Mostly Travels from Hordern House
From the Pasadena Book Fair.
Hordern House published a catalogue for the recent Pasadena Bookfair 2012. That was a long trip for the Australian bookseller, though not nearly as difficult a journey as many described in the books herein offered. Australia was always a far away land for the rest of the western world, so many of the books relating to that continent are travel accounts. In the days when distant travels equated to voyages in cramped, dangerous sailboats, these trips were always adventures. Not all of the travels described in these works were to Australia, and a few were overland (Marco Polo, John Mandeville), but nonetheless, Australia is a great place to look for accounts of voyages taken many years ago. Here are a few of the books that made the recent flight (not sail) to Pasadena, California.
We will start with a book that predates the great voyages, but it provided the first printed look, so to speak, at the world. It is the Etymologiae of St. Isidore of Seville. This is the first Italian edition of 1483. The first edition of 1472 offered the first printed map. It was a world map, such as there was at the time, and as primitive as they come. It contains a circle, representing the oceans. Inside the circle is a “T,” with Europe on one side, Africa, on the other, Asia at the top. The stem of the “T” is the Mediterranean Sea, the crossbar probably some combination of waterways such as the Nile. The book itself was an encyclopedia of knowledge from around the year 600, but was still highly regarded as a source of information at the time printing was invented. Item 29. Priced at $70,700.
It would be hard to imagine a more important set to a collection of voyages than the official accounts of the three voyages of Captain James Cook. Three times he left England for the Pacific waters, visiting Australia, the western coast of America, and numerous islands in between. It was Cook who determined there was no large continent surrounding the South Pole, long assumed to exist to balance the greater land masses in the northern hemisphere. Item 14 is a complete set of first editions, eight volumes and the folio atlas, from 1773-84. $76,500.
Here is a unique Cook-related item. It is the manuscript log book for the first journey of the ship Marquis Rockingham. It recounts her maiden voyage in 1771. That name may not sound familiar, but that is because after this first voyage, the ship was renamed. It was given the name Adventure, and was one of the two ships to participate in Cook's second voyage. This was the trip that determined there was no massive southern continent. Item 15. $42,200.
Mostly Travels from Hordern House
Among the passengers on the Adventure was the Tahitian native Omai. Cook brought him back to England, and for two years, he was a popular figure in English society. He was a source of the image of the “noble savage.” He returned to Tahiti with Cook on his third voyage, and died there a few years later. Item 43 is a 1774 engraving of a full-length portrait of Omai painted by Nathaniel Dance. $14,000.
Omai's fate was learned by Captain William Bligh on a visit to Tahiti to gather breadfruit trees in 1789. So began one of the most extraordinary journeys, even by the standards of these times. Bligh and the loyal members of his crew were put off their ship, the Bounty, after the famous mutiny. Bligh then engineered a remarkable journey on the longboat onto which they were thrust. Somehow, he managed to guide it safely over 3,500 miles of ocean to rescue in Batavia. When he finally made it back to England, Bligh immediately released a condensed account of his trip to establish his innocence in the mutiny. Two years later, in 1792, with more time to write, he released this expanded account of the terrible events, A Voyage to the South Sea. Item 4. $19,800.
What could be a worse journey than that of Bligh? Try the one described in Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale Ship Essex. This is an account by Owen Chase, one of the few survivors, published in 1821. The Essex ran into, quite literally, an angry whale, or perhaps we should say the whale ran into the Essex. Maybe it somehow knew what whalers were up to, because the large beast sunk the ship. Eighteen survivors set out to sea, a 2,000 mile journey of horror. They suffered starvation, madness, and finally were forced into cannibalism. Only six made it back alive. It was this tale that inspired Herman Melville to write Moby Dick. Item 12. $18,900.
For a look at how the other half lives, or looks, there is Anthropometamorphosis: man transform'd, by John Bulwer. This is a look at body decoration and mutilation as supposedly performed by various natives of distant lands. It ranges from curious to grotesque to clearly exaggerated, as the at times fantastic illustrations reveal. Interestingly, some of the body piercing and tattooing revealed in this 1653 book has recently come back in fashion. Item 9. $18,900.
You may reach Hordern House at +61 (02) 9356 4411 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Their website is found at www.hordern.com.