AE Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - September - 2011 Issue

Sotheran's 250th Anniversary Catalogue

Sotherans250a

Sotheran's Anniversary Catalogue.

Sotheran's or Henry Sotheran Limited, of London, has issued a very special catalogue to celebrate a remarkable anniversary - 250 years in the bookselling business. Sotheran's began business in 1761, when George III ruled England… and America. The British and American colonists had just defeated the French in the French and Indian War and relations could not have been better. Who knew? Sotheran's would see enormous changes over the years, but it has remained a constant. To celebrate each of those 250 years, the venerable bookseller has issued The Anniversary Catalogue, and it includes at least one item from every year of Sotheran's existence. This is a catalogue only Sotheran's could produce. Here are a few items, and years, from this collection.

 

Item 4 was published in Sotheran's second year - 1762. It is The Life of Richard Nash, of Bath Esq… The author was Oliver Goldsmith, a notable poet, historian, and writer. Richard Nash, better known as Beau Nash, arrived in Bath, a rather run-down spa city about 100 miles from London, an unsuccessful lawyer and soldier. He attempted to make a living by gambling. However, Nash foresaw the resort opportunities for Bath, and convinced the city fathers to make him the local Master of Ceremonies. As such, he would be responsible for improving the spa's image. He started by organizing balls that attracted high society, along with improvements in the city's physical structure, as well as in the manners of its people. Nash was most successful, making Bath a major resort for England's aristocracy, and especially a place to come to find suitable partners for marriage. Nash died the year before Goldsmith wrote this appreciation of the man who is still remembered in Bath today. Priced at £498 (British pounds, or about $812 U.S. dollars).

 

Item 34 is an account of life in the Bastille, the famous French prison, from a noted French attorney who had the honor of residing there for a couple of years. Simon Nicolas Henri Linguet was a very successful attorney, but his biting sarcasm repeatedly got him into trouble. Linguet was not a reformer, more often than not siding with various despots of European lands, and yet it was his attack on the Duc de Duras that earned him his two-year stay at the Bastille. His account is titled, in this first English edition (1783), Memoirs of the Bastille. Containing a full exposition of the mysterious policy and despotic oppression of the French government… At the outbreak of the French Revolution, almost a decade later, Linguet defended King Louis XVI. As the situation in Paris deteriorated, he wisely moved to the country, but it proved not to be far enough away. He was taken back to Paris in 1794 and guillotined. £398 (US $650).

 

Item 92 is a handbill advertisement for a ship that was ahead of its time. Promoted by the "European Aeronautical Society," it is headed First Aerial Ship, the Eagle…Constructed for Establishing direct Communications between the several Capitals of Europe. The year was 1835, and it promises a test run will be made from London to Paris and back. Since this promised departure long preceded the birth of the Wright brothers, you can guess whether it was successful. Its inventor, the French Comte de Lennox, had displayed such a ship a year earlier in Paris, and when it lifted off the ground, only to fall apart, the thousands of onlookers who had paid to see it destroyed the wreckage. This second attempt to use a vehicle lifted by internal balloons, and directed by human oarsmen who operated large paddles, also failed. The thing was too heavy to get off the ground. £800 (US $1,305).

 

There is little doubt as to what was the most significant book published in 1859. Item 119 is a first edition of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species. Darwin began formulating his theory of evolution two decades earlier after returning from his voyage to South America as naturalist on the Beagle. He noted similarities, but also adaptive differences, among animals in different areas, or between those on continental South America and outlying islands. However, it was not until 1858, when he received a manuscript from Alfred Russel Wallace, who had independently drawn the same conclusions, that Darwin realized it was time to publish his theory. Our understanding of ourselves has never been the same since. £55,000 (US $89,696).

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