1850s indigenous bark canoe from Tasmania

Thursday March 21, 2024

A delicately rendered bark canoe from Tasmania is a surprising inclusion in a South Seas collection of a major voyage artist and writer, Maximilien-René (“Max”) Radiguet, now considered one of the pioneers among French artists of the South Seas.  His 1850s manuscript archive relates more broadly  to the Pacific and ethnographic art , a highlight from our latest catalogue.

Fiesta in Nootka!

Friday November 24, 2023

Detail from a famous depiction: a riotous festival given on Nootka Island (British Columbia) by the powerful chief Macuina (Maquinna) to honour his daughter’s arrival at puberty. From a work of great rarity, one of the scarcest of Pacific voyages and an important account of  the last great Spanish exploration of the Northwest coast of America. by Galiano and Valdes in 1792. The atlas volume contains a series of plates of Nootka of great ethnographic importance.  From a....

The Bounty and Beyond

Friday September 1, 2023

Hordern House is delighted to offer for sale The Bounty and Beyond, a major new work on William BlighBounty journal by John Fish. Recently launched at Melbourne Rare Book week by Paul Brunton, Emeritus Curator at the State Library of New South Wales, Johns meticulous study examines the relationship between the official version of the journal (at The National Archives in London) and Bligh’s private version (at the Mitchell Library in Sydney) which until now has never...

“The wings of butterflies…"

Thursday July 13, 2023

Included in our July catalogue is the rare first printing of one of Alfred Russel Wallace’s most significant papers: On the Phenomena of Variation and Geographical Distribution as Illustrated by the Papilionidae of the Malayan Region…, his important text on butterfly variation on the Malay Peninsula, illustrated with eight full-page lithographic plates. Of this paper Darwin wrote, “I cannot conceive that the most firm believer in species could read it without being staggered. Such papers will make...

Australian Rare Books - a new edition just out

Friday June 16, 2023

 When Hordern House commissioned and published Jonathan Wantrup’s Australian Rare Books 1788-1900 in 1987 it was quickly and rightly recognised as the authoritative, definitive, and very readable work on collecting printed Australiana.

Over the 35 years since first publication, Wantrup has been editing and adding to that work and now, at last, our friends at Australian Book Auctions in Melbourne have published the new edition.

As the publishers note, “Offering a distinctive approach to Australian...

First use of the words “Australia” and “Australian” in print, with a monosyllabic “oi, oi, oi” ?

Wednesday April 19, 2023

In this very rare and valuable first English edition of this remarkable imaginary voyage, Jacques Sadeur makes his way to the southern land and discovers in western Australia an idealised society of large-bodied hermaphrodites who live in harmony with one another. This English language printing of 1693 contains the very first usage of the words ‘Australia’ and ‘Australian’ in print. The author, Foigny speculates on all manner of Australian qualities, including speech:

“They never speak...

The jetty at Mornington: the artist identified

Wednesday April 5, 2023

In research that has come to light since we issued our latest catalogue, we can confirm that the artist of The Jetty at Mornington who simply signed himself "R. Clark", was John Clifton Rowland Clark (1860-1908) who, with his New Zealand born wife Agnes Flora Wann, moved to Victoria around 1883 living at Sorrento then Grey Street, St Kilda. Only very few works of his are known. Please read more here


Gloves off!

Friday March 10, 2023

We are frequently asked by collectors and clients about the use of gloves in the handling of rare books.  This recent entertaining article by Jennifer Scheussler of The New York Times is a guide to why we, for the most part, say "No"!:

[The elegantly gloved hand illustrated is from a portrait of Queen Adelaide by William Beechey]

For Rare Book Librarians, It’s Gloves Off. Seriously.

When handling rare books, experts say that bare, just-cleaned hands are...


Wednesday February 1, 2023

Described in the 1930s as “one of the three or four most remarkable books in the whole course of English literature”, perception of that status may have changed a little in the century since, but Pickwick, Dickens’ great and sympathetic classic remains a highpoint of both literature and collecting. 

Dickens’s first novel, his fame actually developed during the course of its publication. A few hundred copies were printed of the first few parts of Chapman...

California not an island, but a peninsula...

Tuesday November 29, 2022

From the fifteenth century onward Europeans were in search of alternative routes to India, and there was much speculation whether a route existed via the Arctic. This issue was of immense interest to 18th Century scholar and librarian Samuel Engel, and most of his work on geography is based on this question.  The map detail pictured is from his Mémoires et Observations Géographiques et Critiques… (1765). From the final part of Books from a Private Collection (see Website...

Captain Cook pleads for a press-ganged crewman

Thursday September 29, 2022

Detail from an extraordinary letter and most unusually in James Cook's own hand. The letter was written aboard HMS Resolution while the ship was at Deptford, taking on final stores and provisions prior to sailing on Cook’s arduous second voyage. In the letter, dated 9 March 1772 and addressed to an official of the English East India Company, Cook asks for the release of one of his men,  James Keaton, who has been press-ganged into the company’s...

Canadian Exiles: political prisoners in 1840s Sydney

Thursday September 8, 2022

Following the military defeat of the Canadian rebels in 1837, some were executed but most of the rebels were banished without trial to Australia. In all, 141 political prisoners were transported, slightly more than half to Tasmania and the remainder to New South Wales.   Their presence as convicts in the Longbottom Stockade in Concord, Sydney is recalled by the names of Exile Bay, France Bay and Canada Bay. The “Canadian exile” printings have always been keenly collected...