24 Travel and Other Items from Hordern House
Twenty-four rare books, manuscripts and prints from Hordern House.
By Michael Stillman
Hordern House has issued a brief, yet extensive catalogue of rare books, manuscripts and prints. It is brief in that only 24 items are offered, but each comes with a detailed description and photograph (two quarto pages for each). Naturally, these are all extraordinary items. Hordern House is an Australian bookseller, so there is a concentration of Australian and Pacific material, and most relate to various travels and voyages. However, there are always exceptions. The items range from a 1492 Florence printing of the travels of Sir John Mandeville to 1851 hand-colored lithographs of sketches of the South Sea Islands by Conway Shipley. Here are a few of the items in between.
Certainly one of the most preeminent of all voyagers was Captain James Cook. Cook undertook three voyages to the Pacific region in the 1770s. Scientific experiments along with an attempt to locate what was then believed to be a massive southern continent were foremost on his mind. Cook would go on to do much of the mapping of Australia, and his last expedition would take him to the west coast of America and the Hawaiian Islands (where he was killed by the locals). However, in his earlier days, Cook helped chart the St. Lawrence River in North America. Item 10 is a certificate of discharge from the surveying ship Pembroke for one Thomas Warren, discharged for the very logical reason that he had died. It is signed by both Cook and his mentor aboard ship, Captain John Simcoe. Priced at AU $65,000 (Australian dollars, or US equivalent $50,007).
One of the scientific instruments Cook brought along for testing on his second voyage was John Harrison's clock. A highly accurate clock was needed for determining location. Voyagers were readily able to determine their latitude by measuring the sun's angle at high noon. However, longitude was a problem. To determine longitude, they needed to know the time lapse between high noon at Greenwich and high noon at their current location. This necessitated a highly accurate timepiece to tell Greenwich time. Harrison's development of such a clock was the missing link needed to accurately inform travelers of their location. Item 11 is The Principles of Mr. Harrison's Time-Keeper... This is the first edition in French and English, from 1767, the same year as the first English edition. AU $44,000 (US $33,744).
Also present on Cook's second voyage, along with Harrison's timepiece, was George Vancouver, a boy of just 15. He next served on Cook's final voyage, and about ten years later, was placed in charge of an expedition to the west coast of North America. His legacy includes leaving his name on well-known cities and islands in Canada and Washington State. Despite his many discoveries, Vancouver faced a disciplinary action when he returned and ended his life in obscurity.
24 Travel and Other Items from Hordern House
Unflattering cartoon makes explorer George Vancouver appear cowardly.
Some of his men found his leadership harsh. The primary source of his problem was a young member of his crew, Thomas Pitt, second Baron Camelford, whom Vancouver flogged and discharged in Hawaii for falling asleep on his watch. Item 15 is a hand-colored etching of The Caneing on Conduit Street...which depicts an enraged Pitt demanding Vancouver accept his challenge to a duel, while Vancouver is shown cowering behind another, calling for help. He is shown wearing a cloak given Vancouver as a gift from the Hawaiian King to be delivered to the British King. This image, by James Gillray, depicts a chance meeting between the two men on the street when Pitt attempted to cane his former commander. The drawing helped heap the ridicule on Vancouver which destroyed his career. AU $18,750 ($US $14,369).
Item 23 is the report of what may be the most significant voyage emanating from North America. It is the Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition...commanded by Lieutenant Charles Wilkes. Wilkes' expedition, which lasted from 1838-1842, explored much of the Pacific coast of America, retracing many of Vancouver's steps. However, the expedition may be most notable for its visits as far west as Australia, and particularly, discoveries along the Antarctic continent. These discoveries demonstrated that the United States was a significant force in the field of exploration. The 1845 six-volume narrative of the Wilkes Expedition was printed in two full-size versions, 100 copies for official presentations, and 150 copies for public use. There was also a smaller edition printed in 1,000 copies. This copy is one of the 150 public copies. AU $47,500 (US $36,399).
Matthew Flinders is of similar importance to Australia. Flinders was the first to circumnavigate and map the Australian continent. His was the first map to prominently label it "Australia." He also disproved the widely held belief that Australia was divided in two parts by a navigable waterway. Item 16 is a first edition of A Voyage to Terra Australis...published in 1814. The three volumes cover his circumnavigation aboard the Investigator plus two later voyages. AU $87,500 (US $66,985)
Hordern House is located on the internet at www.hordern.com, telephone (61-2) 9356 4411.