Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - January - 2014 Issue

Patrick McGahern Books Offers Spectacular Collection of North West Passage and Franklin Search Material

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The Franklin and North West Passage Searches.

Patrick McGahern Books of Ottawa has released a catalogue dedicated to a spectacular collection of a specific subject: The Bertram Plimer Franklin & North West Passage Rare Book Collection. Mr. McGahern describes it this way: “While these kinds of claims are nearly always too grand or wrong or even silly, still it has to be said that this, to date, is the greatest collection of rare books on Franklin search and the North West Passage.” It includes books McGahern describes as once in a lifetime, and some so rare most do not know they exist. Some do not even show up in standard bibliographies, making this more than just a catalogue but a bibliography of sorts. It contains 462 items, all related to Franklin, the North West Passage, or an occasional one with other Arctic connections.

 

Bertram Plimer was a freelance cameraman and film maker operating his own production company. He traveled with several Canadian prime ministers and met numerous world leaders through the course of his career. Mr. Plimer died in 2009 at the age of 81. Patrick McGahern noted that Mr. Plimer began frequenting his store in 1973. They became good friends and McGahern helped him find many of the books, but still was amazed when he discovered just how extensive the collection was. The result is a catalogue he describes as “beyond rare.”

 

The North West Passage, one of the subjects of this collection, is the elusive sea route from Europe to Asia north of Canada, through the Arctic Ocean. In the days before the Panama Canal, the shortest route from England to East Asia meant circling all the way south of South America, through the treacherous Strait of Magellan. The distance could be reduced enormously if one could sail almost due west through the Arctic Ocean. However, various islands and, naturally enough, ice made finding such a route an immense challenge. That did not stop explorers from taking up the challenge, nor England from offering for centuries great rewards to whomever found it. It would not be until the opening of the Panama Canal early in the 20th century that the need for such a route would diminish. Today, exploration of the area is readily accomplished and while such a route was eventually found, there is no route that is practical for a significant amount of commercial shipping. The season, if there is one, is too short to be of much use, though melting of Arctic ice may make it somewhat more practical in the future.

 

One of those who attempted to find such a route was Rear-Admiral Sir John Franklin. Franklin led several Arctic expeditions, the last an 1845 search for a North West Passage from which he never returned. His disappearance was a mystery. It resulted in one of the largest manhunts in British naval history. After the British began to lose hope, Franklin's widow commissioned several expeditions on her own to find her missing husband. It would not be until over a decade later that artifacts from the Franklin expedition would be found. They revealed that he had become trapped in ice, and with limited supplies, the men attempted to escape over ice and land. Unfortunately, they all succumbed to the elements and starvation before finding civilization.

 

Now, we will take a look at just a few of the many items to be found in this catalogue/bibliography.

 

One of those who came closest to finding a North West Passage over the years was William Parry. He led an expedition in 1819 that continued where Ross had turned back and made it farther west than any before. They were aided by it being an unusually mild year. Still, the ice came, and they were forced to winter over. Parry showed that it was possible to survive winter in the far north, so as to be prepared to continue when the next summer finally melted some of the ice again. However, they were not freed from the winter ice until the following August, and after proceeding a bit father west, they realized they needed to turn around and head home before it was too late. Parry would make two more attempts to find a passage, with less success, but he also made an assault on the North Pole which, while also not successful, did take him farther north than anyone had traveled before. Item 323 is Parry's account of his first voyage, Journal of a Voyage of Discovery of a North-West Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific: performed in the years 1819-20...under the orders of William Edward Parry... published in 1821. Priced at $1,500.

 

For all of the unsuccessful attempts to find a North West Passage, to this day no commercially viable route to be found, it is surprising that more people did not reach the logical conclusion expressed by the anonymous writer “Scrutator” in 1824. His reasonably titled book is The Impracticability of a North-West Passage for Ships, Impartially Considered. He reached the obvious conclusion that there was simply too much ice in the Arctic Ocean for there to be a practical route to the east that far north. Item 419. $5,000.

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>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, wallpaper sample book, circa 1919. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Archive from a late office of the Breuer & Smith architectural team, New York, 1960-70s. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> William Morris, <i>The Story of the Glittering Plain or the Land of Living Men,</i> illustrated by Walter Crane, Kelmscott Press, Hammersmith, 1894. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustave Doré, <i>La Sainte Bible selon la Vulgate,</i> Tours, 1866. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustav Klimt & Max Eisler, <i>Eine Nachlese,</i> complete set, Vienna, 1931. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>Eric Allatini & Gerda Wegener, <i>Sur Talons Rouges,</i> with original watercolor by Wegener, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>C.P. Cavafy, <i>Fourteen Poems,</i> illustrated & signed by David Hockney, London, 1966. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jean Midolle, <i>Spécimen des Écritures Modernes...</i>, Strasbourg, 1834-35. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>E.A. Seguy, <i>Floréal: Dessins & Coloris Nouveaux,</i> Paris, 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <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. SOLD for $131,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. SOLD for $516,500
    <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. SOLD for $106,250
    <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on 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. SOLD for $16,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. SOLD for $275,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. SOLD for $118,750
  • <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> E.H. SHEPARD, Original drawing for A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner.<br>$40,000-60,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> BERNARD RATZER, Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767. $80,000-100,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph letter signed comparing Logan, Tecumseh, and Little Turtle to the Spartans. Monticello: 15 February 1821. $14,000-18,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN C. FREMONT, Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in the Year 1842.. Abridged edition, the only one containing the folding map From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ZANE GREY, Album containing 94 large format photographs of Grey and party at Catalina Island, Arizona, and fishing in the Pacific. From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $5,000-$8,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> WILLIAM COMBE, A History of Madeira ... illustrative of the Costumes, Manners, and Occupations of the Inhabitants. produced by Ackermann in 1821; From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ERIC TAVERNER, Salmon Fishing... One of 275 copies signed by Taverner, published in 1931,From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN WHITEHEAD, Exploration of Mount Kina Balu, North Borneo. Whitehead reached the high point of Kinabalu in 1888. Part of a major group of travel books from the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN LONG, Voyages and Travels of an Indian Interpreter and Trader, describing the Manners and Customs of the North American Indians... The first edition of 1791. $3,000-$5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> SAMUEL BECKETT, Stirrings Still. This, Beckett’s last work of fiction with original lithographs by Le Brocquy, limited to 200 copies signed by the author and the artist. From the Estate of Howard Kaminsky.. $1,500-$2,500

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