Hordern House has created a new selection of rare and antiquarian books. This collection is filled with material primarily relating to their homeland, Australia. Many of the items are connected to Europe and even America as early Australian history is focused on the voyages that brought the settlers (and prisoners). Others are focused on the zoology and botany of Australia. Here are a few selections from this latest Hordern House catalogue.
We begin with a collection of six letters by a seaman from 1831-1835 to his parents back home in England. His name was Thomas Burgess and it is unlikely you have ever heard of him. He was a private in the Royal Marines, and once he returned home, he spent 32 years in the Cheshire Constabulary before retiring. His letters were written while serving on three ships, but what makes all of this remarkable is that three of the letters are the only known letters sent from a member of the crew while serving onboard the Beagle. Captained by Robert Fitzroy, the Beagle's naturalist was Charles Darwin. It was while on this trip that Darwin's observations of animal and plant life in different locations led him to develop his theory of evolution by means of natural selection. Burgess writes of his experiences and observations, but does not mention Darwin or any of the people with whom he served. However, he remembered Darwin and knew of his later fame as in the 1870s he corresponded with his fellow crewman, requesting a picture and later a copy of one of his books. Darwin evidently remembered Burgess, as he obliged by sending him both a picture and book. Burgess cited a few anecdotes to stir his memory. Item 2. Priced at AUD $96,000 (Australian dollars or approximately $69,034 in U.S. dollars).
Next we have a document relating to the discovery of Australia...sort of...not really. The not-discoverer to whom discovery is sometimes attributed was the Spanish sea captain Pedro Fernandez de Quiros. Quiros convinced the Spanish King to give him three ships and the men to go out and discover the enormous but mythical southern continent and claim it for Spain. He sailed to the Pacific, passing by several island chains before settling in the New Hebrides, now known as the nation of Vanuatu. He landed on a large island (though hardly a massive continent) which he called Australia del Espiritu Santo. However, what he discovered was not Australia but the island of Espiritu Santo. He thought he had found the promised land and planned to name his colony New Jerusalem. He believed it connected all the way to New Guinea, thought to be the tip of the southern continent. Quiros ran into some difficulties with a mutinous crew and returned to Spain without attempting to circle his “continent” so he never knew how small it was. Quiros wished to lead another expedition, this time to settle the continent for Spain, but by now he was considered something of a crackpot. He sent a petition, which the King ignored. And another, and another, and another. Before he was done, he had sent over 50 of them. Fourteen were printed (the others being in manuscript). All are very rare and highly collectible. Item 36 is a copy of his Eleventh Memorial, known only in this and four other copies. It was sent in 1611. In it, Quiros notes that he has been petitioning for 50 months and still has received no answer. He argues for colonizing the southern continent and requests a quick decision. The rarity of his petitions is explained by the Spanish wanting to keep their discoveries to themselves, so few copies were printed and only for those who needed to see them. However, the eighth memorial did get in other hands and was printed in several places in Europe, letting the world know of Quiros' discoveries. Eventually the King sort of relented, not outfitting Quiros but sent him to Peru with supporting letters, but Quiros died before reaching that initial destination. AU $275,000 (US $197,940).
John Gould is known as Britain's greatest ornithologist, but he is also seen as the father of Australian ornithology. In 1838, he sailed to Australia with his wife Elizabeth and began preparing the first major account of Australia's birds. He already had a head start as his brothers-in-law lived there and were gathering specimens on his behalf. Elizabeth was a skilled artist and she created the illustrations. Item 15 is a complete copy with 73 hand-colored plates of A Synopsis of the Birds of Australia, and the Adjacent Islands. It was published in 1837-38. AU $22,500 (US $16,316).
Australia has many beautiful birds, but when it comes to animals, that is not what Australia is most famous for. That, of course, is kangaroos, and Gould prepared a book about them too. The title is A Monograph of the Macropodidae, or Family of Kangaroos. It was published in two folio volumes, 1841-1842, and contains 30 hand-colored lithograph plates. Hordern House tells us it is the only color plate book devoted to kangaroos. There was to be a third volume, but instead, that was subsumed in a much larger book he wrote about Australian mammals. Gould described Australian fauna as being “as if I had been transported to another planet.” After that, Gould returned to exclusively writing books about birds. AU $68,000 (US $49,314).
Item 17 is a copy of Gould's The Mammals of Australia, published in 1863. It contains 182 hand-colored plates. AU $145,000 (US $105,174).
Item 10 is A Journal of a Voyage round the World in His Majesty’s Ship Endeavour, in the years 1768, 1769, 1770 and 1771, published in 1771. This is an account of Capt. James Cook's first voyage, but it is not Cook's nor the official account. The official account did not come out in the year the ship returned. It took longer. This is one of those rushed out accounts that were officially prohibited but which were published anyway by other members of the crew, realizing demand would be great from a public eager to learn more about what had been discovered. The author of this one was James Magra, and his was the first published account of this voyage. Magra was a bit of a shady character, so it's not all that surprising he would violate his pledge not to publish before the official account. He disguised his activity by publishing his book anonymously, but then dedicated it to naturalists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander, reputable members of the crew, to give the book an air of respectability. The response was a lawsuit to remove the dedication leaf, which the publisher was forced to do. This copy is a rare first issue which contains the dedication leaf. Cook later described Magra as “one of those gentlemen, frequently found on board Kings Ships, that can very well be spared, or to speake more planer good for nothing...” He was not highly regarded by Americans either having been a loyalist during the revolution. AU $48,500 (US $35,064).
Hordern House may be reached at [+61] (02) 9356 4411 or email@example.com. Their website is found at www.hordern.com.