Anglo-Dutch Embassies to China
John Ogilby, An Embassy [to the]… Emperor of China and Atlas Chinesis, $42,000 at PBA Galleries of San Francisco on August 11.
This was the top-priced item in a small but very good and very successful selection of Chinese books from the collection of Margaret Gee. A Chinese American who has spent most of her life working as a physicist, but who two years ago was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for her services as a ferry pilot in the Womens Air Service Pilots (WASP) during World War II, and whose story is told in a recently published children’s book by Marissa Moss, Sky High: The True Story of Maggie Gee.
The Ogilvy books, uniformly bound in later calf, were first editions of his translations of two important Dutch works by Jan Nieuhoff and Olfert Dapper. The earliest of the two, published in 1669, is An Embassy from the East India Company of the United Provinces to the Grand Tartar Cham Emperor of China, an account by Jan Nieuhoff of an embassy to China aimed at persuading the Emperor Chun-Chi to open up the country’s ports to the Dutch.
Illustrated with eighteen engraved plates, a folding map of China, and the double-page plan of Canton illustrated here, along with ninety-seven text engravings, Nieuhoff’s account, first published in Amsterdam in 1665, deals with the manners and customs of the people and offers a description of the Chinese Empire.
The second work, Atlas Chinensis: Being a Second part of a relation of Remarkable Passages in two Embassies … to the … Emperor of China and East Tartary, is in fact a translation from Olfert Dapper’s Gedenkwaerdig bedryf der Nederlandsche Oost-Indische maetschappye of 1670. Ogilby’s 1671 version is illustrated with two double-page maps, thirty-eight mostly double-page engraved plates, and a further fifty-seven engraved text illustrations.
*Editor’s Note: PBA announced that this auction showed how strong the market is for books on China.
Embedded With the Texas Rangers
George Wilkins Kendall and Carl Nebel, The War between the United States and Mexico illustrated, embracing pictorial drawings of all principal conflicts, $68,713 at Neals of New Orleans on June 25.
A German born immigrant who as a young man had spent five years living in Mexico, George Wilkins Kendall was in Texas as a reporter when, in 1846, just a year after the annexation of the Republic of Texas by the U.S., he heard the news of the outbreak of war between the U.S. and Mexico and quickly got himself “embedded,” to use a modern phrase.
He rode with the Texas Rangers, witnessed most of General (later President) ‘Old Rough and Ready’ Zachary Taylor’s battles, even captured a Mexican cavalry flag and was himself mentioned in dispatches after being wounded in the knee during the storming of a fortress.
Kendall also earned widespread praise for devising methods by which his war dispatches could be quickly relayed to the New Orleans newspaper, The Picayune, and thence across the country (among them, fitting out a steamer as a press ship).
This folio record of the Mexican-American War of 1846-48 that followed the annexation of Texas was published in 1851 by Appletons of New York, but the dozen hand-colored litho plates after Nebel, all heightened with gum Arabic, were printed in Paris by Lemercier, together with a Map of the Operations of the American Army in the Valley of Mexico in August and September 1847, and the text was printed in New Orleans.
This copy was among lots being sold by Neals on behalf of the major book, map, and print dealer, W. Graham Arader. Two days previously, at Christie’s New York, another copy of the Kendall-Nebel work had sold for just $16,250. The New York copy was in modern red half morocco with the original boards mounted on the covers, the New Orleans copy in what looked to be those original boards, but perhaps it just does better in the South? Marc Fagan of Neals tells me that they have been getting strong prices for historical prints and maps in recent years, and that there was a lot of interest in the Kendall/Nebel work from clients in Texas and the Gulf Coast. In the end, however, it sold to a New England collector—albeit one with ties to New Orleans.
A. R. Gurrey Jr., The Surf Riders of Hawaii, $37,500 at Sotheby’s New York on June 17.
One of only a handful of recorded copies of the first book devoted solely to surfing, Gurrey’s book was self-published in Honolulu around 1914.
Printed on heavy brown wove paper and stab-sewn into stiff mottled wrappers, it features seven mounted photographs of surfers by Gurrey, who was both a surfer and a photographer. It also includes excerpts from the poetry of Byron and Gurrey’s own descriptive text in an attempt to convey the feelings engendered by the sport. In an article on the book in a 2005 issue of The Surfer’s Journal, authors Joel T. Smith and Sandra Kimberly Hall, proclaimed, “This photo-compilation doesn’t just document wave riding, it endows the sport with an almost ethereal senses of splendour.”