Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - August - 2006 Issue

Ancient Books from Librairie Rodolphe Chamonal

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Livres Anciens, or "Old Books," from Rodolphe Chamonal


By Michael Stillman

The latest catalogue from Parisian bookseller Librairie Rodolphe Chamonal is entitled Livres Anciens. This should serve as a warning that the catalogue is in French, so some familiarity with the language will be necessary to negotiate your way around. That said, there is much material that will appeal to collectors beyond those who simply collect French books. For example, there are many books here that belong in Americana libraries. That is because the French were among the early colonizers of North America, notably Canada, the mid-western part of what is now the United States, and the Caribbean. Additionally, the French made many explorations of the land even where they did not form colonies. The reality is that most early Americana is European Americana, voyages to the new world undertaken by European explorers. This material was primarily written in the languages of Europe. Chamonal will help you find that portion which was written in French.

This catalogue should be described in French, but since my contract calls for articles to be written in English, I will attempt to mention a few samples of what is offered en Anglais. However, French speakers, and anyone else who wants to understand what is available, should contact Chamonal directly. My translating ability makes Google's translations appear fluent. However, this much I do know: The title of this catalogue, Livres Anciens, translates in English to "Old Books."

Some people were impressed by George Francis Train's 'round the world trip in 80 days. Nellie Bly did it in an even better 72 days. Gaston Stiegler was not impressed. In 1901, Stiegler circumnavigated the globe in a mere 63 days. I have seen conflicting reports as to whether this was a world record at the time, but either way, it is safe to say that this was a very good time for 1901. Stiegler wrote about his adventures in his book Le Tour du Monde en 63 Jours (A Trip Around the World in 63 Days). He visited many exotic places, including Japan, China, Russia, and America. It was a fascinating trip. Item 132. Priced at €150 (Euros, or approximately $189 in U.S. dollars).

Item 79 provides an Englishman's look at Brazil at the beginning of the 19th century. Thomas Lindley was a trader or a smuggler, depending on your interpretation, who was considered the latter by Brazilian authorities. In 1802, he was imprisoned for a year in Salvador for smuggling. However, his jailers were not that tough on Lindley. He was free to walk about town during the day, observing the local people and their customs. He used his "free" time to learn as much as he could about the area, which he recounted in his book on a "Voyage to Brazil." This is the 1806 first French edition, published a year later, entitled Voyage au Bresil. €1,140 (US $1,440).

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