Auctions | September 6, 2016

Records of Historic Voyages at Bonhams’ Exploration & Travel Auction

NEW YORK - Bonhams announces its first Exploration and Travel auction, to include rare books, manuscripts, photographs, maps, pictures and relics describing and documenting the exploration of the world from 1482 to the early 20th century. The sale will be held on Sept. 20 in New York.

With 150 lots, the auction explores the first documentation of voyages to various important regions and water bodies around the world, as well as other historical events associated with these records.


A first edition of 16th century British writer Richard Hakluyt's The Principall Navigations, Voiages, and Discoveries of the English Nations... is described as "the most complete collection of voyages and discoveries, by land as well as by sea, and of the nautical achievements of the Elizabethan". This 1589 edition (estimate U.S. $50,000-80,000) also has unpaginated leaves of Sir Francis Drake's circumnavigation of the globe — the first Englishman to do so.


The auction has around 70 lots covering the exploration of North America, including a fine pair of library globes (terrestrial and celestial) by Dutch globe-makers Hondius and Jansson, dated 1623 and 1648 (estimate U.S. $400,000-600,000). The terrestrial globe is a unique unrecorded state and shows new and latest geographical knowledge of northern America. The globes (both 17 inches in diameter) are dedicated to the Dutch West Indian Company, which explains why the makers paid special attention to the North American possessions that Britain and Holland were fighting over.

In this section, there is also a fine grouping of manuscript road maps of colonial Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine, one of the first road surveys of North America. A series of surveys was started by then governor of colonial Massachusetts, Sir Francis Bernard, who used a military surveyor Francis Miller, to carry out accurate surveys of the principal roads in the state. Miller carried out the project in 1765-1766.

LEWIS, JAMES OTTO. 1799-1858. The Aboriginal Port Folio 2Other highlights include:

- The Aboriginal Port Folio by James Otto Lewis, May 1835 - January 1836; estimate U.S. $50,000-70,000: A rare collection of portraits of Native American chiefs, believed to be the first attempt in United States at a large scale work devoted to the Native Americans.

- Sketches in North America and the Oregon Territory (1848) by Sir James Henry Warre; estimate U.S. $40,000-60,000: A folio of 20 hand-colored lithographed views and a hand-colored engraved map. This is the first edition of one of the rarest and most desirable of North American color-plate books.


In the section devoted to the famous Captain James Cook, is a rare, lost relic from his voyages to the Pacific Islands, collected on his second voyage and given to his wife on his return to England — a tapa bark cloth collection (estimate U.S. $8,000-12,000). These pieces of Pacific tapa cloth were owned by the Cook family and exhibited in London in 1887. The seven tapa cloth pieces are probably connected to a special waistcoat that Elizabeth Cook made for her husband. Tapa cloth (made from the bark of the breadfruit tree) were highly valued in Pacific Island communities, either as clothing, a religious offering, or for trading.

Another standout grouping are objects related to the infamous HMS Bounty, a Royal Navy vessel sent out on a botanical mission, which ended tragically when a mutiny broke out among its crew in 1789, and the mutineers sailed to Pitcairn Island, where they burned the ship at anchor. The wreck and these objects were found by Luis Marden, a diver funded by the National Geographic Society in 1957, and include a wooden fragment (given to Admiral Richard Byrd), a collection of metal objects and a silver Spanish coin. Estimates range between U.S. $2,500-6,000.


Among the 19th century expeditions to the East, the most significant and earliest American expedition was by Commodore Matthew Perry, who negotiated a historic treaty with Japan that opened up trade with the West in the mid-19th century. The sale includes a collection of Japanese manuscript texts, and maps, documenting the Japanese reaction to Perry's arrival in 1853 and again in 1854. A rare "Black Ship Scroll" of Perry arriving at Uraga Bay near Tokyo, in 1853 will also go under the hammer (estimate U.S. $15,000-25,000).

The Exploration and Travel auction also includes a strong, historically significant selection of items related to expeditions to Africa and the Polar Regions — including a manuscript map of East Africa by Speke, identifying for the first time lakes Victoria and Tanganyika, from the famed Burton-Speke expedition (U.S. $20,000-30,000); a fine copy of Ernest Shackleton's Heart of the Antarctic, his account of the British Antarctic expedition, 1907-1909 (U.S. $22,000-28,000); and an important series of typescript drafts for Alone written by Richard Byrd, describing his experiences alone in a hut in Antarctica for four months in the winter of 1934, in complete darkness with temperatures dropping to minus 70°F, during his second expedition to the Antarctic (U.S. $20,000-30,000).

Auction preview hours (free and open to the public): In San Francisco, Sept. 9-11 from 12 - 5 p.m. PST. In New York, Sept. 17-18 from 12 - 5 p.m. EST; Sept. 19 from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. EST; and Sept. 20 from 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. EST.

Image: Lot 18W. A Pair of Library Globes. Amsterdam: Terrestrial 1st State with unique printings, 1623: Celestial 2nd State, 1648. US$ 400,000 - 600,000.