Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - January - 2018 Issue

The Arctic from Patrick McGahern Books



One thing you can count on from Canadian bookseller Patrick McGahern Books is catalogues that are cool. Actually, more than that – they are cold. This is true of their number 261, Arctica. It is filled with explorations and other visits to the land of endless winter. Even when the sun shines 24 hours a day, it is cold. And yet, people continued to make the trek, or voyage, to these far northern lands in the 19th century, long before reliable winter heating, supplies, or transportation could be counted upon. Here are a few of their tales, and other items from the Arctic.


It was long a hope of the British to find a Northwest Passage, a shorter route to Asia that did not require going all the way around the southern tip of South America or Africa. It was an elusive goal. The early attempts were made heading west, through Hudson Bay. By the 17th century, reports were that no such route existed. After a century of discouragement, they tried again. Item 13 is an account of the 18th century attempt, under the leadership of Capt. William Moor, A Voyage to Hudson's-Bay, by the Dobbs Galley and California, in the Years 1746 and 1747, for discovering a North West Passage... This account was written by the hydrographer and surveyor, Henry Ellis, and published in 1748. The expedition proved conclusively that there was no route through Hudson Bay, discouraging further investigations for almost another century, when explorers began looking for a more northerly route. Ellis' book also provides much information about the area, particularly the native population, of which little was known at the time. Priced at CA $2,000 (Canadian dollars, or approximately $1,554 in U. S. dollars).


John Ross led one of the early attempts to find a Northwest Passage in the 19th century by traveling well north of Hudson Bay. His account can be found in A Voyage of Discovery made under the Orders of the Admiralty, in His Majesty's Ships Isabella and Alexander, for the purpose of Exploring Baffin's Bay, and Inquiring into the probability of a North West Passage, published in 1819. Ross rediscovered Baffin Bay and confirmed the reports of William Baffin's discovery two centuries earlier. However, when he attempted to continue west through Lancaster Sound north of Baffin Island, he was turned back by a range of mountains. Or at least he thought he was. Ross named them the "Crocker Mountains," but unless you visit under the right atmospheric conditions, you will not see these mountains. They were but a mirage. Others on the trip so informed Ross, but he was unconvinced and returned to England. The result was that the admiralty never gave him another command. Ross sailed to the Arctic waters twice more, but these times under private sponsorship. Item 50. CA $7,500 (US $5,828).


Item 49 is an autograph document signed by Sir John Ross. It may be a little hard to decipher unless you read Swedish. Ross served as British Consul to Stockholm from 1839-1846. That was a good place to serve for someone who appreciated cold weather as much as Ross evidently did. It lists some stolen items, including gold, silver and china, and their values. It was signed by Ross in 1839. CA $150 (US $116).


Item 59 is Travel and Adventure in the Territory of Alaska, formerly Russian America – Now Ceded to the United States – and in various other parts of the North Pacific. This is a publisher's presentation copy of the first edition, published in 1868, of a book written by Frederick Whymper. Alaska may have been U.S. territory when the book was completed, but not when Whymper arrived. Whymper was part of the Russian-American Overland Telegraph Expedition of 1865-1866. That is itself an odd story. When the initial attempt to run a telegraph cable from America to Europe under the Atlantic failed, Western Union got the idea to take a route that required fewer miles underwater. The route from America to Europe requiring the shortest distance underwater runs from Alaska to Siberia. Unfortunately, it also requires far more overland coverage through some very harsh climates. The route ran from San Francisco through Oregon and Washington, British Columbia, Russian Alaska, under the Bering Sea, across Siberia, and on to Moscow. From there it could hook up with existing cables east to Europe. However, the plan was abandoned when a cable was run successfully under the Atlantic. Nevertheless, Whymper got to see Alaska, including its takeover by America, the Yukon, and eastern Russia. CA $450 (US $349).


