Thursday, November 26, 2015

Antiquarian Book News

The Only Known Depiction of Charles Darwin on the Beagle


Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection challenged the foundations of Western civilisation and profoundly changed our understanding of the world. Now, the only known painting of Darwin aboard the Beagle, the ship that carried the English naturalist on his historic voyage, has been unveiled following a sensational new discovery. The watercolour, painted by Augustus Earle (1793-1838) while anchored off the Patagonian coast in 1832, captures Darwin's expedition as never seen before. Fossils and botanical specimens are hauled aboard the deck of the ship and examined as Darwin holds court, dressed in top hat and frock coat, at the centre of the composition. This remarkable group portrait of life on the HMS Beagle is estimated £50,000-70,000 and will be offered as part of the English Literature, History, Children's Books and Illustrations sale in London on 15 December 2015.

"Stand out of my way!!! I've got specimens for the Captain!!!"

The watercolour carries the tongue-in-cheek title "Quarter Deck of a Man of War on Diskivery of interesting Scenes on an Interesting Voyage" and is a light-hearted illustration probably created for the entertainment of the crew. It shows Darwin together with ten other crew members of HMS Beagle, including Robert FitzRoy, with fossils, botanical and mineralogical specimens. Each figure has their own speech bubble with words written in black ink: "Stand out of MY way!!! I've got specimens for the Captain!!!", says a sailor delivering specimens to FitzRoy.

Many details found in the watercolour echo known features of the Beagle voyage, and in turn the watercolour is an important new witness to one of the most renowned scientific voyages in history.

Lost? poem is found

A lost poem written by Percy Bysshe Shelley, in which the young poet attacks the “cold advisers of yet colder kings” who “coolly sharpen misery’s sharpest fang … regardless of the poor man’s pang”, was made public for the first time in more than 200 years this week.

Shelley was just 18 and in his first year at Oxford University when he wrote his Poetical Essay on the Existing State of Things. The 172-line poem, accompanied by an essay and Shelley’s notes, was written in support of the Irish journalist Peter Finnerty, who had been jailed for libelling the Anglo-Irish politician Viscount Castlereagh.

Printed in 1811 by a stationers on Oxford High Street, under the alias of “a gentleman of the University of Oxford”, it was only attributed to Shelley 50 years after his death, when copies were already said to be impossible to find. The work was considered lost until it was rediscovered in a private collection in 2006, and has only been viewed by a handful of scholars since.

Now the 20-page printed pamphlet – the only known copy of the text in existence – has been acquired by the Bodleian Library for an undisclosed sum. The library has digitised the text to make it available to the general public for the first time.

Western Manuscripts Return to Ely House

London: Dover Street. Following the success of their inaugural medieval manuscripts and miniatures sale at Bloomsbury Auctions, Dr Timothy Bolton and Camilla Previté return to Ely House with their second auction spanning some four millennia of human history. Western Manuscripts, will be held at Ely House, 37 Dover Street on Wednesday 9th December 2015 and will include 125 lots.

A section on medieval line drawing features nine lots illustrating the history of this art-form, at the head of which is an eleventh-century full-page drawing of Christ supported by angels, which is probably Norman and from the decades immediately following the Norman Conquest of England [Lot 47, est. £25,000-35,000, pictured left.]

A fragment of a medieval 13th or 14th century Sephardic Torah Scroll is a breathtakingly rare survival from an important Jewish community of the European Middle Ages, and from a crucial time for the history of the Hebrew Bible. Despite being a fragment of Genesis only, this scroll stands among the earliest witnesses to the original form of the Old Testament [Lot 105, estimate £30,000-50,000, pictured right].

The rare and fascinating subject of demonology is represented by a leaf from a collection of sermon notes dealing with demon-lore, listing demon names alongside discussions of aspects of demonic infestation and exorcism [Lot 19, £3,000-5,000.]

A scribe's practise sheet is an exceptionally rare testament to the production of fine books in the Middle Ages. The writing master wrote two lines and these were repeatedly copied by the pupil. In an effort to save space, both have left no spaces between the words and this and the formal script renders the page nearly unreadable. We challenge any potential buyer or viewer to decipher it [Lot 37, estimate £300-500].

BloomsburyTwo fine twelfth-century animal initials from an impressive illuminated Bible, contain a griffon and a bear and two small dogs. The twelfth century saw the golden age of the development of the early gothic book, with the production of vast illuminated Biblical codices with numerous initials and miniatures, which form much of our impression of quintessentially medieval books. Any witness to this evolution in the book arts, such as these, is of significant rarity now [Lot 56, estimate £8,000-12,000 and Lot 57, estimate £7,000-9,000].

