Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - November - 2006 Issue

Twenty-five Major American Items in William Reese's 250th Catalogue

Reese250

William Reese Catalogue 250 with a Catesby illustration on the cover.


By Michael Stillman

The William Reese Company has now issued its 250th catalogue. In a note, William Reese recalls that he began selling books 31 years ago, and issued his first catalogue 26 years past. Reese points out, "In that time many extraordinary books and manuscripts have passed through my hands." That is a serious understatement. Reese has long been noted for handling the most important and collectible of printed, written and ephemeral Americana. His catalogues match the quality of his offerings, including thorough descriptions of the items offered and explanations of where they fit historically. A Reese catalogue is an education in American history.

Reese notes that his catalogue 250 includes "some of the most important and interesting [items] that I have had the pleasure of owning." While a sizable catalogue, this one contains just 25 items. They are, as Reese says, very important works. These are some of the most significant pieces of Americana available in private hands. Those who collect at the very highest level, or manage significant institutional collections, will find these 25 items worthy of serious consideration. Here are some of the works being offered.

Item 12 is De Moluccis Insulis... by Maximilianus Transylvanus. For those not up on Latin, this is the first printed account of Magellan's circumnavigation of the globe, the first trip ever around the world. Magellan sadly never actually made it around the world himself. He departed Spain in 1519 with five ships and 265 men. By the time the expedition returned in 1522, there was only one ship and 18 men left. Magellan was not one of them. The expedition sailed east, crossing what is now known as the Straits of Magellan below South America, and into a vast, uncharted, and calm ocean he labeled the "Pacific." He made it as far as the Philippines, which he had visited earlier traveling from the other direction, but was killed by natives. After the survivors returned, Maximilianus, a student at the time, was assigned by his teacher, the chronicler Peter Martyr, the task of interviewing the survivors and writing an account of their voyage. This is his account, and it is a first edition, published in Cologne in January 1523. Priced at $675,000.

Item 6 is a most interesting letter. It is one of recommendation from Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain, to Hernan Cortes, Spanish Conquistador who captured Mexico and destroyed the Aztec empire. Cortes had a testy relationship with the Spanish court, which appreciated his conquests, but frequently had a dim view of his personality. This letter of recommendation from Charles to Cortes contains some unusually strong language, as if the King needed to make clear to his subject that he was to follow the King's wishes. The letter to Cortes, as Governor of New Spain, dated August 19, 1524, is on behalf of one Gonzalo Ocampo. Ocampo would likely have hand carried this recommendation and handed it to Cortes. In it, the King demands, "...I command and charge you that, in all things pertaining to him, you shall regard him as recommended and will help and favor him and grant him appointments in your service, appropriate to his person, that he may be benefited; for in this I shall be well served." It is signed, "I, the King." Not much room for misunderstanding here. It is not clear who Ocampo is, but there was a Gonzalo de Ocampo serving directly under Francisco de Garay in Mexico in 1523. De Garay was a rival Cortes successfully neutralized, but perhaps this association required a forceful recommendation on his part. There was also a Gonzalo de Ocampo active in South America during the 1520s, though I cannot tell whether this is the same person. $75,000.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Announcing a new Books for Sale platform hosted by Biblio</b>
    <b>List your books simultaneously on Rare Book Hub and Biblio</b>
  • <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Exodus 10:10 to 16:15. Complete Biblical scroll sheet in Hebrew, a Torah scroll panel. Middle East, ca. 10th or 11th century.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Copernicus Refuted. (Astronomy.). Scientific manuscript of a course of studies at Collège de la Trinité, Lyon. 1660s.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Israel’s War of Independence and the Early Days of the IDF. 58 photographs presented to Israel Ber, IDF officer and later convicted spy.
    <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Early Unpublished Darwin letter on the races of man. Autograph Letter Signed [to Henry Denny]. Down, Kent, June 1, [1844].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Classic Image of American Slavery. Kimball, M. H. <i>Emancipated Slaves</i>. New York: George Hanks, 1863.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> (Underground Railroad.) Scaggs, Isaac. Important Runaway Slave Poster: $500 Reward Ran away, or decoyed from the subscriber…
  • <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Newton. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica</i>. London, 1687.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Josephus. <i>De antiquitate Judaica.</i> Lubeck, 1475-76.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Carlerius. <i>Sporta fragmentorum, Sportula fragmentorum</i>. Brussels, 1478-79.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Fridolin. <i>Der Schatzbehalter</i>. Nuremberg, 1491.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Pinder. <i>Der beschlossen gart des rosenkrantz marie</i>. Nuremberg, 1505.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Isidorus Hispalensis. <i>Synonyma de Homine</i>. Nuremberg, 1470-71.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Durer. Sammelband including <i>Underweysung der messing</i>. Nuremberg, 1525-29.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 19: 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28: Printed & Manuscript Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 5: African-American Fine Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 17: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 19:<br>Art & Storytelling: Photographs & Photobooks</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 26: Rare & Important Travel Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 2:<br>Old Master Through Modern Prints</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 7: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14: 19th & 20th Century Literature</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 16: Contemporary Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:<br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14: Illustration Art</b>

Review Search

Archived Reviews

Ask Questions