Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - November - 2010 Issue

Science and its Development from B & L Rootenberg Rare Books

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Science, natural history and more from B & L Rootenberg.


By Michael Stillman

B & L Rootenberg Rare Books has published their 12th catalogue, Fine Books. Science, Medicine, Natural History, and Early Printing. This is not a catalogue to find fiction, at least not intentional fiction. Time may have turned much of what people once believed from fact to fantasy, but these works represent man (and woman's) search for knowledge in a time when so much of what everyone knows today was still a mystery. These are the books that led us from darkness to light, the steps that made today's understanding of the world possible. These books are us.

Anyone who has ever watched a train whiz by is familiar with the Doppler effect. However, Doppler's discovery has been used for far more than simply telling when a train has passed you. The shift in the frequency of sound waves also applies to radio and light rays, enabling the effect to be used to determine the movement of stars, the rotation of the sun, and more recently such things as weather radar. Item 35 is a May 1842 publication containing Johan Doppler's paper explaining his discovery, Ueber das farbige licht der doppelsterne und einiger anderer Gestirne des himmels. Priced at $16,500.

Christian Huygens was one of the leading scientists of the 17th century. He studied the cosmos, developed the pendulum clock, enunciated the wave theory of light, and much more. Item 63 is a more speculative though fascinating work of Huygens, the 1698 first edition in English of The celestial worlds discover'd: or, conjectures concerning the inhabitants, plants and productions of the worlds in the planets. Huygens believed that in the Copernican world, where the earth was no longer believed to be the center of the universe, there was no reason to believe life on earth should be something special. Therefore, he reasoned, there must be similar life on the other planets. Of course we now realize this is not true - that drastically different climates mean there is no life remotely similar to our own on our solar system's other planets. However, we are now starting to discover planets circling other stars whose position in their solar systems could mean a similar climate, and so once again we are wondering whether Huygens' logic may yet hold. $16,000.

The most popular book enunciating a theory of evolution in the 19th century was not written by Charles Darwin. It was, instead, a book published in 1844, 15 years ahead of Darwin, titled Vestiges of the natural history of creation. It was published anonymously, as well might a book bound to generate controversy. Its author was the publisher, phrenologist and geologist Robert Chambers. Chambers had viewed the fossil history and concluded that God had not made the world's creatures exactly as they are today. He realized that species had come and gone, and changed along the way. Chambers did not come up with the right mechanism, natural selection, which is why his contribution has faded while Darwin remains influential (and controversial) to this day. He believed that God had created natural laws, and it was through those laws that species changed, rather than through some type of personal Divine intervention. As it turned out, Darwin had developed his own theory of evolution at the same time, but fearing controversy, decided to sit on it while building an airtight case, while Chambers was willing to write (anonymously) on his theories without first gathering all of the details. Item 27 is a copy of the first edition of Vestiges along with a first edition of Chambers 1845 follow-up Explanations: A sequel to "Vestigies of the natural history of creation," which answered some of the objections to his work. $6,500.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <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>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>Aurora Australis.</i> Printed at the sign of 'The Penguins'; East Antarctica, 1908. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>South Polar Times.</i> 1st edition, limited issue. from the library of Michael Barne. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> General Washington's <i>Proceedings of a General Court Martial... of Major General Lee.</i> Philiadelphia, 1778. 100 copies printed for Congress. BOUND WITH: ...Court Martial... of St Clair and ...Schuyler. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>The Voice of the People.</i> Boston, 1754. Rare pamphlet on the Excise Tax. Nathaniel Sparhawk's copy. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens"), offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing, 5 pp, 1881. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> After Fra Egnazio Danti. <i>L'Ultime Parti not:e nel Indie Occid:ntli" [The last known parts of the Western Indies].</i> Painted Map of California, Western Mexico, and Japan. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Ptolemaeus, Claudius. <i>Geographie opus nouissima...</i> 1513. The most important edition of Ptolemy, containing the Admiral's Map. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> De Arellano, Don Alonso. Manuscript, his <i>"Relación mui singular y circunstanciada... Capitán del Patax San Lucas,"</i> manuscript copy from the Sir Thomas Phillips collection. $50,000 to $80,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Purchas, Samuel. <i>Purchas his Pilgrimes.</i> First edition. With John Simth's engraved map of Virginia. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Lewis, Meriwether. Contemporary manuscript true copy of his final power of attorney, 1809. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practiced at Boston in North America.</i> Mezzotint. London, 1774. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>Scientific Base Ball Pitching: A Treatise on the Pitcher, Pitching, Origin and Philosophy of the Curve.</i> Chicago, 1897. $2,000 to $3,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Franklin H. Brown, <i>State Sovereignty, National Union,</i> Chicago, 1860. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b><br>The Aitken Bible, Philadelphia, 1781. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francisco Loubayssin de Lamarca, probable first edition of the first novel set in the Spanish New World, Paris, 1617. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Juan de la Anunciación, <i>Sermonario en lengua mexicana,</i> first edition, first book of sermons in Nahuatl, Mexico, 1577. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Maturino Gilberti, <i>Thesoro spiritual en lengua de Mechuacá,</i> first edition, Mexico, 1558. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Commission of William O. Stoddard as secretary to the president, signed by Lincoln, Washington, 1861. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> <i>Clay and Frelinghuysen,</i> flag banner, circa 1844. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Daguerreotype of a man believed to be Frederick Granger Williams Smith, son of Joseph Smith, circa late 1850s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> John C. Wolfe, <i>Portrait of Abraham Lincoln,</i> oil on board in period wooden frame, circa 1860s. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Family letters from two young daguerreotype artists, 1826-79. $10,000 to $15,000.

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