Latin Americana from Kaaterskill Books
By Michael Stillman
You wouldn't expect to find the source of a catalogue entitled Latin Americana to be a small town in upstate New York. You never know. Kaaterskill Books, of rural East Jewett, New York, is the publisher of this catalogue of books pertaining to the region south of the U.S. border. These are primarily antiquarian works, mostly written in Spanish, though there are many titles in English as well as a smattering of other languages. There is much here about early explorations of, and political and revolutionary battles in, the various countries of South and Central America. Despite their unlikely location, Kaaterskill has managed to come up with 227 titles that will appeal to collectors of this wide area of the New World. Here are some of these books.
Andres Bello could fairly be described as a Renaissance Man. The question is what didn't he do, not what did he do during his lifetime. Item 21 is Obras completas de Andres Bello, and it took 26 volumes to present his complete works. This is a fairly recent publication (1981-1984) though Bello lived in the late 18th and 19th century. Early in his career, Bello edited the first Venezuelan newspaper, as well as being a writer, translator, and poet of some note. In 1810, he was sent to London with the delegation of the provisional, revolutionary government with Simon Bolivar. He remained there almost two decades, and ended up serving the government of Chile as well. He would later publish that government's official newspaper, serve as presidential speechwriter, help write its constitution and found its state university. He wrote what some consider the greatest Spanish grammar, produced a civil code still in use in several Latin American countries, and wrote books on philosophy and international law. Priced at $750.
Item 151 is a second edition (1873) of George Musters' At Home with the Patagonians: a Year's Wanderings over Untrodden Ground from the Straits of Magellan to the Rio Negro. Musters was a commander in the British Royal Navy, but he had a great desire to explore the unexplored back regions of southern South America. His travels through the backlands of what was a mostly unknown land to the outside world resulted in this book which offers detailed information about the people, customs, geography, geology and language of what was considered a primitive place. $600.
Item 179 is an 1895 reprint of a very early grammar of the Nahuatl language, Arte Mexicana compuesta por el padre Antonio Del Rincon. Writer Antonio Rincon was a Jesuit priest who originally published this grammar in 1595. This copy contains the stamp of Adolph Bandelier, the noted archeologist and Indian ethnologist of the American Southwest, for whom Bandelier National Monument is named. $200.
Item 130 is an 1878 book concerning the prophecies of the eccentric Rudolf Falb, Los Temblores y las profecias de Rodolfo Falb. Falb was a German pseudo-scientist who spent the years 1877-1879 in South America. Author Juan Menton was a German astronomer brought to Ecuador to run the local observatory. Falb was at the height of his popularity at the time, his theories, particularly regarding earthquakes, taken seriously by some based on his supposedly correct predictions of the dates and places where they would occur. It seems that Falb may have left enough fudge room in his prophesying to get away with errors, while focusing on his better predictions. Falb believed earthquakes and volcanoes were caused by the gravitational forces of the sun and moon, creating tides in an underground reservoir of lava, until it broke through the surface. He would then use calculations based on the positioning of the celestial bodies to predict these events. When he returned from his South American adventures, Falb pronounced an additional theory, based on linguistic similarities, that the ancient Israelites had originated in Peru. This theory was not as well accepted as the earthquake one, and a prediction that a meteor would strike the earth in 1899 did not come to pass. This would appear to be an extremely scarce book. $250.
Item 52 is a revolutionary official Cuban newspaper, Gaceta Oficial de la Republica de Cuba. It is dated June 3, 1959, and it portends the miserable relationship of the next 50 years between that nation and the United States. This issue was devoted to the first land reform act of the new Cuban government under Fidel Castro. It called for the confiscation and redistribution of all properties of over 420 hectares (a little over 1,000 acres). Kaaterskill notes that at the time, nearly 80% of Cuban land was owned by foreign companies, primarily American. This land was to be turned over to Cuban peasants. Naturally, redistribution of land will make some people happy, others unhappy, and in this case, American owners were among the unhappy. $175.
Kaaterskill Books can be reached at 518-589-0555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Their website is www.kaaterskillbooks.com.