Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - January - 2008 Issue

101 Rare Books from Samuel Gedge Ltd.

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Catalogue III from Samuel Gedge Ltd.


By Michael Stillman

Samuel Gedge Ltd.
Has just issued their Catalogue III of rare books. There are a great many London imprints, as befitting a British bookseller, but then again there are items from as far off as Calcutta, Singapore and Macao. This is an interesting collection, covering many topics, but with a common thread of items being both rare and antiquarian. Here are a few of the 101 pieces offered.

Item 1 is a notable psalm book, Annotations upon the book of Psalms, by Henry Ainsworth. Ainsworth was associated with an English separatist church in Amsterdam in the early 17th century. Not surprisingly, his book was favored by pilgrim leaders who sailed to Plymouth. It was a copy of the 1617 second edition of this book, similar to the one here offered, that they took along on the Mayflower. Considering the ship's size, anything taken on the Mayflower must have been very well liked by the pilgrims. Priced at £3,600 (British pounds, or approximately $7,304 US dollars).

Medicine in the 17th century was certainly odd by today's standards, but this is one of the stranger of books of cures: A Late Discourse Made in a Solemne Assembly of Nobles and Learned Men at Montpellier in France; Touching the Cure of Wounds by the Powder of Sympathy... by Sir Kenelm Digby. While I question the effectiveness of his cure, it certainly led the way in pain-free medicine. Rather than treating the wound, Digby favored treating the instrument that caused the wound. It was also reported by a friend that a wound was healed by placing the bloody bandage in the proper solution. While this may sound like quackery today, medicine was quite primitive in 1658. Digby was a respected scientist of the day, a founder of the Royal Society. Item 29. £2,750 (US $5,580.

There were some amazing relics at the cathedral of San Ciarico in Ancona, Italy, around 1700. Item 6 is a broadsheet listing some of those relics: a piece of wood from the True Cross, the metal tip of the Holy Lance, and a thorn from the Crown of Thorns. Such relics are not as rare as might be expected, many churches having them, though some question their authenticity (Calvin once remarked that there were enough fragments of the True Cross to build a ship). The cathedral's inventory also included a finger of St. Thomas the Apostle and a shoulder of Rocco the Confessor. I must confess I don't know Rocco the Confessor. Was he from New Jersey? £225 (US $456).

In the days before people saw space aliens, they saw frightening ghosts. Item 7 is Fearfull apparitions or the strangest visions that ever hath been heard of. It is a spirit that constantly every night haunts one Mr. Young's yard... This ghost showed up regularly at 2:00 in the morning on Lombard Street in London, haunting poor Mr. Young. He was apparently quite noisy, clattering chains and howling like a dog, though at other times whistling and playing music (probably when he was in a better mood). The ghost appeared as an 18-foot tall black man, "with long blacke shagged haire, his eyes as bigge as two ordinary pewter dishes flaming like fire..." Presumably he has moved on, as this book was published in 1647. £550 (US $1,116).

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