Artcalendr 15.12.2010

Daniel Crouch Rare Books, specialist dealer in antique atlases, maps, plans, sea charts and globes, presents its inaugural exhibition of ‘The Gestetner Collection of Maritime Atlases and Voyages’ this December.

The collection, undoubtedly one of the best libraries of sea atlases in private hands, was built up by David Gestetner’s family over a period of 20 years and will be on view from Thursday 15th to Wednesday 22nd December 2010 at Apter Fredericks Gallery (265-267 Fulham Road, London). Prices range from £4,000 to £485,000.

The Gestetner family made its fame and fortune through David Gestetner’s (1854-1939) invention of the stencil duplicator in 1881. A precursor to today’s printer/photocopier, this was the first piece of equipment that allowed businessmen to make numerous copies of office documents quickly and inexpensively. Life-long lovers of sailing, the family started collecting maritime atlases and voyages twenty years ago to commemorate the time it had spent together on its various boats, all named ‘Grumpy Skipper’. David Gestetner (1937-2010) was a passionate sailor and was hugely proud of the navigational skills he developed before the advent of electronic aids and GPS. Collecting sea atlases and voyages was a natural extension of this passion, and was continued by his wife Alice and their children as a memento of their times together.

“We are delighted to offer this remarkable collection as our inaugural catalogue. It features items of exceptional quality and rarity and gives a fascinating glimpse into naval history as it charts two distinct courses through the waters of Europe’s maritime past; the first by way of the practical pilot guides and sea atlases used aboard ship, and the other through the adventurous tales of voyages by the likes of Drake, Cavendish, and Cook”, comments Daniel Crouch.

The first category includes not only examples of the earliest printed maritime atlases, the Italian ‘isolari’, or island books, but also several fine and exceedingly rare Dutch pilots, the creation of which illustrates the Dutch challenge to the Portuguese and Italian maritime supremacy that developed at the beginning of the 17th century.

The ‘isolari’ atlases in the collection include the beautifully engraved ‘L’isole piu famose del Mondo’ by Thomaso Porcacchi, which was published in 1590, and was the first isolario to be engraved on copper (£7,500).

Holland’s growing naval strength brought two new approaches to present navigational charts: the pilot guide and the sea atlas. Important works offered include Blaeu’s ‘Light of Navigation’, published in 1612, which was his first sea-pilot and is considerably rare (£75,000). A highlight of the collection is the first sea pilot printed in English by the renowned Dutch cartographer Waghenaer, created in 1588 and known as the ‘Mariner’s Mirrour’. This pilot is one of only fifteen known examples and the only one not in a public collection and available to buy. As well as being exceptionally rare it carries a huge historic significance. After having been commissioned in 1587 by the Lord Chancellor it was subsequently used by Sir Frances Drake and his victorious fleet at the battle of the Spanish Armada. Waghenaer’s ‘Mariner’s Mirrour’ was so popular that almost all subsequent atlases were known as ‘waggoners’. The most recent known sale of a complete example of this work sold 30 years ago for £90,000.

There was one notable exception to the Dutch hegemony in seventeenth century sea atlas production: English nobleman Robert Dudley has title to the first sea atlas of the world, ‘Arcano del Mare’, which is present in the collection in the second, and best, edition of 1661. This atlas was innovative in numerous further facets: it was the first to use Mercator’s projection, the earliest to show magnetic deviation, the first to show current and prevailing winds, the first to expound the advantages of ‘Great Circle Sailing’, the shortest distance between two points on a globe, and, perhaps less importantly, the first sea-atlas to be compiled by an Englishman, albeit abroad in Italy (Wardington). Dudley’s father, the Earl of Leicester, was the one-time favourite of Elizabeth the 1st, and consequently Dudley held a powerful position in the Tudor court. He was however forced to flee at the beginning of the 17th century, and historically speaking any importance carried by his birthright/regal affiliations is certainly eclipsed by the magnitude and influence of what has been called one of the “greatest atlases of the world” (Wardington). The last example to come on the market sold for $824,000 in the Frank Street sale, 2007. This example is offered at £485,000.

Other significant maps of English origin within the collection include the first systematic survey of British coastal waters, by Captain Greenville Collins. It is also the first marine atlas of those waters to be engraved and printed in London from original surveys, as previously sailors relied upon often out-dated Dutch materials. It is a first edition example, and has an interesting provenance, being once the property of Narcissus Luttrell (1657-1732), diarist, bibliographer, and briefly, Member of Parliament.

Murdoch Mackenzie (1712-1797) and his chart featuring the north coast of Britain also supports the collection’s general theme of innovation, as it is the first example of the use of the principle of triangulation for topographic mapping and charting, which resulted in “the most accurate and detailed marine survey yet attempted”, says Daniel Crouch. This map, priced at £4000, is a great place for new collectors to start.

The second half of the collection is enriched by a selection of voyages, representing the early adventurous exploits of seamen to the great voyages of the late 18th century, in search of the fabled southern continent by the likes of James Cook(£37,500).

Thursday 16-Dec-2010 – Wednesday 22-Dec-2010

For further information and images or to obtain the full catalogue please contact:
Freya Simms
T: 020 7935 4800

Notes to Editors:
Daniel Crouch Rare Books is a specialist dealer in antique atlases, maps, plans, sea charts and voyages dating from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries.

Exhibition: The Gestetner Collection of Maritime Atlases and Voyages
Apter Federicks
265-267 Fulham Road, London SW3 6HY
16th to 22nd December 2010
Private view 15th December 6-8.30pm