This month we have our first catalogue from Foldvari Books, Catalogue 2013. Foldvari Books is located in Budapest, Hungary. Foldvari Books was founded by Zoltan Foldvari in 2007, joined by Lorant Szabo in 2011. They describe their specialties as modern art, literature, manuscripts, and philosophy. However, that is only of limited help in describing this catalogue as it goes well beyond those boundaries. Interestingly, we find several items of Americana in this selection, though these looks at America come from Europeans who undoubtedly brought a different perspective from those who lived in the land. This is not an extensive catalogue, containing only 21 items, but they are an interesting and varied lot, and Foldvari provides us with very thorough descriptions and illustrations. Here are a few of them.
We start with a piece of a strange tale of medical ignorance, theory trumping evidence. Item 17 is Zwei offene Briefe... von Dr. J. Ph. Semmelweis... published in 1861. Dr. Semmelweis had a bit of a difficult personality, and he did not have a good explanation for his findings. Nonetheless, he is known as the “savior of mothers” as he effected a dramatic decrease in the instance of often fatal puerperal fever during childbirth at the few hospitals who followed his teachings. His seemingly obvious recommendation was washing of hands before touching patients. This was in the days before Pasteur had proposed his germ theory of disease. Most physicians assumed that this fever was the result of many different conditions internal to the particular patient, rather than having a common cause that could be avoided by hand-washing. Indeed, physicians were considered “gentlemen” at the time, and everyone knew that a gentleman's hands were clean, making hand-washing unnecessary. Since Semmelweis could not explain why hand-washing worked, only that it did, most physicians ignored or ridiculed his teachings, despite the enormous reduction of puerperal fever in the hospitals he managed. Eventually, Semmelweis became more and more frustrated and mentally unstable. He attacked his fellow physicians in letters (not unreasonably), eventually being committed to an insane asylum by his wife and colleagues. He was beaten there and died two weeks later. This particular item is an open letter he wrote to his colleagues during the later stages of his career. Priced at €1,500 (euros or approximately $2,003 in U. S. dollars).
Here is a pamphlet on America's Indians by a most unlikely source, Australian, and soon to be Attorney General of New South Wales, Saxe Bannister. Bannister was an unusual fellow, dedicated to his job to such an extent his boss couldn't take him any longer. Bannister's item is titled Remarks on the Indians of North America, in a Letter to an Edinburgh Reviewer, published in 1822. Bannister deplored the “barbarous” treatment of America's natives by the settlers. As Attorney General of New South Wales, he would face similar issues concerning that nation's aboriginal natives. Still, he favored martial law to keep some small number of natives who had acted violently under control, though he was of the belief that this would not only protect Australian settlers, but the natives from themselves, leading to better conditions for all. The vehemence of his positions led to Bannister being replaced a few years later, and he then settled in England where he lived for another 50 years. Item 4. €2,000 (US $2,671).