Islands from Helen R. Kahn
By Michael Stillman
Helen R. Kahn and Associates have released their 79th catalogue: Islands. If you are thinking tropical paradise, perhaps they are, but more often not. Many items do pertain to Caribbean and Pacific islands, though conditions were perhaps a bit less idyllic in the days before Club Med. Natives weren't always friendly, many were used to produce crops on the back of slave labor, and often these islands were the subject of fighting between European powers. This just describes the islands with the potential to be paradise. Other islands can be found in places like the Arctic, where there are no warm beaches or cocktail hours, and other islands are so heavily populated it's hard to think of them as just an island, such as Japan. Let's open the pages and take a look at where some of these islands can be found.
We will start with one of the more pleasant journeys to visit numerous South Sea islands. It is A Voyage Around the World… In the Years 1766…1769. This is a first English edition (1772) of the voyage by the French explorer "Lewis" (Louis-Antoine) de Bougainville. Bougainville was sent to first turn over possession of the chilly Falkland Islands off of South America to the Spanish, but then traveled around the Horn and off to the South Pacific. He visited many islands, including Tahiti, Samoa, and the Solomon Islands, and his account did much to create the image of the "noble savage" in Europe. Bougainville's successful journey was the first circumnavigation by a French expedition. Item 12. Priced at $8,250.
Now here is one of those thoroughly awful island voyages: The Voyage of the Jeannette, the ship and ice journals of George W. De Long. Edited by his wife, Emma De Long, a first American edition published in 1884. This was an exploration commissioned by the U.S. Navy, intended to find a route to the North Pole. It set out from San Francisco in 1879, but the ship got trapped in ice in the Bering Sea and the men had to escape in three small boats. Only one of the boats was rescued. A second was lost at sea, while the third, carrying De Long, made it to the Siberian coast. Unfortunately, there was no one there to greet them, and outside of two men sent off to find help, the men who made it Siberia all died awaiting rescue. That is why De Long's notes, when later found, had to be edited by his wife, who also used accounts of some of the survivors to present the story of this tragic journey. Item 23. $1,200.
There is a certain amount of irony to item 6: The Canary Islands. Their History, Natural History, and Scenery. An Account of an Ornithologist's Camping Trips in the Archipelago. This ornithologist's work includes much on the birdlife of the islands, which many would think quite appropriate for the "Canary" Islands. However, the islands were not named for canaries or any other sort of birds. They were named for dogs (think "canine"), which are, for whatever reason, highly esteemed on the islands. The author of this 1922 book was David Bannerman. $350.