South America From William Reese
South America from the William Reese Co.
By Michael Stillman
The latest catalogue from the William Reese Company, number 242, has just arrived. It is titled South America, and covers works from four centuries pertaining to that continent (with an occasional spillover to Central or North America). Works can be found in numerous languages, Spanish, English, French, German, even an occasional Italian and Latin. Topics include exploration, colonization, native Indians, slavery, revolution, religion, and lots of politics. This is a most interesting catalogue for collectors of this continent to the south of the equator.
Item 39 is an unusual discourse on slavery from around 1601. It is Tratado de la Importancia y Utildad que ay en dar por esclavos a los Indios Rebelados de Chile by Melchor Calderon. Calderon was a church official who, in this treatise, attempts to objectively consider whether the Indians of Chile should be enslaved. He gives both sides of the debate. Among the justifications for enslavement was providing spoils for the military victors who were not otherwise rewarded, punishment for transgressions of the Indians, and that, as slaves, they could be instructed in the Christian faith. Among the arguments against enslavement was the difficulty in determining which Indians had fought the Spanish and which did not, that many were obedient to crown and church, and many had suffered as a result of the conflict. Ultimately, the ayes carried the day in Spain. Priced at $22,500.
Of course, a clergyman would not want to get too close to the slaves. Rev. John Smith could attest to this. Smith maintained friendly relations with slave leaders in British Guyana, many of whom attended his church. As the slaves rallied for their emancipation, rebellion began to develop. Smith heard of this and discouraged violence, but that was not sufficient. He was charged with not informing the authorities of plans for rebellion. Item 153 is The London Missionary Society's Report of the Proceedings against the Late Rev. J. Smith, of Demerara, Minister of the Gospel, who was Tried under Martial Law, and Condemned to Death, on a Charge of Aiding and Assisting in a Rebellion of the Negro Slaves... The British government later commuted Smith's death sentence, but it made no difference. The good reverend died in prison of pneumonia. He came to be known as the "Demerara Martyr." Item 153, published in 1824. $1,750.
Item 99 is a major manuscript from 16th century La Plata. In mid-century, the province was effectively ruled by Domingo Martinez de Irala. However, Irala was not officially recognized as governor by the Spanish crown, having taken power without its official sanction. Irala understood the precariousness of his position, and despite controlling the area for most of two decades, tried very hard to obtain that sanction. This 1555 manuscript from Irala provided Spanish authorities an explanation for his actions and a request for appointment. Irala finally received the appointment he so long sought the following year, but he died only a few weeks later. $115,000.
South America From William Reese
The first appearance of Darwin's work which led to his theory of evolution.
Perhaps the most significant of voyages to South America had nothing to do with conquest or colonies. It was the voyage of the Beagle. The Beagle was engaged in scientific exploration. One of those scientists was Charles Darwin, and it was the observations he made on this trip which would lead to the development of his theory of evolution. Item 56 is the complete three-volume set plus the appendix of the Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of His Majesty's Ships Adventure and Beagle, Between the Years 1826 and 1836...edited by Robert Fitzroy (the commander). The third volume presented Darwin's findings, and was so in demand it was soon independently reprinted. $25,000.
Item 107 is an amazing collection of early Mexican treaties. It is a sammelband of 30 treaties between 1825 and 1856. It starts with a treaty with Colombia, itself a new republic, in 1825. It was Mexico's first treaty with a foreign nation. It is followed with an 1827 treaty with Great Britain, Mexico's first with a European power. Other treaties include an 1838 treaty with Spain, which finally officially recognized the former colony's independence, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which ended the Mexican-American War, and the rare Mexican printing of the Gadsden Purchase Treaty, whereby the United States obtained the southern parts of Arizona and New Mexico and set today's border between the two nations. $42,500.
Item 92 is a pamphlet from William Henry Harrison, recently dismissed ambassador to Colombia. Harrison had decided that Simon Bolivar was determined to make himself emperor, and had written him what was considered to be an insulting letter urging him to follow the principles of republican government. President Andrew Jackson had been forced to replace Harrison as ambassador. In response, Harrison wrote this piece, Remarks of General Harrison, Late Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States to the Republic of Colombia, on Certain Charges made Against Him by that Government. This defense of his offensive conduct is inscribed by Harrison to North Carolina Congressman Jesse Speight. Ten years later, Harrison would more than rebound from this incident, being elected President of the United States in 1840. $6,500.
Item 32 is Voyage Autour du Monde...by Louis Bougainville, published in 1771. Bougainville was the first Frenchman to circumnavigate the world, but he's not that well remembered as Magellan beat him by a few centuries. However, he did start a colony on the Falkland Islands, and claimed them for France. Unfortunately, France, wanting to maintain peace with Spain, ceded the islands to the Spanish. Lest you think Bougainville is totally forgotten, a botanist on his supply ship named a plant he discovered in South America for his captain. That is the origin of the plant name "Bougainvillea." $7,500.
You may find the William Reese catalogue on their website, www.reeseco.com, or reach them by phone at 203-789-8081.