Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2018 Issue

The History of Jamaica 1494-1838 by Thibault Ehrengardt – This Book Captures Its Tragedy, Brutality, Pirates, Revolts, and Earthquake, All Sweetened by a Massive Dose of Sugar

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History of Jamaica by Thibault Ehrengardt.

Many of our readers have been enjoying and learning from the essays written by our French correspondent, Thibault Ehrengardt. Enhrengardt writes of both events current in the book world and reviews of antiquarian works from his homeland. Certainly, one of the most notable learnings from these old works is how fortunate we all are not to have lived in the 18th century. We may see France as a sophisticated, liberal and enlightened country today. That was not always the case.

 

What you may not know is that M. Ehrengardt has written numerous books. Perhaps his favorite subject is not France, but Jamaica. That may seem surprising. Jamaica was once Spanish, once British, but was never a French colony. Nevertheless, if you have an abiding love of reggae music, you are not going to find its roots in Algeria, nor even Haiti. That can only take you to Jamaica, a journey Ehrengardt has made many times. Ehrengardt ran a European magazine on reggae music a few years back. What he learned while there extended far beyond the borders of modern Jamaican music. He learned enough to write a history of Jamaica, at least three and a half centuries worth of it through 1838. While naturally it is available in French, it is also now available in English. Ehrengardt can write fluidly in either language, two more than many of us can.

 

The title of Ehrengardt's book is The History of Jamaica from 1494 to 1838. The year 1494 was a major turning point in Jamaican history. The land had been settled a few millennia earlier by the Arawak or Taino people, traveling from the South American mainland. They had settled villages throughout the island, primarily near the coast. All that changed with the arrival of Christopher Columbus on his second voyage in 1494. Columbus would bring with him killing, brutality, forced labor, and disease. Welcome to the civilized world. So began the colonial era. The natives were practically wiped out within a few decades. With the addition of slaves forced from Africa, a new native population would arise.

 

Jamaica would not become a major colony for the Spanish. She controlled most of South America, Central America, and southern North America. Portugal got Brazil, Britain and France got the rest of North America and a few crumbs. The remainder was Spanish. Jamaica was just a drop in the bucket. Some settlers arrived, and of course there were slaves, but Jamaica was not a major Spanish colony. In 1655, the British attacked Hispaniola, hoping to seize that large island from the Spanish. They failed. It was too well defended, and they suffered an ignominious defeat. They needed to do something to save face, so they turned to the poorly defended island of Jamaica. There, they were successful.

 

The British period would be noted for sugar, slaves, and pirates. The early part would feature the colony as a haven for pirates, often made "privateers," working with the cooperation of the British government. Jamaica was a safe port. In return, the privateers protected the colony from the Spanish and gave some of the loot they stole to the crown. As this behavior became less acceptable internationally, the British brought in slaves, quite literally by the boat load, to work the sugar plantations. In time this too became socially unacceptable. First, Britain banned the slave trade, and later, slavery itself. In 1838, the year this history ends, the slaves were granted their freedom.

 

That is the condensed version of the history of Jamaica from 1494-1838. For the details, you will need to see the book. Henry Morgan and his fellow "respectable" pirates, the terrible Port Royal earthquake of 1692, and the many attempted slave uprisings dot the landscape. Plantation owners, descending to the depths of the brutality their system produced, use newer African slaves to fight the descendants of previously freed Spanish slaves, the Maroons. Little good ever came of slavery. For Jamaica, its sugar produced a bitter aftertaste.

 

Rather than taking the latest history and moving on from there, Ehrengardt turns to the original sources, books and manuscripts written by contemporaries centuries ago. As readers of his articles here well know, Ehrengardt's strength is in digging up old and forgotten sources to bring their times back to life. As an outsider, from a country that was never intimately involved in the country's life, he is able to tell the stories of the many participants free from the influence of personal connection. It has been a long time since the history of Jamaica was written in the neutral country of France, the last such book going back to 1751. This book is definitely due.

 

