Very Old and Rare Books from Martayan Lan
By Michael Stillman
The 36th catalogue of Martyan Lan of New York contains 246 rare books from the 15th to 19th centuries. Most of these works are European in origin, very old, and of considerable significance. Severable are incunables.
The catalogue is divided into sections suitable for different types of collections. The first topic is travel, geography and voyages, followed by the history of science. The latter is divided into astronomy; physics, mathematics and alchemy; and medicine, natural history and mining. Next it moves to arts and humanities, and finally two contemporary portraits, one of Sir Isaac Newton, the other of William Harvey.
For those who collect in these fields, we recommend locating a copy of this catalogue. Most of what you will find is not what you might expect. For example, under travel, geography and voyages, there are no Cooks or Lewis and Clarks. But, here is an incunable concerning the siege of Rhodes in 1480. Rhodes is a Greek island off the Turkish coast that has exchanged hands several times over the past few millennia. Early in the 14th century, control of the island fell to the Knights of St. John, or Knights of Rhodes (later known as the Knights of Malta when they were forced from Rhodes). Item 12 is Obsidionis Rhodie urbis descripto, by Guillaume Caoursin, a member of the Knights. It recounts the siege of 1480 when the Knights, with aid of fortifications, withstood a much larger Ottoman force under Mehmed (Mahomet) II. The Ottoman ruler died before attempting another siege, and the Christian Knights were able to maintain control until 1522, when Suleiman sent an overwhelming force to wrest control of the island for the Turks. It would so remain until the 20th century when recaptured by Europeans. Meanwhile, the Knights would move on to Malta, and continue today as a quasi-government without land. This title, published in 1482, recounts one of the high points of the Knights' long history. Priced at $22,500.
Giovanni Gemelli-Careri undertook one of the most remarkable trips around the world late in the 17th century. He had no ships, no crew. He went alone, availing himself of whatever transportation was available. He was not motivated by trade or missionary work, nor any particular scientific endeavors. He was essentially just a tourist, perhaps the first to complete such a trip around the world. His travels took Gemelli-Careri from his home in Naples to Malta, Egypt, Turkey, Persia, India, China, the Philippines, Mexico, South America, and Cuba. His travelogue, Giro de Mondo, would prove to be very popular and run to many editions. This is a first, six volumes published from 1699-1700. A century later, some would question whether Gemelli-Careri ever made this journey, but his descriptions of places like Mexico and India contain details it is unlikely he could have known without personally visiting the sites. Item 23. $17,000.