A Passage to India
Last month’s list of the most expensive sales on AbeBooks is very cosmopolitan. From exploration in Egypt to settlement in Australia and cattle drives in Texas, this list spans the globe via the pages of some very rare books. Our journey starts with E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India - one of the great works of modern English literature and a deep insight into the failings of colonialism. Set against the backdrop of the crumbling British empire and the movement for Indian independence, the novel examines racial tensions and prejudices between Indians and the colonists.
Further along our journey, 18th century Danish explorer Fredric Louis Norden navigates through Egypt to Sudan and meticulously describes the ancient wonders that he encounters along the way. Voyage D'Égypte et de Nubie contains some of the first realistic drawings of Egyptian monuments to be seen in the West. About 10 years prior to the publication of Norden’s work, another explorer was sailing much further south but also giving Europe its first taste of new lands. John White’s Journal of a Voyage to New South Wales is one of the first detailed accounts that describes many Australian species. White disliked his new home and described the continent as “a country and place so forbidding and so hateful as only to merit execration and curses.” White spent only a few years Down Under before leaving in 1794.
The rest of our lists contains works from all walks of life including renowned architect Andrea Palladio, the highly influential French Renaissance writer Michel de Montaigne, and Texan trail driver John Marvin Hunter.
1. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster - £5,844
First edition published in 1924 with original red cloth boards and black lettering covered in a buff dustwrapper with red lettering.
3. Voyage D'Égypte et de Nubie by Frederic Louis Norden - £4,863
This translates as Travel To Egypt and Nubia. It is the second French edition published in 1795 in three volumes. This famous work describes the results of the Danish explorer’s expedition in 1737-38 including many of Egypt’s monuments, ruins and temples.
4. Essayes Written into French: Done into English according to the last French Edition by Michel Eyquem de Montaigne - £4,488
Second English edition of Montaigne's groundbreaking Essays, published in 1613 and translated by John Florio.
5. Journal of a Voyage to New South Wales by John White - £4,485
White was appointed surgeon to the settlement of New South Wales in 1787 and documented his voyage and early life in the new colony. The work is illustrated with 65 plates of animals, birds, lizards, trees and other aspects of Australian nature.
7=. Les Quatre Livres De L’Architecture Palladio by Andrea Palladio -£3,890
First complete translation into French published in 1650. Four parts in one volume, including 329 pages with 224 woodcut illustrations. This French translation is one of the first examples of archaistic printing, since the format, ornament and type simulate 16th century French bookmaking. Thomas Jefferson owned a copy of this edition.
9. Trail Drivers of Texas Collection by John Marvin Hunter - £3,291
Ten volumes of Hunter’s classic first book from various publishers and dates including a signed first edition published 1920-23.
10. A Few Plain Words Concerning Conformity in Matter of Religion and Worship by William Smith - £3,160
An exceptionally scarce Quaker pamphlet, from 1664, written by William Smith of Besthorp in Nottinghamshire. This copy being a unique association copy given from George Fox to William Caton, and signed by both men.
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