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

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    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Zane Grey, Inscribed photograph album depicting Grey and party at Catalina, fishing, and in Arizona. $700 to $1,000
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Eric Taverner, Salmon Fishing...London: Seeley, Service & Co., 1931. $600 to $900
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    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Ken Robinson, Flyfishers' Progress. [London: The Flyfishers' Club, 2000. $200 to $300
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> G. H. Lacy, North Punjab Fishing Club Angler's Handbook. Calcutta: Newman & Co., 1890. $300 to $500
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> J. Harrington Keene, Fly-Fishing and Fly-Making for Trout, etc. New York, 1887. $200 to $300
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    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Arthur Macrate, The History of The Tuna Club, Avalon, Santa Catalina Island, California, 1948. $400 to $600
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Joseph D. Bates Jr. Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing. Harrisburg, PA: The Stackpole Company, 1966. $800 to $1,200
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    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 372: Martin Luther King Jr. March for Freedom Now! Placard. Chicago, 1960. 28 x 22”. $3,000 to $6,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 567: Warhol, Andy. Tate Gallery Exhibition Booklet, Signed on the Cover by Warhol. Tate Gallery, 1971. $700 to $900
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 72: Mitchell, Margaret. <i>Gone With the Wind.</i> New York: The Macmillan Co., 1936. First edition, first issue. $4,000 to $5,000
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    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 468: Photo Archive Documenting the 1930s—50s Chicago Jazz and Night Club Scene. A significant collection. $2,000 to $4,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 143: Dr. Seuss. <i>Oh Say Can You Say.</i> 1979, First Edition, Signed. $200 to $300
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 285: [Maps] Thomas G. Bradford. <i>A Comprehensive Atlas, Geographical, Historical & Commercial.</i> Boston: William D. Ticknor, 1835. First Edition. $1,600 to $1,800
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 69: Herman Melville. <i>Moby Dick, or The Whale</i>. New York: Random House, 1930. First Kent Trade Edition. $400 to $600
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    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 7: Ray Bradbury. <i>The Martian Chronicles.</i> With a Wine Label Signed by Bradbury. Garden City: Doubleday, 1950. First edition $300 to $500
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  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> first edition of the earliest extant manual on modern chess, Salamanca, circa 1496-97. Sold for $68,750.
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