A Summer Miscellany from Gert Jan Bestebreurtje
Image of Hall Sisters' captivity on Bestebreurtje catalogue.
By Michael Stillman
Gert Jan Bestebreurtje Rare Books has issued their Catalogue 135 - A Summer Miscellany. This certainly is a miscellany, with all types of nonfiction works covering all corners of the globe. What we found surprising was the large number of American works offered by this Dutch bookseller. Many deal with political issues of the 19th century, with a large number concerned with America's most confounding issue of the time - slavery. We don't know exactly how these books made their way to the Netherlands, but undoubtedly some American collectors will want to bring a few home. Therefore, we will focus a bit more on the pieces of Americana, but with the caveat that there are many books herein pertaining to other lands, and written in European languages other than English. Now, we will take a look inside.
Bestebreurtje offers copies of two major speeches given in the American Senate in the year 1850 from two of her most famous orators, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. Each spoke out in favor of the great yet doomed Compromise of 1850. Item 43 is the Speech of Henry Clay, of Kentucky, on taking up his compromise resolutions on the subject of slavery. Delivered on February 5 and 6, the comprise proposed consisted of several different parts, eventually admitting California into the Union as a free state and banning slave sales in the District of Columbia, favored by northerners, while opening the new territories in the west to slavery through popular sovereignty, and imposing enforcement of the fugitive slave laws on the north, positions favored by southerners. Priced at €65 (approximately $103 in US dollars). Item 227 is Daniel Webster's Speech upon the subject of slavery; delivered in the United States Senate on March 7, 1850. This is Webster's famed "Seventh of March" speech, and it destroyed the outstanding reputation he had built over half a century with his neighbors in the North. Webster's guiding light throughout his career was preservation of the Union, and in this speech he declared he was an American before a Northerner. He thereby accepted the hated Fugitive Slave Law, because he believed this compromise would preserve the Union. That it did, but only temporarily, and at the cost of Webster's reputation. €75 (US $118).
Item 82 is one of those terrible Indian Captivities: Narrative of the Capture and Providential Escape of Misses Frances and Almira Hall, Two Respectable Young Women (Sisters) of the Ages of 16 and 18 Who Were Taken Prisoners By the Savages, at a Frontier Settlement, Near Indian Creek, in May Last, When Fifteen of the Inhabitants Fell Victims to the Bloody Tomahawk and Scalping Knife; Among Whom Were the Parents of the Unfortunate Females. That sums up the gruesome tale, mitigated somewhat by the dubious accuracy of the story. Howes attributes the anonymous book to William P. Edwards, who wrote other similarly gruesome tales about Indians, and notes that the Hall sisters names were Rachel and Sylvia, not Frances and Almira. This might throw the quality of Edwards' research into doubt. The book also includes "the Sufferings of Philip Brigdon," in case those of the Hall Sisters isn't enough to make you angry with the Indians. While much of the accuracy herein is in doubt, the book does provide some insight into the Sac and Fox War in Illinois at the time of this publishing - 1832. A woodcut from this book is pictured on the catalogue's cover (click the thumbnail image above to see). €1,250 (US $1,975).
A Summer Miscellany from Gert Jan Bestebreurtje
Author, sailor, and indomitable spirit Annie Brassey.
Annie Brassey had a much better go of it than the poor Hall sisters. She was a wealthy woman, with a successful husband who was elected to Parliament, and five fine children. She gladly assisted charities, in particular the St. John Ambulance Association, when not sailing on her yacht the Sunbeam. Sailing was her love, and she wrote books about her adventures at sea. Evidently, many people enjoyed vicariously living her adventures through her books, as they were very popular and reprinted many times. Item 29 is her A voyage in the 'Sunbeam' our home on the ocean for eleven months, an edition from 1879. Item 28 is the same work in French, from 1878. Each is priced at €150 (US $237). Lest you think everything in life was perfect for a wealthy lady, this was the 19th century, and medicine was not what it is today. On her final voyage in the Sunbeam, Annie came down with malaria, died and was buried at sea off the Australian coast.
Here is a man who also visited Australia, several times, with much better results. Item 45 is Reizen rondom de weereld... the 1774 first Dutch edition of Captain James Cook's first voyage (written by John Hawkesworth). Cook made numerous discoveries along the sixth continent during his three voyages, and while not suffering Annie Brassey's fate, was killed by natives in, of all places, Hawaii. No place was safe for vacations in those days. €1,250 ($1,976).
Who might you think wrote a book titled Afrikanische Wanderungen eines Naturforschers und Jagers? Probably not Teddy Roosevelt, but he is the author of this book published in 1910. It is the account of one of his big-game hunting trips to Africa, the first German edition. While Roosevelt wrote the book, we would imagine someone else converted his words to German. Item 181. €150 (US $237).
Gert Jan Bestebreurtje Rare Books may be reached at +31-(0)347-322548 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Their website is www.gertjanbestebreurtje.com.