Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - November - 2009 Issue

America Before 1700 from the William Reese Company

Very early Americana from the William Reese Co.


By Michael Stillman

The William Reese Company's latest catalogue takes a look at early to the earliest Americana: America Before 1700. It starts from the days before America was even a gleam in Columbus' eye, and runs to the days when the Mathers dominated religious and political thought in New England and William Penn still ran the colony which bears his name. While the area of the New World now included within the boundaries of the United States forms the largest part of the collection, there are also works relating to the West Indies, South America, Mexico and Canada. So, setting our time machine back over five centuries, we will take a look at some of the items being offered.

The catalogue starts with a 1472 second edition (after the first of 1469) of Strabo's Geographia. Strabo was an ancient Greek geographer whose view of the world was still the latest news at the dawn of the age of discovery, though he lived 1,500 years earlier. This is the pre-Columbian world, no New World and not much of the East or Africa. It is essentially limited to the Mediterranean and Asia Minor. Change would be coming soon. Item 1. $187,500.

It is hard to believe that after such a simple geography stood for a millennium and a half, that just 36 years later we would see a compilation of voyages to new places all over the world. Item 3 is Montalboddo's Itinerarium Portugal-Lensium e Lusitania... published in 1508 following the first of 1507. It is the first compilation of voyages, including three of Columbus and one of Vespucci to the Americas, Cabral's discovery of Brazil, plus Vasco da Gama and others' trips to Africa and Asia. It contains the first map showing Africa as an entire continent surrounded by water. $275,000.

The thrill of discovery of new worlds would soon turn to something far less pleasant. Item 8 is the first Latin edition of Cortes' second letter, published in 1524. His first letter has been lost to history, but the second recounts his conquest of Mexico. In it he describes the great Aztec empire and its capital of Tenochtitlan (now part of Mexico City). Sadly, Cortes not only discovered an empire and its people, he also destroyed them. $45,000.

If the Spanish were in general cruel conquerors, there were still some good people among them. None, perhaps, was more principled than Bartolome de Las Casas. Las Casas was a priest who traveled to Cuba in 1502. He witnessed the newly installed slave system, the brutality and mass killing of the native population. He was horrified by what he saw and spent the remaining 64 years of his life, in the New World and in Spain, fighting for better treatment of the Indians. Item 27 is a rare 1582 French translation of his Histoires Admirables des Horribles Insolences... $11,000.

Item 60 is a 1635 second edition of William Wood's New Englands Prospect. This account provides detailed information both about the natural history and the various settlements of New England, just 14 years after the Mayflower's arrival. It also contains the best map of New England prior to that of John Foster over 40 years later. $75,000.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    K. Marx, Das Kapital,1867. Dedication copy. Est: € 120,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Latin and French Book of Hours, around 1380. Est: € 25,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Theodor de Bry, Indiae Orientalis, 1598-1625. Est: € 80,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Breviary, Latin manuscript, around 1450-75. Est: € 10,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    G. B. Piranesi, Vedute di Roma, 1748-69. Est: € 60,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    K. Schmidt-Rottluff, Arbeiter, 1921. Orig. watercolour on postcard. Est: € 18,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Breviarium Romanum, Latin manuscript, 1474. Est: € 20,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    C. J. Trew, Plantae selectae, 1750-73. Est: € 28,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    M. Beckmann, Apokalypse, 1943. Est: € 50,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Ulrich von Richenthal, Das Concilium, 1536. Est: € 9,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    I. Kant, Critik der reinen Vernunft, 1781. Est: €12,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Arbeiter-Illustrierte Zeitung (AIZ) / Die Volks-Illustrierte (VI), 1932-38. Est: €8,000
  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD
  • Manuscript Masterpieces from the Schøyen Collection
    London auction, 11 June
    BROWSE NOW
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Holkham Hebrew Bible. In Hebrew, decorated manuscript on vellum [Toledo, 2nd quarter 13th century]. £1,500,000–3,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Crosby-Schøyen Codex. In Coptic, manuscript on papyrus [Upper Egypt, middle 3rd century / 4th century]. £2,000,000–3,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Geraardsbergen Bible. In Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Southern Netherlands, late 12th century]. £700,000–1,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now : Jean de Courcy (fl. 1420). The Chronique de la Bouquechardiere. In French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1480]. £200,000–300,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The ‘Catherine de Medici’ Hours. In Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1485]. £120,000–180,000
  • 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.
    Forum, May 30: Dante Alighieri.- Lactantius (Lucius Coelius Firmianus). Opera, second edition, Rome, 1468. £40,000 to £60,000.
    Forum, May 30: Distilling.- Brunschwig (Hieronymus). Liber de arte Distillandi de Compositis, first edition of the so-called 'Grosses Destillierbuch', Strassburg, 1512. £22,000 to £28,000.
    Forum, May 30: Eliot (T.S.), W. H. Auden, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, Robert Lowell, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, & others. A Personal Anthology for Eric Walter White, 60 autograph poems. £20,000 to £30,000.
    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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