the island were drinking a lot of chocolate, as a medicine. One of the most striking discoveries of the New World, chocolate, had then little in common with what we drink nowadays ; it was a thick mixture of cacao, spices, aromates and plants. « The nuts themselves are made of several parts, like an ox’ kidney, Sloane wrote about the beans of cacao, some lines being visible on it before broken, and his hollow within, its pulp is oily and bitterish to the taste. » When tasting the local chocolate, he found it « nauseous, and hard of digestion ». Never short of ideas, he sweetened it by adding some milk to it. The result was so palatable, he brought back his recipe to London where, according to the Natural History Museum (NHM) of London, it « brought him considerable income during his lifetime ». In the 19th century, long after Sloane’s death in 1753, his recipe was picked up by Cadbury. The wrappers read: « Sir Hans Sloane’s Milk Chocolate, Prepared After the Original Recipe,» an achievement that could already fill any man’s life, as most kids around the world will tell you. But, believe it or not, Sloan had even more than milk chocolate to offer to the world !

*Histoire de la Jamaïque, alledgedly translated into French by a French Dragon (soldier) by the name of Raulin. 2 volumes in-12°, A Londres, chez Nourse, 1751 : 2ff, 285pp / 1ff, 248pp / 6 folding plates by N.B. de Poilly.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Leland Little: Important Fall Auction. September 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Published Half Plate Ambrotype of a North Carolina Confederate Officer. $2,000 to $4,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Two 19th Century Books Pertaining to Canada's Red River Settlement. $400 to $800
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Two Books With Fore-Edge Paintings of British Architectual Landmarks. $400 to $600
    <b>Leland Little: Important Fall Auction. September 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987), "Torte a la Dobosch" from <i>Wild Raspberries</i>. $1,000 to $3,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990), <i>Pop Shop II,</i> One Plate screenprint in colors, on wove paper, 1998. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Thomas Rowlandson (British, 1756-1827), Twenty-Two Prints from the <i>Tours of Dr. Syntax</i>. $500 to $1,000
  • <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>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>Aurora Australis.</i> Printed at the sign of 'The Penguins'; East Antarctica, 1908. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>South Polar Times.</i> 1st edition, limited issue. from the library of Michael Barne. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> General Washington's <i>Proceedings of a General Court Martial... of Major General Lee.</i> Philiadelphia, 1778. 100 copies printed for Congress. BOUND WITH: ...Court Martial... of St Clair and ...Schuyler. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>The Voice of the People.</i> Boston, 1754. Rare pamphlet on the Excise Tax. Nathaniel Sparhawk's copy. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens"), offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing, 5 pp, 1881. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> After Fra Egnazio Danti. <i>L'Ultime Parti not:e nel Indie Occid:ntli" [The last known parts of the Western Indies].</i> Painted Map of California, Western Mexico, and Japan. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Ptolemaeus, Claudius. <i>Geographie opus nouissima...</i> 1513. The most important edition of Ptolemy, containing the Admiral's Map. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> De Arellano, Don Alonso. Manuscript, his <i>"Relación mui singular y circunstanciada... Capitán del Patax San Lucas,"</i> manuscript copy from the Sir Thomas Phillips collection. $50,000 to $80,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Purchas, Samuel. <i>Purchas his Pilgrimes.</i> First edition. With John Simth's engraved map of Virginia. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Lewis, Meriwether. Contemporary manuscript true copy of his final power of attorney, 1809. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practiced at Boston in North America.</i> Mezzotint. London, 1774. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>Scientific Base Ball Pitching: A Treatise on the Pitcher, Pitching, Origin and Philosophy of the Curve.</i> Chicago, 1897. $2,000 to $3,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Franklin H. Brown, <i>State Sovereignty, National Union,</i> Chicago, 1860. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b><br>The Aitken Bible, Philadelphia, 1781. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francisco Loubayssin de Lamarca, probable first edition of the first novel set in the Spanish New World, Paris, 1617. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Juan de la Anunciación, <i>Sermonario en lengua mexicana,</i> first edition, first book of sermons in Nahuatl, Mexico, 1577. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Maturino Gilberti, <i>Thesoro spiritual en lengua de Mechuacá,</i> first edition, Mexico, 1558. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Commission of William O. Stoddard as secretary to the president, signed by Lincoln, Washington, 1861. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> <i>Clay and Frelinghuysen,</i> flag banner, circa 1844. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Daguerreotype of a man believed to be Frederick Granger Williams Smith, son of Joseph Smith, circa late 1850s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> John C. Wolfe, <i>Portrait of Abraham Lincoln,</i> oil on board in period wooden frame, circa 1860s. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Family letters from two young daguerreotype artists, 1826-79. $10,000 to $15,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions