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>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.
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    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. $80,000 to $120,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. $200,000 to 300,000
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  • <b>Leland Little: Important Spring Auction. March 3, 2018</b>
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    <b>Leland Little: Important Spring Auction. March 3, 2018</b>
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    <b>Leland Little, Mar. 3:</b> Maurice Dufrène (French, 1876-1955), <i>Rayon des Soieries</i>. $400 to $800
    <b>Leland Little, Mar. 3:</b> William Pope.L (American, b. 1955), <i>Intimacy Project</i>. $2,000 to $4,000
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    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of several lots of Henri Cartier-Bresson gelatin silver prints, £200-300
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Vintage gelatin silver print of Diego Rivera by Leonard McCombe, £300-500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Julia Margaret Cameron of Sir John Herschel (April, 1867), £30,000-50,000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Julia Margaret Cameron, Love, 1864 (from the Norman album), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Lewis Carroll of Twyford School Eleven (Summer Term, 1859), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Lewis Carroll of Xie Kitchin as 'Dane' (Oxford, 1873), £500-800
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Calotype print (c1845) by Hill & Adamson of Lady Elizabeth (Rigby) Eastlake, £3000-4000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Group of 12 waxed paper negatives of Scottish scenes by Thomas Keith, mid-1850s, £3000-5000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of 15 lots of Roger Fenton salt prints of his work in the Crimea, mid-1850s, £400-600
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