Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - December - 2015 Issue

Travels from Shapero Rare Books

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Travel books.

Shapero Rare Books has released a catalogue of Travel 2015. It has been neatly indexed by geographic area, but it isn't necessary to list them. In looking them over, I can't find a single place to which we have traveled not included except the moon. That can be explained by these being older books, from a time long before space travel. There is one notable topic here different from the others. Ten of the books come from the library of British explorer James Bruce and his family. Bruce was the earliest to seek the source of the Nile, setting out on his journey in the 18th century. He thought he had it, but what he found was the source of the Blue Nile. Most people today consider the White Nile the dominant branch. Here are a few examples of items to be found in this collection of travels.

 

We begin with the account of James Bruce's major journey, Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile, in the Years 1768...1773 (not Bruce's copy). Europeans had known literally for millennia where the Nile ended, but not where it began. Bruce had a theory, which involved partially traveling up the river, but then a lengthy detour to avoid hostile tribes. It eventually took him to Ethiopia, and then overland to where he suspected the source would be. As noted before, he did find the source of the Nile, just the wrong one. His account was finally published in 1790. Item 32. Priced at £6,500 (British pounds, or approximately $10,017 in U.S. dollars).

 

Next up we have one of those books from Bruce's library, and it is particularly notable as it connects him to the other great journey taking place at the same time. Item 6 is An account of the voyages for making discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere, and successively performed by Commodore Byron, Captain Wallis, Captain Carteret and Captain Cook... This 1773 set covers the voyages of several explorers, but the most notable was the most recent, by Captain Cook. John Hawkesworth was tasked with writing the official account of Cook's first voyage, from 1768-1771, while Bruce was searching for the Nile. Cook was sent out to observe the transit of Venus, but the British were equally interested in learning more about the mostly uncharted South Pacific. He did much charting of the Australian and New Zealand coasts, as well as other islands, and prepared for his second voyage which would bring an end to the long-held myth of a gigantic southern continent. £8,500 (US $13,113).

 

It took almost a century after Bruce to discover the source of the main branch of the Nile. Richard Burton and John Speke had set out on a journey together in Africa to locate some reported inland lakes. Finding the source of the Nile was not a specific goal, though they surely hoped to unravel the mystery. It was a terrible trip, both men becoming very ill. Burton reached a point where he could no longer walk and had to be carried. Speke became temporarily blind. Burton was forced to turn back while Speke continued. He reached Lake Victoria, and concluded this was the source of the Nile. He described his discovery in this book, published in 1863: Journal of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile. Burton disagreed. The disagreement became more personal than geographical. Speke returned in 1863 on another mission without Burton. This time he came back with sufficient evidence to convince most, though not Burton. A debate was scheduled between the two, but the day before it was to happen, Speke shot and killed himself while hunting. Most believe it was an accident, but others believe it was intentional, Speke not wanting to face Burton. Perhaps Speke was not as good a debater as Burton, whose explorations and writings far exceeded Speke's. Nonetheless, it was Speke who was right about the source of the Nile. Item 61. £1,250 (US $1,928).

 

Item 156 is an account of triumph, quickly followed by tragedy, and a century and a half of controversy. It was just 150 years ago this past July that the Matterhorn was finally scaled for the first time. There were seven climbers, led by 25-year-old Edward Whymper, with a couple of professional mountain guides, and others ranging from experienced to complete amateur climbers. For Whymper, the success came after eight unsuccessful attempts. He describes them all in Scrambles amongst the Alps in the years 1860-1869, published in 1871. The peak was reached on July 14, 1865. Triumph quickly turned to tragedy on the descent. The seven were roped together, Whymper last, the two guides just ahead of him, the other four ahead of the guides. When one of the four slipped, he knocked over the second. As they slid they pulled the next two men. All seven likely would have fallen to their deaths had the rope not broken between the four and the guides. The last three survived, but the first four fell to their deaths. The controversy debated for all these years is why there was a weak rope between the guides and the others, some accusing the guides of using it to save themselves in case of a fall by the others. Others explained the use of a weak rope saying the better rope had been cut by Whymper earlier to free himself so he could rush to the top first, leaving the guides no choice but to use the weaker rope. Most likely, it was just a terrible tragedy. £1,500 (US $2,317).

 

Afghanistan has never been kind to foreign armies. What the Americans learned in the 21st century, the Russians in the 20th, the British learned in the 19th. They undertook three wars in Afghanistan. This next item comes from a lull during the first. Fearing Russian incursions in Afghanistan, which might lead to an attack on British India, the English overthrew the Afghan ruler, setting up one more acquiescent to their own interests. Having seized Kabul, the British then removed most of their troops, leaving behind a compound of 16,000 of their people, around one-quarter of them soldiers, in Kabul. James Atkinson was a surgeon and artist, who accompanied the army to Kabul. During his time there, Atkinson drew his Sketches of Afghanistan. It comes across as a beautiful land. He returned to India with the troop reduction, and it turned out to be a most fortunate move. The overthrown forces in Afghanistan began to regain control from the unpopular British sponsored government. Kabul became a dangerous place for the British. They negotiated safe passage out of Kabul, but as they crossed snowbound high mountain passes, the Afghans attacked. Only a handful of the 16,000 made it back. Atkinson's book was published in 1842, the same year that so many of his countrymen he left behind died attempting to escape. Item 66. £5,000 (US $7,724).

 

Shapero Rare Books may be reached at +44 207 493 0876 or rarebooks@shapero.com. Their website is www.shapero.com.

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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