Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - October - 2008 Issue

Egodocuments, Biographies, etc., on Maritime and Colonial Exploration from Bestebreurtje Rare Books

Best44

Satirical native drawing graces front and back covers of Bestebreurtje's latest catalogue.


By Michael Stillman

We recently received the latest catalogue from Gert Jan Bestebreurtje Rare Books of the Netherlands. It carries the title Egodocuments, biographies, monographs, journals, novels, etc. on maritime and colonial history and exploration. That first word confounded us. Egodocuments? I could guess its essential meaning, but had never seen it before. A bit of research turned up that the word was created by Jacques Presser (a Dutch historian despite that very French name). If this English-sounding word has not yet made it into the English lexicon, it apparently has made it into the Dutch one. So here is the official meaning: diaries, memoirs, personal letters, and other autobiographical writing. So, now that we have learned a new word, we can proceed to take a look inside the pages of this latest Bestebreurtje catalogue.

There are almost 800 items offered. Overwhelmingly, they are inexpensive. Most are either later reprints of accounts of older travels, or more recent (though no less exciting) voyages. Occasionally, something very old will show up. Dutch is the main language, but there are still a great many in English or French. We will focus primarily on the English works as Dutch is not an intuitive language for English-speakers such as this reviewer, but there are many works in Dutch available herein.

Item 19 is one of those harrowing voyage tales from days of yore, only it happened only a few decades ago. Maurice and Maralyn Bailey, the authors, set off on a ten-day trip from Panama to the Galapagos Islands. They never quite made it, as the title informs us - 117 Days Adrift. A whale struck their boat just short of its destination, and they had to quickly transfer themselves and what they could salvage to their life raft. This is the story of their almost four months surviving on fish and turtles they hooked, and rainwater they captured. Seven ships passed them by before they were finally rescued. Priced at €20 (Euros, or approximately $29 in US dollars.

Here is another tale of a ship which went down, but under very different circumstances. This was a gunboat under the command of Dutch Lieutenant Jan Van Speijk in Antwerp on February 5, 1831. His ship was boarded that day by revolution-minded Belgians, who attempted to seize control. Van Speijk would have none of it. Being overwhelmed, he instead fired his pistol into a barrel of gunpowder, setting of an enormous explosion, destroying the ship and killing dozens of people, himself included. Van Speijk became a great Dutch hero for his courageous, or crazy, actions (depending on your point of view), but the Belgian Revolution was successful anyway. Item 382 is an 1832 biography of Van Speijk, Leven van Jan Carel Josephus van Speijk. €135 (US $195). Item 626 is an 1832 hand-colored aquatint plate of the funeral of Van Speijk along the waterfront, where he was honored as a great hero. €575 (US $834).

For those who go for illustrations, item 15 is another - an engraved portrait of Admiral George Anson from 1751. In the background are five of the ships he led on his expedition a year earlier. Anson led a privateering journey against the Spanish in South America, a terrible disaster for most of the crew other than Anson himself. All but one of the ships was lost, and most of his men died, but Anson captured a Spanish galleon loaded with riches on the way back, and he returned a wealthy man. His was only the second British circumnavigation. €195 (US $282).

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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>
  • <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>Aurora Australis.</i> Printed at the sign of 'The Penguins'; East Antarctica, 1908. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>South Polar Times.</i> 1st edition, limited issue. from the library of Michael Barne. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> General Washington's <i>Proceedings of a General Court Martial... of Major General Lee.</i> Philiadelphia, 1778. 100 copies printed for Congress. BOUND WITH: ...Court Martial... of St Clair and ...Schuyler. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>The Voice of the People.</i> Boston, 1754. Rare pamphlet on the Excise Tax. Nathaniel Sparhawk's copy. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens"), offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing, 5 pp, 1881. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> After Fra Egnazio Danti. <i>L'Ultime Parti not:e nel Indie Occid:ntli" [The last known parts of the Western Indies].</i> Painted Map of California, Western Mexico, and Japan. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Ptolemaeus, Claudius. <i>Geographie opus nouissima...</i> 1513. The most important edition of Ptolemy, containing the Admiral's Map. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> De Arellano, Don Alonso. Manuscript, his <i>"Relación mui singular y circunstanciada... Capitán del Patax San Lucas,"</i> manuscript copy from the Sir Thomas Phillips collection. $50,000 to $80,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Purchas, Samuel. <i>Purchas his Pilgrimes.</i> First edition. With John Simth's engraved map of Virginia. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Lewis, Meriwether. Contemporary manuscript true copy of his final power of attorney, 1809. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practiced at Boston in North America.</i> Mezzotint. London, 1774. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>Scientific Base Ball Pitching: A Treatise on the Pitcher, Pitching, Origin and Philosophy of the Curve.</i> Chicago, 1897. $2,000 to $3,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Franklin H. Brown, <i>State Sovereignty, National Union,</i> Chicago, 1860. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b><br>The Aitken Bible, Philadelphia, 1781. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francisco Loubayssin de Lamarca, probable first edition of the first novel set in the Spanish New World, Paris, 1617. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Juan de la Anunciación, <i>Sermonario en lengua mexicana,</i> first edition, first book of sermons in Nahuatl, Mexico, 1577. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Maturino Gilberti, <i>Thesoro spiritual en lengua de Mechuacá,</i> first edition, Mexico, 1558. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Commission of William O. Stoddard as secretary to the president, signed by Lincoln, Washington, 1861. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> <i>Clay and Frelinghuysen,</i> flag banner, circa 1844. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Daguerreotype of a man believed to be Frederick Granger Williams Smith, son of Joseph Smith, circa late 1850s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> John C. Wolfe, <i>Portrait of Abraham Lincoln,</i> oil on board in period wooden frame, circa 1860s. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Family letters from two young daguerreotype artists, 1826-79. $10,000 to $15,000.

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