Very Old and Rare Books from Martayan Lan
Rare books from the 15th to 19th centuries from Martayan Lan.
By Michael Stillman
The 36th catalogue of Martyan Lan of New York contains 246 rare books from the 15th to
19th centuries. Most of these works are European in origin, very old, and of considerable
significance. Severable are incunables.
The catalogue is divided into sections suitable for different types of collections. The first
topic is travel, geography and voyages, followed by the history of science. The latter is
divided into astronomy; physics, mathematics and alchemy; and medicine, natural history and
mining. Next it moves to arts and humanities, and finally two contemporary portraits, one of
Sir Isaac Newton, the other of William Harvey.
For those who collect in these fields, we recommend locating a copy of this catalogue. Most
of what you will find is not what you might expect. For example, under travel, geography and
voyages, there are no Cooks or Lewis and Clarks. But, here is an incunable concerning the
siege of Rhodes in 1480. Rhodes is a Greek island off the Turkish coast that has exchanged
hands several times over the past few millennia. Early in the 14th century, control of the
island fell to the Knights of St. John, or Knights of Rhodes (later known as the Knights of
Malta when they were forced from Rhodes). Item 12 is Obsidionis Rhodie urbis
descripto, by Guillaume Caoursin, a member of the Knights. It recounts the siege of 1480
when the Knights, with aid of fortifications, withstood a much larger Ottoman force under
Mehmed (Mahomet) II. The Ottoman ruler died before attempting another siege, and the
Christian Knights were able to maintain control until 1522, when Suleiman sent an
overwhelming force to wrest control of the island for the Turks. It would so remain until the
20th century when recaptured by Europeans. Meanwhile, the Knights would move on to Malta, and
continue today as a quasi-government without land. This title, published in 1482, recounts
one of the high points of the Knights' long history. Priced at $22,500.
Giovanni Gemelli-Careri undertook one of the most remarkable trips around the world late in
the 17th century. He had no ships, no crew. He went alone, availing himself of whatever
transportation was available. He was not motivated by trade or missionary work, nor any
particular scientific endeavors. He was essentially just a tourist, perhaps the first to
complete such a trip around the world. His travels took Gemelli-Careri from his home in
Naples to Malta, Egypt, Turkey, Persia, India, China, the Philippines, Mexico, South America,
and Cuba. His travelogue, Giro de Mondo, would prove to be very popular and run to
many editions. This is a first, six volumes published from 1699-1700. A century later, some
would question whether Gemelli-Careri ever made this journey, but his descriptions of places
like Mexico and India contain details it is unlikely he could have known without personally
visiting the sites. Item 23. $17,000.
Very Old and Rare Books from Martayan Lan
Galileo's Dialogue promoted the controversial idea the sun is at the center of the solar system
Polozheniya... is the first edition of the masters thesis by Dmitri Mendeleev. Published
in 1856, it is a treatise on molecular volumes of various compounds. More importantly, it is
a preview of the work this 22-year-old Russian scientist would go on to accomplish in the
years ahead. Mendeleev would create the periodic table of elements fundamental to chemistry
13 years later. Item 136. $12,000.
Item 82 is a first edition of Galileo Galilei's Dialogo... Published in 1632.
Galileo's ideas are presented in the form of a dialogue between advocates of the traditional
Earth-centered solar system and the controversial Copernican model, which placed the sun at
its center. Galileo would be condemned as a heretic for adopting the sun-centered model and
be forced to repudiate his beliefs. Church doctrine interpreted such Biblical events as
Joshua calling on the sun (not the Earth) to stand still as proof that the sun revolved
around the Earth. $95,000.
You may visit Martayan Lan online at www.martayanlan.com, or call them at 212-308-0018.