Books at the Fair from Asher and Antiquariaat Forum
By Michael Stillman
Asher Rare Books and the Antiquariaat Forum published a catalogue for the recent New York Antiquarian Book Fair. The two Netherlands booksellers crossed the Atlantic with a selection of books that would be suitable for an American or international audience. This included many that pertained specifically to those lands in the western hemisphere, along with many others relating to the Old World. These are a few of the books that took the long journey west.
A shorter route between the Atlantic and Pacific had been sought from the early times of ocean travel. The only navigable route at the time required passing around Cape Horn, a long and difficult trip around the southern tip of South America. Many attempted to find a Northwest Passage, through the icy waters of northern Canada. Success was wanting. Others dreamed of building a canal across the relatively narrow Isthmus of Panama. One of the earliest to suggest such a route was the French official Martin de La Bastide. He published his idea in Memoire sur un nouveau passage de la mer du nord a la mer du sud in 1791. Bastide's route would have gone through Nicaragua, employing several rivers and Lake Nicaragua as part of the route. Ultimately, such a route was never employed, and it took another 120 years until an alternative, the Panama Canal, was finally built. Item 10. Priced at $20,000.
Item 60 is a one-of-a-kind book from the nature printing era (circa 1850). Rather than being run through a press, an American sailor out of New Bedford, Massachusetts, likely in whaling or the China trade, created each image by hand. The book is titled on the spine Na Lau Hawaii, which translates to "Leaves of Hawaii." The sailor evidently gathered specimens of leaves from various plants in Hawaii and other Pacific islands, placed them in ink, and pressed them to the paper. He has succeeded in creating vivid images of these leaves, 277 of them in all. The sailor most likely kept the sheets loose while at sea, but after returning, had them bound by Parson Co. of New Bedford. Based on the address, it must have been bound between 1855 and 1860. $48,000.
Item 29 is a marriage contract of high nobility from the last decade of France's Ancien Regime. The couple was Augustine Olympe Sophie de Besiade d'Avaray and Antoine-Rene d'Escoubleau, Marquis de Sourdis. Those were suitably long names for important people, though if their achievements went much beyond being rich and noble that is not clear. Antoine-Rene was the last male of this prestigious family, which died out with his daughter. However, the couple at least was spared the fate of the most famous signers of their marriage vows. The wedding went on for three days in October of 1784, and among those who signed the contract were King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette. Both King and Queen were beheaded during the French Revolution less than a decade later. $31,500.
Item 35 is an important view of a battlefield, Un Souvenir de Solferino, by Jean Henri Dunant. The Battle of Solferino pitted French and allied troops against those of Austria. The Austrians were defeated and Italy began taking steps toward independence. However, what is notable here is that Dunant, a Swiss businessman, surveyed the battlefield, witnessed the carnage, and determined to try to lessen the horrors of war. This book led to the foundation of the Red Cross. Forty years later, Dunant was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. $22,500.
Item 87 is an important Cook item, Reise um die Welt, mit Captain Cook. The author was Heinrich Zimmerman, a non-officer who served below deck, and thus provides an ordinary sailor's look at Cook's last voyage. The British Admiralty forbid the publication of any books by the men who served with Cook until after the release of the official account, but Zimmerman, who returned to Germany, jumped the gun by several years. This is the first edition, published in 1781, three years prior to the official account. Zimmerman provides an eyewitness account of the death of Cook in Hawaii in his book. $61,950.
The Antiquariaat Forum may be reached at +31 30 6011955 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Their website is www.forumrarebooks.com.
Asher Rare Books may be reached at +31 255 510352 or email@example.com.
You will find many of the Antiquariaat Forum's books listed in "Books For Sale" on this site. Click here.