Travel From Bernard J. Shapero Rare Books
Recent Travel Acquisitions of Bernard J. Shapero Rare Books.
By Michael Stillman
Bernard J. Shapero Rare Books has issued a catalogue of "Recent Travel Acquisitions." This catalogue includes 106 items recent only to Shapero Rare Books, as they range from one to four centuries old. Included is a large collection of travels to the Antarctic, plus many trips to Asia in centuries past.
Sir Richard Francis Burton was one of the greatest explorers of the 19th century. An Englishman, he is best remembered for his discoveries in Africa and the Near East. He was part of John Speke's expedition to discover the source of the Nile. He traveled to the forbidden cities of Mecca and Medina disguised as an Arab merchant. He was fluent in many languages and was a translator of works such as "Arabian Nights." So, it's a bit surprising to find him involved in "explorations" of America, but in 1860, looking for something different, Burton traveled to the American West. The result was the following book: The City of the Saints and across the Rocky Mountains to California. Published in London in 1861, it recounts his experiences with the Indians and Mormons. He was intrigued by polygamy, still in practice at the time, as he had seen polygamous societies in Africa. He notes that it is mostly found in societies where the fear for survival is greatest. As to the charge that it amounts to adultery, Burton wryly points out that at least the Mormons practice it openly; "how full is society of these latent Mormons!" Item 2. Priced at L1,250 (US $2,321).
One of the most unhappy journeys ever taken was the Robert Scott expedition to the South Pole in 1912. Scott and his four companions who made it to the Pole never made it back. The blizzards and extreme cold of "summer" blocked their return. Apsley Cherry-Garrard, a member of the expedition who helped locate Scott's body, wrote about his experiences in The Worst Journey in the World. Antarctic 1910-1913. However, Cherry-Gerrard's own personal worst journey was a side trip in the dead of winter to locate Emperor Penguin eggs, a journey by three men of which the author was the only survivor. In his introduction, Cherry-Garrard states, "Polar exploration is at once the cleanest and most isolated way of having a bad time which has been devised. It is the only form of adventure in which you put on your clothes at Michaelmas [September 29] and keep them on until Christmas, and, save for a layer of the natural grease of the body, find them as clean as though they were new." That's a good thing, because it's hard to do laundry in a place where temperatures dip to 70 below. Item 17. 1929 second edition. L1,500 (US $2,787).
Travel From Bernard J. Shapero Rare Books
The Cherry-Garrard book, and several others in this catalogue, carry an interesting association. They were once part of the library of another Antarctic explorer, Albert B. Armitage. Armitage had accompanied Scott on his previous journey to Antarctica a decade earlier, as Navigator and second in command. Some books are signed by Armitage and others contain inscriptions to him. All pertain to Antarctic exploration. Included is Armitage's own book, Two Years in the Antarctic, recounting his journey with Scott, which Armitage inscribed to his wife, Joy. Item 12. From 1905. L4,000. (US $7,436).
Here's another unpleasant trip. Robert Knox wrote about it in An Historical Relation of Ceylon...together with an Account of the Detaining in Captivity of the Author and Divers Other Englishmen Now Living There, and of the Author's Miraculous Escape. Knox and his mates set sale from London in 1658. Almost two years into their journey, the ship was forced to land in Ceylon during a storm. They were welcomed by the local king, but soon became captives. Knox, while being allowed to live a decent life, was not permitted to leave. It would be 19 years before he was finally able to escape and work his way back to England. Item 102. First edition, published in 1681. L2,000 (US $3,709).
H. Swainson Cowper took an interesting journey, which he wrote about in 1894. The title is, Through Turkish Arabia. Cowper followed the route from Aleppo in what is now Syria along the Euphrates and Tigris River valleys to Baghdad, and then on to Babylon, Karbela, and the Persian Gulf and India. It must have been a dangerous journey then, but not nearly as dangerous as it would be today. Item 31. L850 (US $1,580).
Bernard J. Shapero Rare Books may be found online at www.shapero.com or reached in London at +44 (0) 20 7493 0876.