Voyages and Travels from Reg and Philip Remington
Voyages & Travels from Reg and Philip Remington.
By Michael Stillman
This month we review our first catalogue from English booksellers Reg and Philip Remington. The Remingtons are a father and son team with over eight decades experience in the book trade. Reg Remington has been in the business for over half a century, spending most of his first three decades with the legendary original Francis Edwards Ltd. When the Edwards family, after well over a century in business, chose to sell in 1979, Reg Remington decided to open his own firm, which he accomplished as a partnership with his son Philip Remington. Philip Remington now counts over 30 years experience in the trade himself.
At the time Edwards was sold, Reg Remington was responsible for the voyage and travel department. This remains the area where he and Philip specialize today. Their latest catalogue is their 36th, and it is, not surprisingly, headed Voyages and Travels. It offers a remarkable collection. There is everything here from a complete first edition set of Cook's travels to the personal ramblings of some adventurous tourists out to see the world.
The Remingtons have made it easy to find the material which interests you by sorting it geographically. Among the many locations covered are Africa (actually six subsections of Africa), China, the U.S.A., Canada, Australia, Egypt, Mexico, the East and West Indies, and general voyages, which covers those trips that went to too many places to pinpoint any one. Then there are special topics, such as Captain Bligh, rubber (that's an odd one), and my favorite - pirates. While Remington is an English bookseller, there is no such limitation on the nationality of the explorers covered. The closest thing to a local bend here is that the majority of the books are in the English language, though often these are translations of works from explorers of different nationalities. All in all, this is a most interesting and diverse collection of books concerning voyages and travel. Here are a few examples.
Item 10 is an account of a relatively obscure six-year voyage primarily along the west coast of America. The book is the Narrative of the Voyage of H.M.S. Herald, 1845-1851, under the Command of Captain Henry Kellett...being a Circumnavigation of the Globe, and Three Cruises to the Bering Strait and Arctic Regions in Search of Sir John Franklin. The book was written by the ship's naturalist, Berthold Seeman. The expedition searched the west coast of South, Central and North America as well as the Hawaiian and Galapagos Islands for three years when it was redirected north to join the search for Sir John Franklin's ships. The Franklin expedition became trapped in the frozen north searching for a northwest passage, and neither the Herald nor many others sent to find it were successful. Nevertheless, the search made for some spectacular adventures. Herald Island, located north of the Bering Strait, and part of Russia, was discovered by the Herald's voyage. Priced at £2,500 (US equivalent of $4,351).
Voyages and Travels from Reg and Philip Remington
This next voyage was much shorter, but a lot less pleasant. This is a story about the terrible journey of the ship Fanny, and one can only wonder why a ship was so named. The Fanny went down on a reef between Bombay and China. The survivors were stuck in a small boat for a month, and when they finally made it to Malacca (in today's Malaysia), many of them were savagely killed by the locals. The book is A Narrative of the Loss of the Ship Fanny...With an Account of the Extraordinary Preservation of a Part of the Crew...by Thomas Page. Item 97. Published in 1805. L350 (US $609).
If the story of the crew of the Fanny is unbelievable in the sense of amazing, the story of Ambrose Gwinett is unbelievable in the sense of...unbelievable, that is, hard to be believed. Gwinett was convicted of murder in England and hanged for his crime. However, he somehow managed to survive his own hanging and was spirited away by his brother. He took off for the West Indies, but Gwinett's luck, which seemed to swing from extreme fortuitousness to extreme despair, went south again when he was captured by the Spanish. Gwinett wasn't the only dead man to turn up alive in this tale. He was taken to Cuba where he chanced upon, of all people, the man he was hanged for killing. He next was captured by pirates, joined up with them, but later became a slave, was recaptured by the Spanish, and ended up as a one-legged beggar on the streets of London. Not surprisingly, this amazing adventure was extremely popular, running into editions in the double digits. Item 142 is a sixth edition circa 1760. However, the veracity of this tale has since come under deep suspicion. But, Gwinett's name is still remembered, though it belongs to someone else. Famed turn of the century writer, cynic, and author of many quotable quotes Ambrose Bierce's full name was Ambrose Gwinett Bierce. He was the tenth of thirteen children, all of whom his father gave a name beginning with the letter "A" taken from books in his library. We now know at least one of the books the senior Mr. Bierce possessed. The title is The Life, Strange Voyage, and Uncommon Adventures of Ambrose Gwinett. L250 (US $436).
From the strange to the sublime: item 101 is a complete set (nine volumes including atlas) of first editions of the three voyages of Captain James Cook. Cook's voyages hardly need an introduction. He first left England in 1768 to observe the transit of Venus (when the planet crosses in front of the sun), but also was searching for the large, southern continent then believed to exist. By the conclusion of his second voyage, it became apparent it did not exist, but along the way, he made major discoveries in Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands. His third voyage took him to the west coast of North America and Hawaii, where, unfortunately, he was killed in a dispute with the natives. L25,000 (US $43,622).
The cotters of Scotland were tenant farmers, poor laborers given use of a cottage and small amount of land in return for their labors. Being poor in 1842 was much like being poor in 2005. It was a condition sure to draw contempt from many who are more fortunate. Item 122 is Britain's Danger and Safety. By the Editor of the Inverness Herald. This kindly editor counsels, "I have no hesitation in asserting that in our northern countries not one of a thousand cotters, such as I have been describing, pays his rent...One counselor advises the whole of this class to be got rid of, and thrust into towns and villages, or transported to Canada, or New South Wales, or New Zealand, where there is room for them..." Today, the writer might not make it as an editor, but would undoubtedly be a major success on talk radio. L250 (US $436).
Reg and Philip Remington may be found online at www.remingtonbooks.com, or reached by phone at 01727-893531.