Polar and Mississippi Exploration Star at Hindman

May sale also features a selection of intriguing incunabula
Courtesy of Hindman Auctions

An illustration from Cresswell's A series of eight sketches

Star of the show at Hindman Auctions’ Fine Printed Books & Manuscripts, Including Americana on May 11 is a collection of books about the history of polar exploration featuring items from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. These cover the exploration and discovery of the Northwest Passage and the North Pole, the search for the ill-fated Franklin expedition, and works describing the exploration of Antarctica.

A particular highlight is A series of eight sketches in colour (together with a chart of the route), by Lieut. S. Gurney Cresswell, of the voyage of H.M.S. Investigator (Captain M’Clure), during the discovery of the North-west passage (London: Day and Son, 1854). This rare complete set of views of the entrapment and abandonment of the Investigator in the Arctic ice (pictured above) is one of only four complete copies to appear at auction in the last 50 years (estimate: $15,000-25,000).

Also of great interest is a first edition of Christopher Middleton’s A Vindication of the Conduct of Captain Christopher Middleton, in a Late Voyage on Board His Majesty’s Ship the Furnace, for Discovering a North-west Passage to the Western American Ocean. In Answer to certain Objections and Aspersions of Arthur Dobbs, Esq. (London: printed by the author, 1743). It was the first published work in a long series of attacks and rejoinders by the merchant Dobbs and Captain Middleton following their expedition, one of only five copies to come to market in the last 60 years.

Hindman is also offering a significant portion of the Dudley Bell Priester collection of Mississippi River books sold at Bloomsbury in New York in 2009. Priester (1923-2017) was born within a block of the Mississippi River and spent his whole life living within sight of the river. He compiled a library of non-fiction works relating to the Mississippi and the books in the collection relate to the exploration of the river and the Trans-Mississippi west. Also included are works about life on the river, including guides for travelers, and works about gambling and steamboats.

Among the highlights are:

  • Travels to the Source of the Missouri River, and Across the American Continent to the Pacific Ocean…in the years 1804, 1805, and 1806 by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. This is the second English edition (London, 1817), with an expanded map (estimate: $4,500-6,500), the iconic account of their 1804-1806 expedition following the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
  • A New Discovery of the Vast Country in America by Father Louis Hennepin (1626–1704). This was one of the most important 17th century accounts of the upper Midwest and Great Lakes region, and indeed one of the first descriptions of North America, originally published in French in 1697 and in English the following year (London, 1698, second English edition, estimate: $3,000-4,000). Hennpin, a Roman Catholic priest who spent eight months among the Sioux, wrote this hugely popular—and occasionally fictitious in places—work on his return to France in 1682 from French Canada.

The sale will also feature a selection of around 30 lots of incunabula from a private collection. These include works by Bertholdus, Plutarch, Gerson, Scotus, Cicero, and Seneca. Of particular interest is the 15th century Das buch der zwayer red mit ainander by Gregorius I (Augsburg: the Monastery of SS. Ulrich and Afra, 1473), the first German edition of the Dialogorum libri quatuor by the influential Pope Gregory I (540-604). The ambitious but short-lived press project at the Benedictine monastery of SS. Ulrich and Afra was established alongside its renowned scriptorium by its abbot Melchior von Stamheim in 1472.

Looking ahead, Hindman will be holding an auction of American Historical Ephemera and Photography in its Cincinnati office on June 15.