Europe and the Far East from the Antiquariaat Forum
Europe and the Far East from the Antiquariaat Forum.
By Michael Stillman
We recently received a magnificent catalogue from the Antiquariaat Forum of the Netherlands, entitled Europe and the Far East. Normally we do not comment on the art of the catalogue, only the material described within. However, once in awhile one comes along that merits, if not requires, special mention. This is a beautiful and highly informative catalogue, well illustrated with thorough descriptions of the 268 books and manuscripts offered. There may be 268 items described, but there are 269 collectible works here, the three-quarter inch thick catalogue itself being number 269. Now we will look at what is inside.
The title has two subheadings that further describe the content: An Eventful History of over 500 Years, and Printed Books, Atlases, Maps, Manuscripts and Drawings on India, Indonesia, Southwest Asia, the Philippines, China and Japan. Those are good descriptions, as the works are mostly seriously antiquarian, many dating back to the 16th century, as well as more "modern" works from the 19th century. The works describe voyages and missions (both political and religious) to the countries of Asia and the Far East. While many, as might be expected, are Dutch missions, others run the list of colonial nations from Europe, and the writings come in many different languages. Finally, a concluding section contains some of the most important and magnificent of atlases, including those of Ortelius, Munster, and Blaeu. Next, we will look at a few specific examples.
Item 1 is an early Swiss geography, Epitome trium terrae partium, Asiae, Africae et Europae by Joachim Vadianus. While Vadianus may have been focused on the three parts of the world that do not include America, the world map in this 1534 book includes one of the earlier depictions of America, and is properly so labeled. The map shows South America in reasonably recognizable form, though North America is little more than a very long, narrow island. Vadianus describes the various features of the lands, though his intent was not so much to bring knowledge of the modern world to his readers as to help them identify the places described in the Bible. Priced at €49,500 (Euros, or approximately US $71,295).
The most important collection of voyages up to 1600, certainly for the English-speaking world, is Richard Hakluyt's The principal navigations, voyages, traffiques and discoveries of the English nation... Despite its title Hakluyt covered many voyages from outside of England as well as every English travel he could find. This is a particularly important work for an Americana collection as the third of its three volumes is devoted to travel to the New World in the era before the pilgrims set sail. Offered is a second edition from 1599-1600, expanded from the first but with a copy of the rare suppressed Cadiz voyage taken from the first edition. Item 10. €26,900 (US $38,750).
Europe and the Far East from the Antiquariaat Forum
Hand-drawn fish from the Louis Relian manuscript.
Item 12 is another major collection of voyages, but this is one of Dutch voyages from 1595 to 1640, with a focus on the then new VOC (Dutch East India Company). Twenty-one voyages are described, twelve for the first time, in Begin ende voortgaghe... by Isaac Commelin, published in 1646. 125,000 (US $180,064).
Item 34 is A historical and geographical description of Formosa... by George Psalamanzar. As convincing as this geography was to many, there was no Formosa, and no Psalamanzar. Supposed Formosan native Psalamanzar was really a European imposter, and his Formosa (not to be confused with the island now known as Taiwan) a figment of his imagination. However, in 1704, when the world was still filled with lands unknown to Europeans, such a fiction could be convincing. Among the habits of Formosans, Antiquariaat Forum explains, "Formosans were polygamous and husbands had a right to eat their wives for infidelity. They executed murderers by hanging them upside down and shooting them full of arrows. Annually they sacrificed the hearts of 18,000 young boys to gods and priests ate the bodies." The book also includes a Formosan alphabet and language invented by the unnamed true author. "Psalmanazar" finally gave up the hoax ten years later when enough inconsistencies were pointed out. 1,950 (US $2,809).
Enough fiction. Item 257 is a "true story" from India, Verissima relacion embiada a Don Frey Andres de S. Maria Obispo de Cochin... This 1609 "true story" tells of a 360-year-old man (you are already doubting its veracity) from India, who had been married eight times (we don't know whether he ate his first seven wives) and whose teeth had fallen out and been regenerated twice. No need for expensive dentistry when your teeth can grow back. When a monk asked this man, who must have been in amazing shape for someone his age, for help in crossing the Ganges, he carried the monk across. The monk then revealed himself as St. Francis of Assisi, and promised the man eternal youth, which it seems like this man had already acquired, so St. Francis really "gave" him what was already his. The good Saint should have been a politician. 19,500 (US $28,096).
Item 138 is a 1754 manuscript travelogue by Frenchman Louis Relian, Journal historique d'un voyage aux Indes Orientales... Relian was a physician employed by the VOC who traveled to Batavia (now Jakarta, Indonesia) in 1752. From there, he went on to China. Relian recounts his exciting voyage and the places he saw, often in a humorous manner. Included in the journal is a full-page drawing of a fish he called a "dauphin" (click the image on this page to enlargen). 30,000 (US $43,250).
The Antiquariaat Forum may be visited online at www.forumrarebooks.com. Their telephone number is +31 (0)30 6011955, or email email@example.com.