Travels and Voyages from Maggs Bros.
By Michael Stillman
We recently received our first catalogue from the venerable Maggs Bros. Ltd. of London, though it is number 1397 in their long-running series. Maggs Bros. is one of the oldest and most celebrated of bookselling firms in the world. In the field of bookselling, the firm is a legend. So are many of their catalogues. For example, their "Bibliotheca Americana" catalogues from the 1920s are among the resources in the Americana Exchange's database of records, as they are major bibliographic resources in the field of Americana to this day. Rather amazing considering Maggs is located in Britain.
Catalogue 1397 is entitled Travel and Voyages, a topic Maggs has visited many times over the years. While many of the better known travelers or their scribes make an appearance, names such Hakluyt, Burton, Livingstone, and Magellan (Maximilianus), there are also many with less familiar names but equally exciting tales. Those who collect within the field of Americana will particularly note names such as Catlin, Crevecoeur, Abbe Domenech, Schoolcraft, and the widow Elizabeth Custer. There is even Exquemelin's story of pirates of the Caribbean in the late 17th century.
Maggs breaks down their travels by region or subject for convenience. Here is what they cover: Africa; Big Game Hunting; Middle East and Arabia; India, Central Asia and Far East; Pacific and Australasia; South America; West Indies and Central America; North America; and Polar Exploration. Here are a few samples of what is available.
We will start with what may be the most important voyage of all -- Magellan's first circumnavigation of the globe. Magellan set out in 1519 with five ships and 265 men. By the time the expedition returned in 1522, there was only one boat and 18 men left. Magellan was not one of them, having been killed by natives in the Philippines. Consequently, there was no official account by the skipper. However, when the survivors were taken to King Charles V to report on their mission, they were interviewed by Peter Martyr. Martyr in turn had his student, Transylvanus Maximilianus, hear their accounts. Maximilianus wrote up this report and sent it to his father, an archbishop, who had the letter published. This was how the world learned of the first circumnavigation. Item 146 is Maximiliani Transyuani Caesaris a Secretis Epistola..., the fourth edition of this report (all were identical) published in 1524, a year following the first edition. Priced at £12,500 (British pounds, or US equivalent of approximately $24,569).
David Livingstone is perhaps the most famous of all African explorers. His 19th century journeys into darkest Africa and the eventual search by Stanley to find him are among the greatest of adventure stories. In 1864, a young man named Edmund Wills wrote Livingstone a letter asking if he could participate in his next expedition. "I am 21 years of age have a strong constitution...and having a strong desire to become an African explorer, have been tempted to make this application to you..." writes Wills. Livingstone politely declined. "I do not intend to engage any Europeans for my next trip, otherwise I should with pleasure have taken your offer of service into consideration," responds the legendary explorer. The following year, Livingstone left on his last African journey. Item 23 is a retained copy of Wills note and Livingstone's handwritten reply. £850 (US $1,670).