Early English and Italian Works from Samuel Gedge, Ltd.
Catalogue I from Samuel Gedge, Ltd.
By Michael Stillman
We recently received Catalogue I from U.K. bookseller Samuel Gedge, Ltd. Recently established in Mundesley, Norfolk, Samuel Gedge and Ernesta Campaner apply their expertise in English and Italian books and manuscripts prior to 1850 to the trade. However, as you will see from some of the titles, their offerings extend farther than that might imply, as some of these books connect to areas all over the world. Samuel Gedge Ltd. has put together a collection of unusual and often quite rare titles that will cover the interests of many different collectors.
Among the types of books found in Gedge's first catalogue are those designed to help English speakers navigate various foreign languages. Others provide guidebooks to foreign lands, or a guidebook for outsiders to England itself. There are very early schoolbooks, and a large collection of works pertaining to plagues in Italy during the early 17th century. Violations of various quarantines were punishable by death. The cures offered were often entertaining, though hardly effective. Between the punishments, cures, and the plague itself, this was a very dangerous time. Here are a few of the works you will find in this most interesting new catalogue.
Rimedi preservativi... is a 1630 translation of remedies for the plague by the French physician Auger Ferrier. Ferrier was the personal physician of Catherine de Medici, and in accordance with the beliefs of the times, liberally recommended blood-letting. However, in credit to Ferrier, he had figured out that many "cures" were spurious. As Gedge notes, he advised against, "mercury pills, urine drinking, scorpion oil and ashes of frogs." Out of that bunch, I guess the overdone frogs legs sound best, but antibiotics were truly a major step forward. Item 77. Priced at £550 (US equivalent of approximately $1,077).
If you are planning a trip to Rome, The Antiquarian or the Guide for Foreigners to go the Rounds of the Antiquities of Rome, by Angelo Dalmazzoni should help. The guide dates to 1803, but presumably the antiquities haven't changed. Dalmazzoni, himself a personal guide, notes that while there are many other such books, they are all "copied one from another," and all contain "the same unbecoming praises, the same faults, and equally want exactness, brevity and erudition." His, obviously, is better, though today very scarce. Item 23. £1,400 ($2,741).
Here is an even more fascinating guidebook for Englishmen who did not plan on traveling quite so far. Published in 1780 by an author who preferred to remain anonymous, the title is Characters of the Present Most Celebrated Courtezans. Interspersed with a Variety of Secret Anecdotes Never Before Published. This is a most useful reference book for gentlemen, something of a Consumers' Report for the trade. For the once lovely Mrs. B-dd-y, we are told, "...the utmost stretch of human imagination is inadequate to conceive any thing more delicately lovely than the tout ensemble of this adorable girl...the wretched vestiges of which are scarcely to be treated in the present emaciated remains of Mrs. B-dd-y...her eyesight is decayed, her memory extinct, and her whole frame relaxed to a degree of almost infantile imbecility, by a dreadful indulgence in love, liquor, lust, and laudanum..." Mrs. F-rr-r fares little better.
Early English and Italian Works from Samuel Gedge, Ltd.
A guide to London courtesans circa 1780.
Recalling her past, the writer says "She was then  in all bloom of eighteen, and had a face as beautiful as can be imagined; her figure could never be called a fine one, but it certainly deserved the epithet pretty; it was at that time utterly unencumbered with all that enormous mountain of fat, which it has since so unhappily collected..." No one could accuse this guidebook writer of issuing too many "unbecoming praises." Item 87 £3,000 (US $5,870).
Perhaps the British are less effusive in their praise than are the Italians. Here is another guide, An exact survey of the United Provinces of the Netherlands, by the anonymous "T.W." published in 1673. This book provides lots of information to the visitor of the Netherlands, but the preface notes, "And truly three of the hardest things in the world are, to quadrate a circle; to finde out the Philosphers Stone; and to make the Dutch grateful." Item 66. £550 (US $1,077).
Item 13, by Charles Philip Brown, was designed to help English speakers learn Kanada (or Kannada), an Indian language related to Telugu. Dialogues in Kanada and English for the use of learners provides conversations which perhaps are more interesting for their pictures of the times (1852) than for their use in learning the language. Among the phrases translated are, "What are these elephants doing here?" "Yes sir, but he proposed applying leeches," "This is the hottest day I have known since my arrival in this country," and "No sir; there has been no cholera here for a year past." £650 (US $1,272).
Item 16 is one of the earliest American schoolbooks. The book is A Short Introduction to the Latin Tongue, by Ezekiel Cheever. Cheever was a noted American educator, master of the Boston Grammar School for 38 years. When he died in 1708, his eulogy was given by the famed American theologian and witch-hunter Cotton Mather, who had studied under Cheever. This book was first printed the year after his death, while this copy is a fourth edition, the first printed in London, from 1734, "Printed for T. Cox, Bookseller, in Boston." £3,000 (US $5,870).
Samuel Gedge, Ltd., may be found online at www.samuelgedge.com. Their telephone number is +44 (0)1263 722 555, email email@example.com.