Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2007 Issue

<i>Exploring the Early Americas</i> on Exhibit at the Library of Congress

Columbus

A Columbus letter, on exhibit at the Library of Congress.


By Michael Stillman

An absolutely spectacular exhibition for those interested in printed and written Americana will be opening at the Library of Congress this month. If you will be in Washington, you must go. It is entitled Exploring the Early Americas, and they are dead serious about "early." Much of the featured material would have been considered antiquarian by the time the pilgrims arrived.

The focus is on material given the Library of Congress by Florida collector Jay Kislak. His collection included material pertaining to the southeastern part of what is now the United States, as well as Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. For example, there is a Totuguero Box, a Mayan wooden box that includes images and a carved inscription. It dates back to the seventh century. In other words, it was more ancient when Columbus arrived in the New World than Columbus' discovery of that world is today. However, we will concentrate on things more familiar to United States Americans.

The masterpiece of the Kislak collection must be the Columbus letter. This is one of the rare early copies of the report on the New World Columbus prepared for King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. He reports on the land and people he found, and naturally, that he claimed all of the territory for Spain. He was a diplomat as well as discoverer. This is a Latin translation published in 1493.

Not part of the Kislak collection, but an earlier purchase is the most important map in the history of America -- the 1507 Waldseemuller world map. This map contains the first reference to the New World as "America." It is likely that Waldseemuller's attaching this name to the land is why it stuck. Interestingly, in his next map, Waldseemuller dropped the "America" name, possibly because he later realized Columbus was the discoverer, not Amerigo, but by then it was too late. The Library of Congress' copy is the only known survivor of the 1507 "America" map.

George Washington was a regular diarist along with being the father of his country. On exhibit is his 1762 edition, partly a printed almanac, and partly blank pages he filled in. With the exception of the Revolutionary War years, Washington kept a diary from 1747 until he died in 1799. The Library of Congress now has 37 of the 41 he kept.

There is a letter to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V from Bishop Bartolome de Las Casas. The Spanish conquistadors were generally a brutal lot, killing and enslaving so many of the natives they found. De Las Casas was given a land grant in Santo Domingo, to which he traveled in 1502. He was appalled by the treatment of the natives he saw, and spent the rest of his life working to improve their lot. Like Washington, he is an American hero.

Of course there is much more on exhibit. The exhibition opens on December 13 in the Great Hall of the Thomas Jefferson Building. For those unable to go, there is an online version, found at http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/kislak/.

Rare Book Monthly

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    <b>Fonsie Mealy, May 2:</b> Extremely Fine Copy of Fantasy Classic. Tolkien (J.R.R.) <i>The Hobbit, or There and Back Again,</i> L. (George Allen & Unwin Ltd. Museum Street) 1937. €20,000 to €30,000
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    <b>Fonsie Mealy, May 2:</b> Original Book Illustrations by Pamela Leonard. Illustrations: Regan (Peter) Touchstone, 8vo D. (Mount Salas Press) 1989. €3,500 to €4,500
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    <b>Fonsie Mealy, May 2:</b> [Petit (Jean), Prevel (Jean) & Gregory (Pope)] [Gregorius]. <i>Compendium Textuale Compillationis decretalium Gregorri noni sine qua…</i>, Paris [Dec. 1524]. €350 to €500
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, May 2:</b> Excessively Rare – V. Fine Copy. [Mac Mahon]. <i>Jus Primatiale Armacanum, In Omnes Archiepiscopos, Episcopos, et Universum Clerum</i>… [n.p.] 1728. €750 to €1,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, May 2:</b> Madden (R.R.). <i>Travels in Turkey, Egypt, Nubia and Palestine in 1824, 1825, 1826 and 1827,</i> 2 vols. 1822. €500 to €700
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    <b>Fonsie Mealy, May 2:</b> Early English Herbal. Gerarde (John). The Herball or General History of Plants, thick folio L. (John Norton) 1597. €700 to €1,000
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    <b>Fonsie Mealy, May 2:</b> Natural History Specimens from Jersey Jersey Islands: Westacton [Mrs Acton] Collection of 53 original dried examples of Seaweed collected in Jersey, c. 1860. €300 to €400
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    <b>Fonsie Mealy, May 2:</b> Plyglot Bible: Hutteri (Eliae). <i>Biblia Sacra, Ebraice, Chaldaice, Graece, Latinae, Germanice, Sclavonice.</i> Lg. folio Nurimberg 1599. €250 to €350
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, May 2:</b> The American Invasion 1888: “First Ever G.A.A. Hurling Match in America” Medal: G.A.A., The Invaders, 1888. €2,000 to €3,000
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    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> William Morris, <i>The Story of the Glittering Plain or the Land of Living Men,</i> illustrated by Walter Crane, Kelmscott Press, Hammersmith, 1894. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustave Doré, <i>La Sainte Bible selon la Vulgate,</i> Tours, 1866. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustav Klimt & Max Eisler, <i>Eine Nachlese,</i> complete set, Vienna, 1931. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>Eric Allatini & Gerda Wegener, <i>Sur Talons Rouges,</i> with original watercolor by Wegener, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
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