You can purchase The History of Jamaica from 1494 to 1838 on Amazon. Here is a link:  Jamaica. If you search Thibault Ehrengardt's name, you will also find two other titles concerning more recent events in Jamaica by the author available on Amazon, The Gangs of Jamaica and Jamaican Greats. Meanwhile, Ehrengardt is finishing up a new book, and this one takes us to Paris rather than Jamaica. It is based on Le Tableau de Paris, by Louis-Sébastien Mercier. It was published in 1780 and provides a look at the seamy side of Paris in the days before the Revolution. For a teaser of what is to come, you can see two articles Ehrengardt wrote for Rare Book Monthly on Mercier and his book. Click here and here.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Chiswick Auctions: Autographs & Memorabilia. February 28, 2019</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 28:</b> Autograph album featuring signatures by prominent actors, politicians, musicians and authors, including Rudolph Valentino. £1,000 to £1,500
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 28:</b> An extremely rare working radio script for Crazy People No 29, the first series of <i>The Goon Show.</i> £600 to £800
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 28:</b> Manuscript prayer book, in German. 8vo, 1755 £800 to £1,200
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 28:</b> Italian Manuscript on Geometry, with diagrams, 18th century. £500 to £700
    <b>Chiswick Auctions: Ornithology, Zoology & Voyages. February 27, 2019</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> Thorburn (Archibald). Sparrowhawk, original watercolour & gouache, signed & dated lower right, 1917. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> Burton (Sir Richard Francis). <i>Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and Meccah.</i> 3 vol., FIRST EDITION, 1855-56. £1,000 to £1,500
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> [Mount (Richard) & Page (Thomas)]. <i>The English Pilot. Describing the Sea-Coasts…</i> 31 engraved maps, W. & J. Mount, T. Page, 1756 £4000 to £6000
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    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> D’apres De Mannevillette (Jean-Baptiste Nicolas Denis). <i>Le Neptune Oriental.</i> Paris & Brest, [1775 – 1781]. £10,000 to £15,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> Loring (Josiah). Terrestrial Globe Containing all the Late Discoveries and Geographical Improvements. Boston, Gilman Joslin, 1846, £800 to £1,200
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> Shelley (G. E., Capt.). <i>A Monograph of the Nectariniidae, or Family of Sun-birds,</i> FIRST EDITION, by the Author, 1876-80. £4,000 to £6,000
  • <b>Bonhams: Treasures from the Eric C. Caren Collection: How History Unfolds on Paper, Part VII (Online). March 6-14, 2019</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Albert Einstein A remarkable letter on God in English, one of his most eloquent and quoted, 1 p, July 2, 1945. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Benjamin Lincoln's commission as Major General in the Continental Army, February 19th, 1777. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Broadside. A Poem Upon the Bloody Engagement That Was Fought on Bunker's-Hill. 1775. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Early, full printing of the Star-Spangled Banner in The Yankee, October 7, 1814. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Paul Revere. Engraving, “The Boston Massacre Perpetrated on March 5, 1770," in <i>Massachusett's Calendar 1772.</i> $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Bonhams: Treasures from the Eric C. Caren Collection: How History Unfolds on Paper, Part VII (Online). March 6-14, 2019</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Earliest known newspaper coverage of Babe Ruth, "a St Mary's schoolboy," Baltimore, April 4, 1914. $6,000 to $9,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Franklin, Benjamin. <i>The Independent Whig.</i> First Magazine Published in America, Philadelphia: Keimer, 1723-4. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Smith, Joseph. <i>The Book of Mormon.</i> Palmyra: Printed by E.B. Grandin for the Author, 1830. First printing. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Last Words of Joseph Smith. Autograph Letter Signed from a Mormon disciple, conveying a contemporary account of the Prophet's final words, Nauvoo, July 27, 1844. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> John Brown's Body. Autograph Letter Signed from the daughter of John Brown attempting to arrange the return of her father's body, North Elba, Essex Co, NY, November 29, 1859. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Powell Expedition. Autograph diary of Rhodes C. Allen kept during the Powell Expedition of 1868, June 29, 1868 - November 16, 1868. $20,000 to $40,000
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Walt Whitman. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> First edition, first issue, SIGNED in block letters by Whitman. 1855. $200,000 to $300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Isaac Newton's copy of John Greave's <i>Pyramidographia,</i> London, 1646. $50,000 to $70,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Colonel John Mosby. Robert E. Lee's autograph letter to Samuel Cooper reporting on Mosby's exploits, with Cooper's autograph note ordering his appointment to Major.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Gyula Halasz Brassai. Large archive of autograph and typed letters, over 260, to his family including his wife Gilberte, 1947-1978. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Archive of drawings and letters from Harper Lee to Charles Carruth, including an inscribed first edition of <i>To Kill a Mockingbird.</i> $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> VESALIUS, ANDREAS. 1514-1564. <i>De humani corporis fabrica libri septem.</i> Basel: Johannes Oporinus, June 1543. $300,000 to $500,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. 1578-1657. <i>De motu cordis & sanguinis in animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Leiden: Joannis Maire, 1639. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> BERENGARIO DA CARPI, GIACOMO. 1460-1530. <i>Isagogae breves perlucide ac uberrimae in Anatomiam humani corporis.</i> Bologna: Benedictus Hectoris, 15 July 1523. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams NY, Mar 11:</b> FRANKLIN, BENJAMIN. 1706-1790. <i>Experiments and Observations on Electricity, made at Philadelphia in America…</i> London, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams NY, Mar 11:</b> BENIVIENI, ANTONIO. 1443-1502. <i>De abditis nonnullis ac mirandis morborum et sanationum causis.</i>Florence: Filippo Giunta, 1507. $8,000 to $12,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, <i>El Ingenioso Hildalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha . . . Nueva Edición,</i> first Ibarra edition, Madrid, 1780. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Illuminated Prayer Book in Latin and French, France, 1530-40s. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin, France, mid-15th century. $15,000 to $20,000.
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    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Michel de Nostradamus, <i>The True Prophecies or Prognostications,</i> first complete edition in English, London, 1672. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Pseudo-Methodius, <i>De revelatione facta . . . beato Methodio,</i> Basel, 1504. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Hrabanus Maurus, <i>De laudibus sancte crucis opus,</i> Pforzheim, 1503. $1,000 to $2,000.

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