On Tuesday morning the Department of Early Printed Books and Special Collections had the pleasure of showing rare items from our Research Collections to members of the Grolier Club. Exquisite fine bindings from the Quin and Claudius Gilbert collections were displayed alongside sumptuous hand-coloured books from the Fagel collection.
Two of our regular visiting researchers, Professor Andrew Pettegree (a Long Room Hub Fellow) and Arthur der Weduwen, both from the University of St. Andrews School of History, have been living in the reading room for the past fortnight, working their way through about 2,500 pamphlets in the Fagel Collection and identifying, with a hit-rate of 12-13%, unique copies for the Universal Short Title Catalogue, of which Andrew is director.
Continue reading “A touch of class”
Elizabeth Blachrie was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, early in the eighteenth century but eloped with her doctor cousin, Alexander Blackwell, to London amidst doubts as to the veracity of his medical qualifications. Here, Alexander worked for a printing firm for a short time before setting up his own print shop. However, as he had not served an apprenticeship, he was fined heavily for breaking the trade rules and ended up in a debtors’ prison. In order to make ends meet, Elizabeth came up with the idea of creating a new herbal – a description of plants and their medicinal uses – to include more exotic, unfamiliar plants as well as those found in Britain.
Dating from 1626 the title page of ‘Iovrnael vande Nassausche vloot …’ is illustrated with what appears to be an underwhelming map of the world. The work is an account of Admiral Jacques L’Hermite’s voyage to the East Indies, which left Texel in April 1623 before reaching the Bay of Nassau, charting its environs including the Hermite Islands. However its importance to the history of exploration cannot be underestimated as it is the first printed map to show the discovery of the Australian coast. In an effort to give prominence to the new land, this oval map is an early example of a South Atlantic centered representation of the world. Labelled ‘t Land Eendracht, it portrays Dirk Hartog’s landing at Shark Bay in 1616 and is attributed to either L’Hermite’s navigator, Johann van Walbeck, or the publisher Hessel Gerritsz.
Hartog sailed from Holland as master of the ship Eendracht in January 1616 for the East Indies. Blown off course, the ship arrived at the Cape of Good Hope before taking a southerly route across the Indian Ocean and landing on the west coast of Australia. Hartog’s discovery led to the fabled land mass Terra Australis Incognita (unknown land in the South) being referred to on Dutch maps as ‘t Land van de Eendracht or Eendracht’s Land for the next 150 years. Subsequent and more detailed discoveries by the British would rename the territory Australia.
The map illustrating Hartog’s landing was printed ten years after his voyage. Accounts of the expedition did not materialise in print until 1635 in ‘Journael gehouden door …’ by Seyger van Rechteren. The large time lag can be explained by a reluctance of the East India Company (VOC) to reveal any new discoveries or lucrative trade routes. In the 1620s the VOC was on its way to becoming the largest global trading business until its decline in the mid-17th century. So guarded in fact were the Dutch that very few references to Australia appeared on maps before the 1640s, making this 1626 publication all the more exciting.