There was a way to see the north without enduring the hardships and cold. You could view this two-hour illustrated lecture – All about Alaska the Klondike Gold Fields and the Wonderful Talking Machine. Item 5 is a large broadside on pink paper which featured the machine that "Talks Laughs Plays Sings." Today we would call it a phonograph, but in 1898, before the Victor Talking Machine Company started producing the machines for the public, this was still an amazing invention. As the poster explains, "The reproduction of the voice in either song or speech is so natural and the articulation so distinct that anyone would believe it a human being except that they knew the difference, and its reproduction of instrumental music is phenomenal." It continues, "Special arrangements have been made for magnifying the sound, so that all may hear the entire concert while comfortably seated in any part of the hall." These were the days before electronic amplification, so they had to use the technology of a megaphone to make the sound heard. Meanwhile, "50 Magnificent Views" would be "Projected from the Magic Lantern." We have come a long way in a relatively short period of time. This poster has room to add the date, place, and price of the performance but they have not been filled in. CA $900 (US $699).


Patrick McGahern Books may be reached at 613-230-2277 or books@mcgahernbooks.ca. Their website is www.mcgahernbooks.ca.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Jenner (Rev. George Charles). <i>The Evidence at Large...Respecting Dr Jenner's Discovery of Vaccine Inoculation,</i> presentation copy from Edward Jenner to Rev. Rowland Hill, 1805. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Houdini (Harry).- Maggi (Girolamo). <i>De tintinnabulis liber postumus...de equuleo liber,</i> Harry Houdini's copy, Amsterdam, H. Wetstein, 1689. £600 to £800
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Meyer (Henry Leonard). Coloured Illustrations of British Birds, and their Eggs , 7 vol. in 2 plus Illustrations of British Birds, 4 vol., 1842-50 and [1835-51]. £5,000 to £7,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Dickens (Charles). <i>An Entirely New Romantic Drama, in Three Acts, by Mr. Wilkie Collins, called The Frozen Deep,</i> 1857. £3,000 to £4,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Lighthouses and Islands of Ireland, c. 125 drawings, 1867. £6,000 to £8,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Shelley (Lady Jane). Diary, 1853 & 1860. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Scottish Binding.- The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, bound in contemporary brown polished calf decorated with the figure of a Chinese spearman, by ?James Scott of Edinburgh, 1778. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Greene (Graham). <i>The Man Within,</i> first edition, signed by the author, 1929. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Mellan (Claude, 1598-1688). The Holy Face, or the Veil of St Veronica, [c. 1649 and later]. £800 to £1,200
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Desaguliers (John Theophilus). <i>A Dissertation concerning Electricity,</i> W. Innys, and T. Longman, 1742. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Le Jeune (Paul). <i>Relation de se qui s'est passé en la Nouvelle France en l'anné 1636 enuoyée au R.Pere Provincial de la Compagnie de Iesus en la Province de France,</i> 1637. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Stumpf (Johann Rudolph). <i>Gemeiner loblicher Eydgnoschafft Stetten, Landen und Völckern Chronicwirdiger thaaten beschreibung, </i> Zurich, Froschauer, 1586. £3,000 to £4,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> George Washington, Letter Signed to General James Clinton, preparing for the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign, 1778. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising to send reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Thomas Edison, Autograph Letter Signed, to Western Union President William Orton, 1878. $10,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> William, Bishop of Coventry, vellum charter granting the church of Rochdale to the Cistercian Abbey of Stanlaw, in Latin, 1222. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> FDR, Photograph Signed & Inscribed, framed with wood removed from the White House roof, 1927. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Jean Dubuffet, archive including many letters written while painting in NYC, 1951-72. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Mohandas K. Gandhi, Autograph Letter Signed, describing the source of his patience, 1939. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Lithograph portrait of Albert Einstein by Hermann Struck, signed by both, 1923. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Charles The Bold, Duke of Burgundy, Letter Signed to Johann IV of Nassau, in French, 1470. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Jean Cocteau, Autograph Letter Signed, in French, 1919. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Louis Armstrong, two Autograph Letters Signed to Erich Kauffmann, his lip salve purveyor, 1965-70. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Wernher von Braun, Autograph Letter Signed to Jonathan Cross, 1975. $5,000 to $7,500.
  • <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. 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. $80,000 to $120,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. $100,000 to $150,000
    <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. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. 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. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. $200,000 to 300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. $80,000 to $120,000
  • <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>

Review Search

Archived Reviews

Ask Questions