A Miscellany from Forest Books
Miscellany Three from Forest Books.
By Michael Stillman
The latest catalogue from Forest Books of Redmile, Nottinghamshire, England, is their Miscellany Three. A "miscellany" is hard to describe, since it can contain just about anything. For an American reader (though perhaps not a British one), a common thread is the material is mostly quite old, many 18th to early 19th century works, some even older. Indeed, it starts with a book from Naples not young even by incunabulan standards (is that a word?). It is a printing of St. Augustine's De Civitate Dei from 1477. Other books offered are not quite so antique, and most are in English, so they are easier for this writer to describe. Now, here are a few descriptions.
Item 20 recounts a spectacular 45-mile voyage through the air, in just two hours and fifteen minutes. That may not sound so impressive today, but the year was 1784, within a year of the first manned balloon flight. Jean Pierre Blanchard's account was published that year in An Exact and Authentic Narrative of M. Blanchard's Third Aerial Voyage, from Rouen in Normandy, on the 18th of July, 1784. Blanchard and American Dr. John Jeffries would make the first successful flight across the English channel the following year, and Blanchard would visit America a decade later, where his flights would be viewed by George Washington and many other of America's early leaders. He also made America's first airmail delivery during his visit. Blanchard even demonstrated the first successful parachute jump, though the actual leap was performed by an unwitting animal rather than Blanchard himself. Priced at £875 (British pounds, or US equivalent of roughly $1,773).
Item 53 is an amazing tale of the dangers faced by seafarers of another generation. The title says it all: A Faithful Account of the Distresses and Adventures of John Cockburn, Mariner, and Five other Englishmen; Who were taken Prisoners by a Spanish Pyrate, treated in the most Inhuman Manner, set on Shore, on a Uninhabited Island, Naked and Wounded, and obliged to Travel over Land from the Gulf of Honduras to the Great South-Sea, being 2400 Miles. This was a story so fanciful as to be unbelievable, but Sabin, quoting Lowndes, tells us it was true – "A curious and authentic narrative, and appeared so extraordinary as to be looked upon as little better than a romance." Cockburn was an ordinary seaman who, with a few crewmates, was left on an uninhabited island by pirates. They eventually made their way to shore in Mexico and proceeded on their long journey through Central America to find transport back home. Along with recounting the terrible sufferings of these men, the book provides much information about the natives and natural history of a land not well known to the outside world in the early 19th century. Offered is a 1740 edition of a story published in many editions under different titles beginning in 1735 (the journey took place in 1730-31). £895 (US $1,813).
A Miscellany from Forest Books
M. Blanchard was one of the very first men to fly.
Americans generally read about slavery in terms of the ending of the slave trade, the fight for abolition, and finally the Civil War. Here is an item that goes back to the times when the slave trade was still young and active, and North America and the Caribbean was rapidly being populated with slaves. The title of this 1710 work is A True State of the Present Difference between the Royal African Company, and the Separate Traders: Shewing the Irregularities and Impositions of the Joint-Stock Managers... The Royal African Company had been granted an English monopoly on the slave trade until 1698, when it was opened to all comers. The pamphlet is highly critical of the Royal African Company, but not on moral or humanitarian grounds. The criticism is leveled against its performance in supplying slaves to this area, particularly the Caribbean, where it notes of Jamaica, "the vast number [of slaves] they might be able to imploy to that end, is beyond the reach of imagination." Item 184. £895 (US $1,813).
Item 196 is An Abstract of the Bill for Manning the Royal Navy with Volunteers. This bill by John Stevenson was published in 1787. It was an attempt to replace the practice of impressment of seamen, which occurred both in Britain and on the high seas, with volunteers, who would be encouraged to join the navy through incentives. Obviously, it was less than successful, as the British continued to impress American seamen for the next few decades, leading to very strained relations and being a major cause of the War of 1812. £225 (US $456).
Here is a book that might be useful today, as the problem has still not been eliminated, though it has been almost two centuries since the book was published in 1812: An Easy and Effectual Method of Destroying Rats, Mice, Polecats, Weasels, Moles, Otters &c. Well, I guess not too many of us are worried about otters any more, but rats and mice are still a problem. Item 21, by Richard Blencowe. £425 (US $861).
Item 26 provides the basic constitution and rules for a new organization, the Boston Institution of the Boston Female Asylum. Organized Sept. 26, 1800. The purpose of the institution was to raise money for orphaned girls age 3-10 to "board them with some capable, discreet woman, who shall teach them to read, write, sew, and do all kinds of domestic business, until old enough to be placed in virtuous families." Published in Boston in 1801. £95 (US $192).
Forest Books may be reached online at www.forestbooks.co.uk or by phone at +44 1949 842360.