Rare Book Monthly
Book Catalogue Reviews - November - 2007 Issue
Travel 2007 from Bernard J. Shapero Rare Books
By Michael Stillman
The latest catalogue from Bernard J. Shapero Rare Books of London is entitled Travel 2007. The 2007 refers only to the catalogue, as these travels took place long ago, mostly 19th century or earlier. These are accounts of trips that started in Europe, but spread from there to all around the globe. The catalogue is divided into sections based on the destinations: Africa; Americas, Pacific and Polar; Central Asia; Europe; Far East; Greece and Ottoman Empire; India and South East Asia; Middle East; and Russia. There is much in the way of adventure to be relived, inside the pages of these books, from the days when the world was much larger. Here are a few examples of what is in store.
Roald Amundsen is best known as the first person to reach the South Pole. His team arrived in December of 1911, succeeding where Robert Falcon Scott's expedition failed. Amundsen had better weather, but was also better prepared. He learned how to survive extreme cold in another, longer journey a few years earlier. In 1903, he set out to find the fabled Northwest Passage to the Pacific through the Canadian arctic seas. Locating such a shortcut had been an elusive goal of countless expeditions going all the way back to the time of Columbus. However, none succeeded until Amundsen made his way from the Atlantic to Alaska through the northern route. Still, it was not of much practical use as it took several years and his route would not have been navigable by a large ship. Nevertheless, he proved that there was such a route after centuries of unsuccessful attempts to find one. Amundsen's account of this expedition is found in the pages of The North West Passage being a record of a voyage of exploration of the ship "Gjoa" 1903-1907... Item 86 is the first British edition, published in 1908, while item 87 is a copy of the first American edition, also published in 1908. Each is priced at £850 (British pounds, or approximately $1,737 in U.S. dollars).
Captain George Francis Lyon reports on a journey to a very different part of the world in his 1821 book, A narrative of travels in northern Africa, in the years 1818, 19, and 20... Lyon had joined this British scientific mission in 1818, but when its leader died in 1819, he took over command. The expedition involved traveling around the Sahara and its extreme climate, but did not accomplish all that much. Perhaps the extreme heat was too much for Lyon, as shortly after his return, he joined Sir William Parry on his unsuccessful trip to the Arctic to find the Northwest Passage. Lyon was given command of Parry's companion ship, HMS Hecla. Item 61. £2,750 (US $5,619).
For those interested in a visual representation of India's leaders of long ago, item 312 is The rulers of India and the chiefs of Rajputana, 1550-1897. Thomas Holbein Hendley put together these portraits of various rulers, dating back to the emperor Akbar in the sixteenth century, and published them in 1897. Shapero notes that this book is also useful for understanding the costumes worn by chiefs during these various eras. £2,500 (US $5,108).