Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2005 Issue

Exhibit Recognizes Francis Drake, First Englishman to See California

A0301

Sir Francis Drake

By Mike Stillman

His name may not be quite as familiar as that of other notable voyagers and explorers, such as Magellan or Cook, but Francis Drake was one of the great navigators of that era when much of the world was unknown to the West. That's Sir Francis Drake, to be exact, for he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in honor of his achievements. However, there was a less seemly side to those achievements. It has perhaps kept Drake from sharing quite the honor that other explorers reached. However, an exhibition recently posted online by the U.S. Library of Congress should afford Drake a little of the recognition he has missed. We'll provide a link to that exhibition at the end of this article.

The problem is that Drake wasn't a pure explorer, nor even a trader, as were many others who helped "discover" the world Europeans did not know. Drake was a privateer. For those unfamiliar with the profession, a "privateer" is someone who operates on the borderline between a respected government agent and a pirate. A pirate who operates with the acquiescence of his crown, and shares his loot with his monarch, gets to rise from the status of mere pirate to that of privateer. To others, he doesn't look much different from an ordinary pirate, but to his rulers, he is a useful participant in government policy, though one likely to be dumped overboard at the first moment his behavior brings embarrassment to those rulers. That fate befell others, such as Captain Kidd, but not Drake. Queen Elizabeth appreciated Drake's work, which brought much gold and silver to the British treasury. In return, she also allowed Drake to share in and reap the benefits of the wealth he procured. Nevertheless, she repressed most information about his work, as she did not want to offend Spain, with which she was at peace, too much. That left Drake without quite the recognition he might otherwise have received.

Drake first commanded a ship on behalf of his cousin, John Hawkins, who was engaged in the slave trade. That's another blot on his resume. It was on such a journey that Hawkins and Drake and their six ships pulled into a harbor near Veracruz, Mexico, for repairs, under a mutual nonaggression pact with some Spanish vessels. It didn't last. The Spanish did not appreciate English competition in the slave trade. They attacked. Only two of the ships, those commanded by Hawkins and Drake, escaped. It left Drake with a lifelong hatred for the Spanish, and he would get his revenge many times over during the three decades which followed.

Rare Book Monthly

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    <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>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.

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