Henry Sotheran Limited, also known as Sotheran's, has released their Spring Miscellany 2012. What can one say about a miscellany, other than that it is a miscellany? It is not the type of catalogue one can fit into any other description. There is a wide range of material, from great literature to travels to children's books, and just about everything in between. So, we will provide a few samples of what is here, and let you discover the rest of the nearly 500 items, once you get your hands on a copy of the catalogue.
Item 94 is an account of early railroad construction in England: The History and Description of the Great Western Railway, Including Its Geology and the the Antiquities of the District through which It Passes... This book is a tribute to the engineering feats of the Great Western in building a rail line from Bristol to London. Conceived of by a group of Bristol businessmen in 1833, work began in 1835. Among the engineering marvels of this railway are a 1.8 mile long tunnel and a brick bridge. This book features the lithographs of John Cooke Bourne, who prepared the volume. His work is exceptional. Bourne had earlier prepared a similar volume related to the railway from Birmingham to London, built around the same time. The Bristol volume was published in 1846. Priced at £5,995 (British pounds, or roughly $9,635 U.S. dollars).
Item 128 is a book that most observers would now consider fiction, though that was hardly the intention: My Attainment of the Pole... With a Final Summary of the Polar Controversy, a third printing from 1913. The author was Arctic explorer Frederick Cook. During the 1890s, he had served on several expeditions to very cold places. He was a surgeon on the Belgian Antarctic Expedition of 1897, and was acclaimed for saving many lives. He earned the undying respect of fellow expedition member Roald Amundsen, who would later be the first to reach the South Pole. However, in the early 20th century, Cook led several smaller expeditions, first to Mt. McKinley, and then the North Pole, that are surrounded with controversy and claims of fraud. Cook's most notable claim is to being the first to reach the North Pole. He made that claim in 1908, but while at first accepted, examination of his records, timing, and interviews with his two Inuit companions, led to grave doubts. Cook's claims were particularly attacked by Robert Peary, who had a rival claim to being first to reach the North Pole, but that claim hinged on Cook's being false as it came a year later. Today, few believe Cook actually made it to the North Pole, but Peary's claim has also come under increasing attack. This copy contains an inscription from Cook. £295 (US $474).
Item 245 is an interesting work by John Hancocke. That's Hancocke with an “e.” This is not the American patriot with the large signature, but a rector at St. Margaret's in England in the early 18th century. Hancocke wrote a book of medical advice, though he emphatically points out he is not a physician, and if his claims “...be found to fail, I must bear the disgrace of amusing the world with such a proposal.” Certainly, Hancocke will never have to bear the disgrace of overconfidence. His book is entitled Febrifugum Magnum: or, Common Water the Best Cure for Fevers, and Probably for the Plague. In hindsight, Hancocke was probably half right. He believed in the curative powers of drinking cold water, preferably clear, clean water as from a well. His theory was that drinking lots of water made the body sweat out its fevers and other diseases. Today we do recommend plenty of fluids when you are sick, and fluids are naturally essential to sweating and reducing one's fever. So, Hancocke had some good advice, but his belief that water could cure such diseases as the plague and other serious illnesses including smallpox, scarlet fever, and measles was a bit optimistic. £295 (US $474).