Small folio (350 x 255 mm), pp. li, , 33, with 10 coloured illustrations and a reproduction of the original Columbus Letter; blue cloth, pictorial dust-jacket.
US $78 €69
Added to your basket:
The Spanish Letter of Columbus . . . A facsimile of the original edition published by Bernard Quaritch in 1891. With an Introduction by Felipe Fernández-Armesto and essays by Martin Davies on Pere Posa and the printing of the Spanish Columbus Letter at Barcelona in 1493 and by Anthony Payne & Katherine Spears on Quaritch, the Spanish Columbus Letter, and America 1890–1892. Edited by Anthony Payne.
Over the centuries, booksellers have contributed much to the elucidation and sometimes to the falsification of historical documents. The story of the first printed account of the New World, usually known as Christopher Columbus’s Letter to Santángel or simply the Columbus Letter, illustrates both themes.
The version of it which the London bookseller Bernard Quaritch bought in 1890 and sold in 1892 was and is, by common acclaim, the most valuable item of printed Americana ever to have appeared on the market. No other copy of this, the earliest edition, a folio printed in Spanish at Barcelona in 1493, is known. Samuel Eliot Morison, the enormously influential scholar who long occupied the chair of American history at Harvard, called it ‘the single most important document on the discovery of America’. Quaritch and his able assistant, Michael Kerney, were responsible for an enduring contribution to scholarship, producing in the Spanish Letter of Columbus – republished here in an edition limited to 500 copies – the first authoritative study of the document. But, as Felipe Fernández-Armesto recounts in his Introduction, it nearly got dismissed as a forgery.
Quaritch’s Spanish Letter of Columbus, appearing in the thick of contention and in the midst of forgeries, was therefore more than just the usual bookseller’s publicity material. It was an important piece of scholarly claim-staking on behalf of a genuine text against unwarranted assertions. Despite some errors – most of which were the result of assumptions common at the time or deficiencies of knowledge unremedied until later – Quaritch’s Spanish Letter of Columbus did its job effectively. It demonstrated, correctly, that the folio in question was printed at Barcelona in 1493 and that all other known editions of the Columbus Letter followed it. This was a service to his firm and to the Lenox Library (now part of the New York Public Library), which purchased the item – and to the whole world of learning, which has been able, ever since, to return with confidence to a precious and intriguing text: the first piece of printing to reveal to the Old World the existence of the New.
Besides Felipe Fernández-Armesto’s extensive Introduction, this new edition of Bernard Quaritch’s Spanish Letter of Columbus includes an account of the printing of the original Spanish Columbus Letter in 1493 and, drawing on materials surviving in the Quaritch Archive, the story of how Quaritch, and his son, Alfred, marketed it in America.
You may also be interested in...
PARTIALLY-UNOPENED SET OF JESSOP’S ‘DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE SOUTH EASTERN PART OF AUSTRALIA JESSOP, William Rowlestone Henry.
Flindersland and Sturtland; or, The Inside and Outside of Australia.
First edition, presumed first binding. A ‘detailed description of the South Eastern part of Australia’ (Ferguson), based on Jessop’s travels in the late 1850s and early 1860s. ‘In the twenty-fourth chapter of the second volume Jessop records in interesting and accurate detail an early expedition of one Ernest Giles whom the author met at Wilpena where Giles had stopped on his homeward trip from the north. This expedition [...] was from Adelaide to the north in search of new pastoral land. It does not appear to be elsewhere recorded and dates at least ten years before Giles’s career became a matter of public record. Jessop supplies no precise date, but from the context it is clear that the expedition took place in the first half of 1859. [...] Constituting the first appearance in print of the last of the great Australian explorers, it is well worth adding to an exploration library’ (Wantrup, pp. 266-267).
‘ONE OF THE MOST FINELY CRAFTED PUBLICATIONS ON CENTRAL ASIA’ BONVALOT, Gabriel.
Du Caucase aux Indes à travers le Pamir.
First edition. The French orientalist and explorer Bonvalot (1853-1933) made his first expedition into Central Asia in 1880, and undertook a second journey into the area with the artist Pépin and the physician and scientist Guillaume Capus in 1886-1887. In the course of a remarkable expedition, the three travellers crossed Persia, and then from Samarkand they explored the head of the Oxus in the Pamirs and descended to the Indus from the Wakhan Valley through Masutj in Chitral; this expedition earned Bonvalot a gold medal from the Société de géographie de Paris and the title Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur.