Antiquariats Banzhaf and Kuhn at the New York Book Fair

- by Michael Stillman

Banzhafny2012

Antiquariats Banzhaf and Kuhn at the New York Book Fair

Antiquariat Banzhaf and Antiquariat Michael Kuhn created a pocket catalogue for the recent ABAA Antiquarian Book Fair in New York. These booksellers traveled from Germany to New York to display their wares, including the 21 items contained within these pages. Offered are various pieces, books and ephemera, of European origin. Here are some examples.

Item 3 offers drawings of plants and animals as viewed under the lens of the most powerful microscopes available in the 18th century. The book is Mikroskopische Untersuchungen und Beobachtungen der geheimen Zeugungstheile der Pflanzen... (Microscopic studies and observations of the secret parts of plants... and insects), first edition, second printing from 1790. The author was Wilhelm Friedrich von Gleichen-Russwurm. He was a naturalist of sorts, more an amateur, which explains why he is not that well known. Gleichen-Russworm was a baron, born of a substantial family, but problems within that family led to his receiving a less than expected education for someone of his standing. He joined up with the military, and later worked at the court, where he befriended important people. He was a well-liked individual. It enabled him to earn a good living, and after his mother died, he inherited a substantial estate. Tired of the court life, he semi-retired and began scientific studies, notably, looking at plants and small animals under the microscope. As a self-taught scholar, he was not in a position to provide great scientific knowledge, but he had access to the best microscopes available, and provided detailed illustrations of what he discovered in his books. Priced at €6,900 (euros, or roughly $9,075 U.S.).

The image on the cover of this catalogue comes from one of eight wall panel plates depicting various animals of the world. Unsigned and undated, they come from southern Germany or Austria circa 1800. The beast on the cover is that of Tapiris Americanus, the American Tapir. Now I've lived all my life in America and never seen one of these, but there is an explanation. It does not inhabit the America that residents of the United States refer to as “America.” This tapir is now known as Tapiris Terrestris and is commonly called the South American Tapir or Brazilian Tapir. Item 1. €6,400 (US $8,405).

Item 15 is Resa til Italien, 1780, 1781, 1782 (Travels in Italy 1780-2). The author was Carl August Ehrensvärd, who lived from 1745-1800. Born in Stockholm of a military father, Ehrensvärd would fill numerous roles during his life. He is best known as an architect, but was also a painter, caricaturist, writer, member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and rose to Admiral in the Swedish Navy. He was also a traveler, as this book attests, and it contains his account and illustrations. The catalogue describes it as “a beautiful book with astonishing, quite unusual illustrations.” Offered is the second illustrated edition from 1819. €4,200 (US $5,515).

Item 20 is a treatise on a rare and unpleasant genetic disease – ichthyosis: Descriptio Ichthyosis corneae congenitae in virgine observatae. It causes dry skin with a build up of scale-like flakes, hence the ichthyo - “fish” - prefix. It is not contagious, and even today, there is only treatment, no cure. The author of this book, which provides text and illustrations about the condition, was Christoph Helwig Smith, a physician from Bremen when this treatise was published (1830). €7,000 (US $9,190).