Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - August - 2012 Issue

China is the Subject for Gert Jan Bestebreurtje Rare Books

Bestebreurtjelist55

China.

Gert Jan Bestebreurtje Rare Books has issued their List 55, with the subject being China. These are works from a western perspective, primarily by Europeans who visited China in an era when the land was mostly unexplored by outsiders, rather than a source for everything we buy. Outsiders were not always welcomed in Asia with open arms, but in time, walls broke down, and Europe learned progressively more about the mysterious East. Here, now, are a few of those books that opened European eyes to a world they little understood.

We will start with one of the earlier visits by a European to Asia, a tale so extreme that most people believed much of it was fabricated. That is likely true, and yet it provides a first glimpse at places that had never before seen a European. The title is Wonderlyke reizen van Fernando Mendez Pinto, the first Dutch edition of the 16th century exploits of Fernando Mendez Pinto. Pinto was a Portuguese explorer, first heading to Asia, India specifically, in 1537. However, later voyages would take him to China, Japan, and Indonesia as well. Pinto entered China through the Yellow Sea, but was, he claimed, taken prisoner and forced to help build the Great Wall. He was eventually freed by invading Tartars, making his way to a pirate ship that agreed to take him away. However, that ship sank near Japan, whereupon he became one of, if not the first, westerner to visit Japan. He claimed to have introduced the gun to the Japanese. In time, Pinto made his way back to Portugal, and wrote the manuscript for his book, though it was not published until 30 years after he died. Pinto earned the unflattering sobriquet “Prince of Lies,” as his account, including numerous imprisonments and escapes, was too much for his countrymen to believe. Exactly how much is accurate, and how much an exaggeration, is hard to know. Item 164. Priced at €650 (euros, or about $817 U.S. dollars).

Pinto may have been given to exaggeration, but not so George Psalmanaazaar. Psalmanaazaar authored An Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa, published in 1704, and the man of many “a's” perpetrated outright fraud. Nothing in his description of Formosa was true. Psalmanaazaar pretended to be an island native, a convert to the Church of England, but in reality, he was a Frenchman spinning tall tales. He used some knowledge from the books of others, but built it up with fantastical stories. Among those was the claim that 18,000 boys were sacrificed every year. Psalmanaazaar also invented a Formosan language, which he would quote. The book quickly generated some suspicion, and yet despite its absurdity, it developed a large following of believers. Boswell attributed this to the claimed connection of the islanders to the Jesuits. The English were only too glad to believe anything horrible about the Catholic Church. In his Life of Johnson, Boswell says of the tale, “So gross is the forgery that it almost passes belief that it was widely accepted as a true narrative.” Item 170. €1,500 (US $1,887).

Here, now, is an entirely honest, if not completely accurate, depiction of a trip to China. It is Atlas du voyage Peking a travers la Mongolie en 1820 et 1821, published in 1826. It is the atlas volume of Egor Timkowski's journey from Russia to Peking, where he was heading up the ten-year Russian embassy in that country, beginning in the year 1820. Timkowki traveled from Russia through Mongolia to reach Peking, and kept maps, as best he could produce, of the journey. It includes a plan of the Forbidden City, the first to appear in a western atlas. Item 206. €975 (US $1,226).

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Textile of the Great White Fleet, with portraits of Theodore Roosevelt, Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans & successor Charles Stillman Sperry, 1908. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> William J. Stone, <i>Declaration of Independence,</i> Force printing, 1833. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Shugart family papers including documentation of the Underground Railroad, 63 items, 1838-81. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Records of the Dickinson & Shrewsbury salt works, over 2000 items, with extensive slave labor correspondence, legal records & receipts, bulk 1820-1865. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Gloria Steinem, typescript for her speech <i>Living the Revolution,</i> with related letters and documents, 1941-77. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> <i>Liberty Triumphant or the Downfall of Oppression,</i> depicting the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party, c. 1774. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, <i>Historia naturae, maxime peregrinae, libris XVI distincta,</i> Antwerp, 1635. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Antonio de Mayorga, manuscript map of Mexico City, 1779. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Thomas L. McKenney & James Hall, <i>History of the Indian Tribes of North America,</i> first edition, 3 volumes, Philadelphia, 1842-44. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Samuel Walker, diary of the entire first cruise of the USS Kineo, a gunboat on the Mississippi, 1854-69. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Scrapbook on early Stanford football, with letters from Walter Camp, 1893-95 & 1931. $8,000 to $12,000.
  • <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Roberts, David. Twenty Lithographs of the Holy Land, 19th Century. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Declaration by the Reps. of the United Colonies of N.A. 1775. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Composer Jerome Kern personal Letters, Albums and Other. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Paine, Thomas. <i>Common Sense,</i> London 1776. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Stowe, Harriet Beecher. <i>Uncle Tom’s Cabin,</i> Cleveland 1852. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Hobbes, Thomas. <i>Leviathan,</i> 3rd edition, London 1651. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Anno Regni Georgii III. Intolerable Acts and other Bills, 1774. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Wilberforce, William. An Abstract of the Evidence, 5 Letters, and two books. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Nightingale, Florence. Notes on Nursing and Signed Letters, ca. 1860 $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Tolstov, Leo. <i>War and Peace,</i> 5 volumes, 1886. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Dickinson, John. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1768. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Twain, Mark. <i>Tom Sawyer,</i> 1877 [and] <i>Huckleberry Finn,</i> 1885. $4,000 to $6,000.

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