Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - November - 2005 Issue

Travels and Voyages from William Reese

Reese240

Travels and Voyages from William Reese Company.

'
By Michael Stillman

The William Reese Company's
240th catalogue is titled Travels and Voyages. Reese specializes in the very top level of books, manuscripts and ephemera. You will find contemporary items either written by, or concerning the voyages of the greatest explorers. Not to be namedroppers, but some of those you will find here are Magellan, Drake, Vancouver, Dampier, Hakluyt, Drake, Cook, Kotzebue, Wilkes, Bligh, Ross, and Foss.

Foss? Few explorers of this time had it easy, but no one ever suffered like poor Daniel Foss. His book is A Journal of the Shipwreck and Suffering of Daniel Foss....the Only Person Saved from on Board the Brig Negociator....and who Lived for Five Years on a Small Barren Island - During which time He Subsisted on Seals, and Never Saw the Face of a Human Creature. If all he subsisted on was seals, this might not be quite as horrible a story. According to Foss, and he being the only survivor, it is hard to verify the details, the Negociator left Alexandria (other editions say Philadelphia) in 1811 (others say 1809). On Nov. 26, 1811 (or November 15, 1809), the ship struck an iceberg in the Pacific and went down. All hands made it to the lifeboats, but nine days later, only 13 were left, the result of the extreme cold. A bit later still, the number dwindled to three, and dying of hunger, they drew lots to see which would be dinner for the others. Then there were two. They survived this way until March, when the two spotted a small island. Unfortunately, their boat overturned 100 yards from shore, and only Foss made it to the island alive. It was then that Foss began subsisting on seals and collected rainwater, a step up from his previous cuisine, but certainly very tiresome since this was all he had for the next five years. How many ways can you cook a seal? Finally, he was spotted by a U.S. ship and was saved from his island. So, is Foss' account of his story accurate? Since he was the only survivor, we'll never know, but considering that by 1816, he was publishing contradictory editions concerning the year they left, and where they left from, one might question his memory, if not his honesty. Item 57. Priced at $4,500.

Here are some fascinating, though embarrassing letters from Loring Austin. Austin set out from America to Russia to establish a trading business. His letters to his father give a picture of the port city of Archangel in Russia at the time. Unfortunately, Austin was not successful in his business ventures. A letter on his return trip is most revealing. His American ship was threatened by French and Danish privateers. They were forced to seek protection from the British fleet. Writes Austin, "To our shame it must be confessed that our flag waves in the Baltic the very emblem of impotence, and our commerce....finds its only security under the British flag, a protection we cannot request without disgrace, & which perhaps may not be granted, without some sarcastic remark upon our national imbecility too galling to be made without impunity, yet too obviously just to admit of reply." Talk about humiliation. Less than a year later, America would go to war with Britain, the impressment of U.S. sailors into the British navy a major cause. Perhaps the British were a bit more justified than we thought, since we seemed to be free riding their naval protection. Item 7. $2,000.

Rare Book Monthly

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    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Albert Einstein A remarkable letter on God in English, one of his most eloquent and quoted, 1 p, July 2, 1945. $100,000 to $150,000.
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    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Earliest known newspaper coverage of Babe Ruth, "a St Mary's schoolboy," Baltimore, April 4, 1914. $6,000 to $9,000
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    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> VESALIUS, ANDREAS. 1514-1564. <i>De humani corporis fabrica libri septem.</i> Basel: Johannes Oporinus, June 1543. $300,000 to $500,000
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