Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - April - 2004 Issue

&#147; Books from the Past&#148; <br>from Helen R. Kahn

Bligh

Captain Bligh's first edition account of the mutiny on the Bounty


By Michael Stillman

Helen R. Kahn and Associates has issued a catalogue entitled “Books from the Past.” Many of the works are in the areas of travels and voyages, history and politics. There’s perhaps a bit more Canadian material than most catalogues, befitting a Montreal bookseller, but the material here is truly worldwide.

Here’s an example that covers many locations: Richard Cannon’s Historical Record of the Forty-Sixth, or The South Devonshire Regiment on Foot… This 1851 book covers the history of an English regiment through 1851, as it took part in battles in Canada, the U.S., and the West Indies. This rather obscure title will be of interest to collectors of 18th century Americana as the Forty-Sixth took part in both the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars. Item 12. $335.

There haven’t been a lot of histories written about Greenland, but here’s one: The History of Greenland: Containing a Description of the Country, and Its Inhabitants… Somehow, author David Crantz managed to extract two volumes out of this subject, and this was back in 1767 when there was even less of a history than today. This is a first English edition and was recommended by both Samuel Johnson and Dibdin. As was frequently the case at this time, much of the work has to do with local missions. Item 20. $2,650. If Greenland’s too cold for you, item 11 is Patrick Browne’s 1789 The Civil and Natural History of Jamaica. $5,300.

Mutinies make for exciting books, and none is more famous than the one that occurred on the Bounty in 1789. Item 10 is Captain William Bligh’s 1790 first edition account, A Narrative of the Mutiny, on board His Majesty’s Ship Bounty… Bligh and 18 loyal seamen were set off in a small boat and somehow managed to survive a harrowing 3,000-mile journey through uncharted waters. The 1790 printing actually preceded the official version by two years. $14,975. Lesser known is the Mutiny on the Somers. Alexander Mackenzie was commander of the Somers when he discovered plans for a mutiny. Apparently, the would-be mutineers planned to kill the officers and convert the Somers to a pirate ship. Instead, the plot was foiled and Mackenzie ordered three mutineers executed. This created some controversy as one of the mutineers was the son of President Tyler’s Secretary of War, John Spenser. This account, published by the New York Tribune, is called Case of the Somer’s Mutiny. Defence of Alexander Slidell Mackenzie, Commander of the U.S. Brig Somers, before the Court Martial Held at the Navy Yard, Brooklyn. Mackenzie was exonerated on all charges stemming from the executions. Item 57, dated 1843. $250.

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