Travels and Voyages from Maggs Bros.
Travels & Voyages from Maggs Bros.
Maggs Bros. Ltd. of London has issued the latest in their long-running series of catalogues, number 1444, entitled Travels & Voyages. These are accounts mostly of 17th to 19th century voyages, from the Age of Discovery. With a few exceptions (such as America's Wilkes expedition) they emanated from Europe, and from there spread around the world. Maggs has divided the catalogue by destination, ranging from the Americas to Africa, Near and Far East, Australia and the Pacific, and the Arctic and Antarctica. These are the books that informed people at home about what lay beyond the horizon at a time when knowledge and understanding of far off places was limited at best. Here are some of the 227 items being offered.
One of the great mysteries for Europeans began at the other side of the Mediterranean - the source of the river Nile. Everyone knew where it ended, but it took centuries for Europeans to discern where it began. John Speke and an unbelieving Richard Burton would find it in the 1860s, but the most significant attempt prior to that came almost a century earlier. That adventure is described by explorer James Bruce in Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile, in the Years 1768...1773, published in 1790. Bruce did make his way up to the source of the Blue Nile, but most people regard the White Nile as the true source of the river, hence it taking another century to answer the mystery. £4,500 (British pounds or roughly $7,000 in U.S. dollars).
Item 128 is a letter from Lord Joseph Banks to Lord Monbaddo concerning the 18th century English curiosity "Peter the Wild Boy." Peter was not from far away. He was discovered in the woods of Germany and taken back to England. Peter walked on all fours, ate vegetation found in the woods, and did not speak a word in any language. Indeed, he was brought back to England in 1726 and survived to the age of about 70 without ever learning to speak. By the time of this letter, 1782, Europe had become fascinated with the concept of the "noble savage" from far off lands - people uneducated but filled with great insights and values. Peter was none of this. He had no great thoughts, and introduction to "civilization" brought out no inner depth. However, Monboddo, one of the early pre-evolutionists, was fascinated by Peter. Monboddo believed that language was the key to a sort of intellectual evolution of humans. He believed humans started more ape-like, but language enabled them to develop. Peter might be something of an example of an earlier stage. Banks, who had traveled to far off lands on Cook's first journey, was having none of this, at least with regards to Peter. He thought Peter was just some idiot child whose parents had dumped in the woods because he was difficult to handle. Nonetheless, he here tries to help Monboddo with his research. Still, his cynicism towards stories about Peter comes through as he comments, "No extract from newspapers however carefully written will induce me to believe that a human being can exist at all upon leaves & moss while the anatomical structure of the stomack & digestive organs teach me to consider it as impossible…" Priced at £2,500 (US $3,900).
Travels and Voyages from Maggs Bros.
Ill-fated Scott expedition at the South Pole.
Item 75 offers a massive compendium of new geographical information as first learned. It is volumes 1-50 of the Royal Geographical Society's Journal, volumes 1-22 of its Proceedings, and volumes 1-14 of the new series of the Proceedings.
These date from 1832-1892. This is literally an account of new discoveries as they happened. The Geographical Society sponsored many of the great expeditions all over the world, and some of the earliest accounts are found in these publications, presented by great explorers such as Burton and Livingstone. £30,000 (US $46,620).
Here is a book featuring 217 mounted photographs of a 19th century exploration, though this was really more a look back in time than in place. Its title is Atlas Trojanischer Alterthumer. The photographs are from Henrich Schlieman's excavations at Troy. Schlieman conducted the first major archeological digs to recover artifacts from ancient Greece. Schlieman today has a mixed record. His procedures were rough and he destroyed much of what he was investigating, but then again, there wasn't much experience at that point in archeological preservation. Certainly, Schlieman did much to develop interest in what could be learned about the ancient world from artifacts that still remained. Item 76. £16,500 (US $25,630).
We will close with the last piece in the catalogue, item 227, a vintage print of a photograph that elicits an eerie sadness. It is a picture of Robert Falcon Scott and the four comrades who accompanied him at the South Pole. Scott set out for the South Pole, which had never been reached, in 1911. He hoped to be first. In what must have been great disappointment, when they arrived in January 1912, they discovered the Roald Amundsen had beaten them there by a few weeks. Disappointment quickly turned to tragedy for Scott and his men. The weather, never very pleasant at the South Pole, turned brutally cold and windy. Their supplies ran low and finally, they could push on no more. All five perished. The photograph was taken on January 18, 1912, at the Pole, while the men were still in good health. The photographer was Dr. E.A. Wilson, who managed to appear in the photo with the others by attaching a long string to the shutter. His camera and the film lay in the snow with the men's bodies until found eight months later.
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