50 Fine Books from Bernard J. Shapero Rare Books
By Michael Stillman
Bernard J. Shapero Rare Books has issued their catalogue of 50 Fine Books 2010. Shapero often publishes catalogues of "50s," thoroughly described and illustrated collections focused on 50 notable items. With over 100 pages and numerous glossy color images for such a small number of items, you can expect they will be out of the ordinary. They are. Here are some of these latest top 50 items from Shapero Rare Books.
Item 10 is an amazing set of books for any Egyptologist or person fascinated by this land with a history longer than just about any other. It is written in French, as one might expect of a work commissioned by Napoleon: Description de l'Egypte ou recueil des observations et des reserches qui ont ete faites en Egypte pendant l'expedition de Vivant Denon, 23 volumes published from 1809-1813. Vivant Denon was a pre-Republic French diplomat who managed to escape the worst of the revolution and who focused on art and archeology after the horrors of that period ended. He was engaged in a mission to Egypt on behalf of Napoleon from 1798-1801. The French Emperor planned to colonize Egypt, and as part of that plan wanted to know everything possible about the land, from its ancient history to its natural science to its current state. The result is this massive work documenting everything this four-year mission was able to learn. Napoleon's intentions for Egypt never quite worked out as planned, but the work he ordered provided history with an enormous wealth of information about the land anyway. Priced at £115,000 (British pounds, or approximately $165,686 in U.S. currency).
Item 27 is a set of four first editions from the great 19th century Arctic explorer William Parry: Journal of a voyage for the discovery of a North-West Passage... (1821) with Journal of a second voyage... (1824), with Journal of a third voyage... (1826) along with his Narrative of an attempt to reach the North Pole... (1828). Strikingly, Parry failed to reach his goal in all four missions. He never found a Northwest Passage, and he never reached the North Pole. Nonetheless, he is remembered as a great and brave explorer, coming closer to reaching his goals than anyone before him, and there would be many more failed attempts before these goals were finally achieved almost a century later. Parry went as far west as he could in seeking the passage, and his farthest point west would later be viewed by a mission heading west to east, though the route was blocked by ice. It established that there was a passage unblocked by land, though it would take warmer weather to make it passable. As for his North Pole mission, while not reaching the pole, Parry traveled farther north than anyone before him nor for half a century after. £8,000 ($11,512).
Here is the collection of another explorer who completed three voyages to the same place. Well, not entirely the same place, as James Cook visited different locations on his three voyages, but each was a journey from England to the Pacific Rim and islands. Along the way he did much of the mapping of Australia, determined there was no massive southern continent, discovered Hawaii, and surveyed the west coast of North America. And, like Parry, he unsuccessfully sought to find the Northwest Passage. Offered is a set of second editions of the official accounts of the three voyages, including the illustration of Cook's death in the third volume, along with a first edition of Andrew Kippis' A voyage to the Pacific Ocean. Item 11. £37,500 (US $54,067).