Exploration and Travel from Helen Kahn Rare Books
Adventure, Exploration, Voyages & Travel from Helen R. Kahn.
By Michael Stillman
Helen R. Kahn Rare Books, Maps and Manuscripts has released its Catalogue 67 of Adventure, Exploration, and Voyages and Travels. It is an extensive catalogue of travels from all over the world. There are many books covering explorations in the far north, as befitting a Canadian (Montreal) bookseller. However, there is also a wide variety of other travels, including many from Europe to the Near and Far East. There is something here for everyone who collects within the field of travel and voyages. Here are a few samples.
Baron George Anson was a British naval officer sent with a squadron of six ships in 1740 to harass the Spanish settlements and shipping in South America. By the time he returned four years later, he had succeeded in causing some inconveniences to the Spanish, and captured an extraordinarily wealthy Spanish vessel. The booty from this capture (some might call it an act of piracy) enabled Anson to return home an enormously rich man. However, not all of his men fared so well. Two ships were forced to return to England after failing to make it around Cape Horn, and three others did not make it at all. Only Anson's ship, the Centurion, survived to complete the circumnavigation. Item 24 is the tale of one of the other ships, the Wager, which was shipwrecked off the coast of Chile. It is The Narrative of the Honourable John Byron, containing an Account of the Great Distresses suffered by himself and his Companions on the coast of Patagonia from the Year 1740, till their Arrival in England, 1746. Suffer they did. Byron, and the men with him, were captured and imprisoned by local Indians, who then turned the men over to Spanish authorities. However, they were still more fortunate than most who served on Anson's ships, as the majority of his men died, either from accidents or battle, or, for the most part, from scurvy. Along with descriptions of their "distresses," Byron tells us much about the customs of the Indians who held them. Byron would go on to be an admiral and governor of Newfoundland, while his grandson was the famous poet Lord Byron. This copy is a first edition, published in 1768. Priced at $1,800.
Not all shipwrecks end in such extreme unpleasantness. For one of the happier shipwreck stories, here is a Narrative of a Voyage to the South Seas, and the Shipwreck of the Princess of Wales Cutter, with an Account of Two Years Residence on an Uninhabited Island...by Charles Goodridge. The Princess of Wales was a sealer which was shipwrecked along the Crozet Islands. For those unfamiliar with the Crozets, it's a small group of islands in the Indian Ocean located not close to anything. Its cool, damp and windy climate make it less than an ideal vacation spot, but the sea lions and other fish and animals make food plentiful. Goodridge noted that they made full use of the sea lions, for food, clothing, and soap, and even made pipe bowls from the teeth, using them to smoke the island grass. He notes that they ate the lions' brains raw. He describes the taste as "sweet as sugar." Perhaps. I'll take his word for it. After two years, they were rescued from their island paradise. Item 58. $450.
Exploration and Travel from Helen Kahn Rare Books
Here is one more distressing ship narrative: A Narrative of the Loss of the Kent, by Fire, in the Bay of Biscay, on the first of March, 1825. In a Letter to a Friend, by a passenger. The passenger was Sir Duncan MacGregor, and he retells the event aboard a ship bound for India and China with over 600 onboard. Fortunately, another ship was passing close by, so most of the passengers were saved. MacGregor also recounts the kindnesses bestowed upon them by the Quakers who took in the survivors in nearby Falmouth. Item 92. $75.
A book about exploring the north coast of America may draw a few blank stares. We all know the east and west coasts, and the south coast makes sense, but a north coast? Well, there is one. Admittedly, it's rather cold up there. No one is going to spend a day sunning on a northern beach, but Thomas Simpson provides a good account of this territory in Narratives of the Discoveries on the North Coast of America...published in 1843. Simpson was one of a party of twelve explorers employed by the Hudson's Bay Company sent out to investigate stretches of the northern coast. They traveled from the MacKenzie River in northwest Canada to Point Barrow in Alaska, and from the Coppermine River to the Back River. The book reports on geographic features, climate, and natives of the area. Simpson's explorations took place during 1836-39. He didn't live to see his book published four years later. Shortly after the beginning of a second expedition in 1840, Simpson died under mysterious circumstances. It is still unknown whether he was killed by companions or took his own life, and in either case, why. Item 121. $3,000.
Edmund Hillary may be the best known of the Everest climbers since he led the first successful expedition, but his most notable predecessor was Hugh Ruttledge. Ruttledge came close a couple of times in the 1930s, but never quite made it to the top. Item 118 is an account of his 1933 expedition, Everest 1933. $500. Item 117 recounts the 1937 attempt, The Unfinished Adventure. $325. While not successful, the Ruttledge expeditions established that it was just a matter of time before the mountain would be conquered.
Helen R. Kahn Rare Books may be found online at www.hrkahnbooks.com or reached by phone at 514-844-5344.