Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - January - 2008 Issue

Europe and the Far East from the Antiquariaat Forum

Hand-drawn fish from the Louis Relian manuscript.


Item 12 is another major collection of voyages, but this is one of Dutch voyages from 1595 to 1640, with a focus on the then new VOC (Dutch East India Company). Twenty-one voyages are described, twelve for the first time, in Begin ende voortgaghe... by Isaac Commelin, published in 1646. €125,000 (US $180,064).

Item 34 is A historical and geographical description of Formosa... by George Psalamanzar. As convincing as this geography was to many, there was no Formosa, and no Psalamanzar. Supposed Formosan native Psalamanzar was really a European imposter, and his Formosa (not to be confused with the island now known as Taiwan) a figment of his imagination. However, in 1704, when the world was still filled with lands unknown to Europeans, such a fiction could be convincing. Among the habits of Formosans, Antiquariaat Forum explains, "Formosans were polygamous and husbands had a right to eat their wives for infidelity. They executed murderers by hanging them upside down and shooting them full of arrows. Annually they sacrificed the hearts of 18,000 young boys to gods and priests ate the bodies." The book also includes a Formosan alphabet and language invented by the unnamed true author. "Psalmanazar" finally gave up the hoax ten years later when enough inconsistencies were pointed out. €1,950 (US $2,809).

Enough fiction. Item 257 is a "true story" from India, Verissima relacion embiada a Don Frey Andres de S. Maria Obispo de Cochin... This 1609 "true story" tells of a 360-year-old man (you are already doubting its veracity) from India, who had been married eight times (we don't know whether he ate his first seven wives) and whose teeth had fallen out and been regenerated twice. No need for expensive dentistry when your teeth can grow back. When a monk asked this man, who must have been in amazing shape for someone his age, for help in crossing the Ganges, he carried the monk across. The monk then revealed himself as St. Francis of Assisi, and promised the man eternal youth, which it seems like this man had already acquired, so St. Francis really "gave" him what was already his. The good Saint should have been a politician. €19,500 (US $28,096).

Item 138 is a 1754 manuscript travelogue by Frenchman Louis Relian, Journal historique d'un voyage aux Indes Orientales... Relian was a physician employed by the VOC who traveled to Batavia (now Jakarta, Indonesia) in 1752. From there, he went on to China. Relian recounts his exciting voyage and the places he saw, often in a humorous manner. Included in the journal is a full-page drawing of a fish he called a "dauphin" (click the image on this page to enlargen). €30,000 (US $43,250).

The Antiquariaat Forum may be visited online at www.forumrarebooks.com. Their telephone number is +31 (0)30 6011955, or email info@forumrarebooks.com.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Potter (Beatrix). Complete set of four original illustrations for the nursery rhyme, 'This pig went to market', 1890s. £60,000 to £80,000.
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    Forum, May 30: Cornerstone of French Enlightenment Philosophy.- Helvetius (Claude Adrien). De l'Esprit, true first issue "A" of the suppressed first edition, Paris, 1758. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Szyk (Arthur). The Haggadah, one of 125 copies, this out-of-series, Beaconsfield Press, 1940. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Fleming (Ian). Casino Royale, first edition, first impression, 1953. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Japan.- Ryusui (Katsuma). Umi no Sachi [Wealth of the Sea], 2 vol., Tokyo, 1762. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Computing.- Operating and maintenance manual for the BINAC binary automatic computer built for Northrop Aircraft Corporation 1949, Philadelphia, 1949. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Burmese School (probably circa 1870s). Folding manuscript, or parabaik, from the Court Workshop at the Royal Court at Manadaly, Burma, [c.1870s]. £8,000 to £12,000.
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