In a reminder that “America the beautiful” is not just a trite saying, Christie’s sold numerous botanical books from the Massachusetts Horticultural Society collections. Among them were many famous and stunning Americana. The high spot, lot 22, was the third edition of Mark Catesby’s The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands (London, ), complete with 220 hand-colored engraved plates on Whatman paper. This extraordinary book has never been equaled and is justifiably praised as one of the most famous books on American flora and fauna. It was the first such book to show American birds in color and was not surpassed until Audubon’s work. It sold for $89,625.00 on an estimate of $70,000-$100,000. Other notable works included lot 88, André Michaux’s Histoire des chênes de l’Amérique (Paris, 1801), complete with 36 engraved plates. This work formed the basis of his more extensive history of American forest trees published in 1810-1813. It sold for $3,824.00 on an estimate of $4,000-$6,000. Interestingly, the same title sold at Sotheby’s (lot 128) for $10,755 on an estimate of $10,000-$15,000. Among the other noteworthy Americana was lot 56, Baron von Jacquin’s Selectarum stirpium Americanarum historia (Vienna, 1763), with 184 plates. Based on four years of research and collecting in the Antilles and South America, Jacquin’s work was fundamental in introducing into Europe detailed knowledge of American plants. It failed to sell, however, on an estimate of $4,000-$6,000. By contrast, the same title in comparable condition sold as lot 96 in the Ketterer Kunst sale for $2875 on an estimate of $3000.00. In Christie’s lot 29, its more spectacular Antilles cousin, the second edition of Michel Étienne Descourtilz’s Flore Pittoresque et Médicale des Antilles (Paris: -1833), in 8 volumes with 600 printed color plates, went for $17,925.00 on an estimate of $10,000-$15,000.
Finally, one of the more bizarre and intriguing tales of early nineteenth-century Hawaiian missionary work may be found in lot 278 of the Waverly sale, which contained nine early nineteenth-century Connecticut imprints concerning Henry Obookiah and the Foreign Mission School. Obookiah, brought to Connecticut from his native Hawaii by a sea captain, was supposedly found weeping on the steps of Yale College by E. W. Dwight. His education was arranged for, and Obookiah actually translated the book of Genesis from Hebrew into Hawaiian. His presence inspired the founding of the mission school, which was intended to train foreign students as missionaries to their native lands. Obookiah, however, died at age 26 before he could begin his work. The various publications connected with the school and his life, especially his Memoirs (here present in a second edition), are important for understanding the nascent foreign missionary movement in America. They are also important documents on the history of Hawaii, where he is considered a hero and to which his remains were removed in the early twentieth century. Obookiah was without question a heralded, living example of the “noble savage.” An astute buyer purchased the lot for $40 on an estimate of $100-$200.