Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - June - 2009 Issue

The Laurence Urdang Collection of Maritime Books from the Ten Pound Island Book Co.

Tenpound183

Maritime books from Laurence Urdang's collection.


By Michael Stillman

This month we have received our first catalogue from the Ten Pound Island Book Company of Gloucester, Massachusetts. The title could not be more appropriate for Gloucester: Maritime List 183. The Laurence Urdang Collection. Technology, Terminology and Folkways of the Sea. Gloucester is known as America's first port. Its connection to the sea goes back almost four centuries, with it being a home for seafarers, shipbuilding, and most notably, fishing. It is home base for Gorton's of Gloucester seafood and port of departure for the ill-fated Andrea Gail of The Perfect Storm. It is the perfect home for a specialist in maritime books.

This collection consists of 222 books related to the sea, though it might seem a bit unfocused for the typical maritime collection. The apparent wide focus is explained by the collector's purpose. Laurence Urdang was a lexicographer, not a fisherman. He undoubtedly felt more at home dissecting words than fish. He is noted for being the managing editor for the 1966 Random House dictionary, the first to be compiled with the aid of a computer. It ran to over 2,000 pages and 260,000 terms. He also wrote many specialty dictionaries, both serious and whimsical, including ones on slang, confusable words, synonyms and antonyms, medical and nursing. The explanation for this collection is that, at the time he died, Urdang was working on a nautical dictionary. He had gathered this extensive collection (and there is yet another Urdang catalogue to come) to write his dictionary. This must be a testament to his determination and focus, as Mr. Urdang was 81 years old when he died. Ten Pound Island notes that it is not known how close he came to completing the project, though he did leave a substantial number of computer files. Mr. Urdang could hardly be described as a man of few words, but here are a few to describe some of the many nautical works in his collection.

If you would like to build your own ship, and learn how to sail it, here is a useful guide: A Treatise on Ship-Building and Navigation. The author was Mungo Murray and this is the second edition, published in 1765. The second edition was expanded from the first by adding a translation of a supplement from a French writer. This book has been described as the most comprehensive work on naval architecture in English prior to the end of the 18th century. Item 163. $2,000.

Item 12 is an account of a terrible voyage with a happy ending, at least for the Captain. Most of his men did not fare so well. This is a first edition of George Anson's A Voyage Round the World... published in 1748. Anson set out for South America in 1740 with a flotilla of six ships, the purpose to harass Spanish shipping, or to put it less politely, legalized piracy. It is not easy to make it around the Horn. All but one of the ships were either wrecked or forced to return. Most of his men died, primarily from disease, though others from shipwrecks. Some underwent terrible hardships after making their way to land and being captured by Spaniards who would not have appreciated their mission. Nonetheless, Anson, with his one remaining ship, pushed on. He rounded the Horn and headed back home via the Pacific. On his way, he captured a Spanish vessel, which proved to be loaded with treasure. Anson made it back home, and with his treasure in hand, became a wealthy man. $3,500.

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.

Review Search

Archived Reviews

Ask Questions