A previously unrecorded miniature by the early 14th-century Parisian manuscript-producing man and wife team, Richard and Jeanne de Montbaston, shows the grisly subject of the stabbing of a young man to death [Lot 61, estimate £6,000-8,000].

A copy of Bernard of Botone’s legal commentary, most probably from a monastic or cathedral library, is a rare survival of medieval bindings with a horn nameplate. [Lot 115, estimate £30,000-50,000]

The Astronomical Compendium of San Christoforo, Turin, contains the important earliest Italian manuscript witness to Regiomontanus’ Calendarium – one of only two such copies to appear on the market within living memory [Lot 118, estimate £40,000-60,000]

The sale ends with a finely illuminated fifteenth-century Book of Hours, once in the library of Gabrielle d’Estrées, the long-term mistress and intended second wife of King Henry IV of France. It has a remarkable miniature of death as a skeletal corpse standing in a graveyard with grinning skulls stacked in a charnel house at its rear, striking down a young woman with a spear. The woman is perhaps the original owner of the book, and this image i.

Charlotte Bronte

GEORGE BORROW’S MOORISH VOCABULARY (TANGIERS 1839), edited with an introduction and notes by Simon Hopkins. Pp. xvi, 104. ISBN 978-0-9928463-5-0. Edition limited to 100 copies paperback, with illustrations. Price £15.00 + postage.
In 1839 George Borrow (1803-1881) visited Tangiers, a visit described in vivid terms in the closing chapters of his The Bible in Spain (1842). During the six weeks Borrow spent in Morocco, he compiled  a word-list and phrase book of Moroccan Arabic. His Moroccan notebook, known as the Moorish Vocabulary, forms the subject of the present publication.
The autograph manuscript of Borrow’s Moorish Vocabulary contains 74 pages, partly written in pencil, partly overwritten in ink. The entries, which range from individual words to phrases and full sentences, have been numbered 1-1166. The Moorish Vocabulary, therefore, is a substantial document of pre-modern colloquial Moroccan Arabic.
Borrow arranged his text in two parallel columns. For each entry he first gives the Arabic word(s) in question, followed in the opposite column by its gloss. The Arabic headwords are given in a rather haphazard Roman transcription, often idiosyncratic, frequently inconsistent and regularly ambiguous. Occasionally, the headwords are also written in Arabic script. The glosses are for the most part in English, but a considerable number are in Spanish.
The publication of Borrow’s Moorish Vocabulary is likely to interest two sorts of readers. Aficionados of the Borrovian œuvre will find here much to ponder regarding the preferences, concerns, skills etc. of their author, especially in comparison with his better-known vocabularies of the Gypsy dialects of Spain, Hungary and England. On the other hand, we have here a rare early example (1839) of an Arabic dialect presented in transcription; the Moorish Vocabulary will thus also be of interest to Arabic dialectologists in general and to specialists in Maghgrebi Arabic in particular.
The Moorish Vocabulary reveals a North Moroccan urban Arabic dialect with many of the clear hallmarks of this type of Arabic speech. For certain key features, Borrow’s examples from Tangiers are perhaps the earliest yet available. There are indications that much of the material was collected from a Jewish source, so that Borrow’s Moorish Vocabulary contributes to the field of Jewish languages as well.
The edition, by Simon Hopkins of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, contains the complete text of Borrow’s Moorish Vocabulary of 1839, together with annotations identifying (where possible) the words and forms which lie behind the Arabic entries.
The edition is preceded by a detailed introduction which treats of the author, his linguistic interests, his Arabic studies and his Moorish Vocabulary, followed by a characterisation of the (Jewish) Moroccan Arabic documented here, indicating some of the salient points of pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary.

Copies will be available at £15.00 + £1.50 postage and packing (UK) through our website at, or direct from Dr Ann Ridler, 61, Thame Rd, Warborough, Wallingford OX10 7EA. Payment may be made by Paypal to or by cheque payable to The Lavengro Press. Subscribers will receive their copy as soon as it is available. Please note postage to Europe is £3.70, and to Israel and the USA £4.75. Overseas readers wishing to pay by credit card are asked to telephone Dr Ridler at +44 1865 858379. Trade discount 45%. 

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