Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - November - 2008 Issue

Travel and the East India Company from Shapero Rare Books

Travel2008

A travel catalogue from Bernard J. Shapero Rare Books.


By Michael Stillman

Bernard J. Shapero Rare Books has issued a new catalogue of travels, logically named Travel 2008, but, Including a small library of books on the East India Company. This would be the British East India Company, Shapero being a London bookseller. The remainder of the catalogue focuses on various specific geographic areas, except for a final section on mountaineering. This covers works by names such as Hillary and other notable climbers, including accounts of many ascents of Everest, though no one prior to Hillary made it to the top. Here are a few of the over 350 works found in this latest Shapero catalogue.

Item 259 is a book by a man whose name is generally associated with Arctic exploration. However, this one relates to a much warmer region of the globe: A voyage to Cochinchina, in the years 1792 and 1793... by John Barrow, published in 1806. Barrow served with the British embassy to China at the time of this voyage. Along with Cochinchina (now Vietnam), he visited Cape Town, Rio, the Canary Islands and other places. The book contains a description of Brazil, and a supplementary article describes an overland trip from Cape Town to the interior of South Africa. Of interest to Cook collectors, Shapero notes that the explorers discovered what had been the Cook ship Resolution, now transformed to a smuggling whaler sailing under the French flag. Many years later, in his position with the British admiralty, Barrow became a major supporter of Arctic exploration. The northernmost town in the U.S. - Barrow, Alaska, is named for him. Priced at £2,750 (British pounds, or approximate US equivalent of $4,762).

Here is another man who combined exploration in places very warm with those in locations very cold. Item 147 is A narrative to travels in northern Africa, in the years 1818, 19, and 20... by Capt. George Lyon, published in 1821. This is an account of a not particularly successful expedition to northern Africa, over which Lyon took command when its leader died during its second year. Shortly after this journey, Lyon accompanied Parry in his attempt to find a Northwest Passage, another trip of limited success. This work contains 17 hand-colored lithograph prints taken from drawings by Lyon. Item 147. £$3,000 (US $5,195).

Item 14 is a rare auction notice, likely the only surviving copy, for goods from East India and other locations, held For Sale By the Candle at Garraways's Coffee-House, 'Change Alley, Cornhill, on Thursday October 1, 1818... In the days when coffee houses also served as auction houses, Garraway's was one of the more notable, having been founded in 1669. It continued for over two centuries, finally closing in 1872. Shapero notes that very few of these catalogues have survived, most known only by a single copy. Among the goods offered in this one are 10 bales of liquorice root, 9 bags of pepper, 20 tons of ebony, 3 casks mother-of-pearl shells, and lots of various sorts of bark. £1,250 (US $2,160).

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