A System of Modern Geography; or, The natural and political history of the present state of the world with numerous engravings by John Smith, LL. D. in Two Volumes. 2 Hardcover leather bound books (no dust jackets) printed for Sherwood, Neely, and Jones, Paternoster-Row; by Gillet and Son, Crown-court, Fleet-street 1810 (V.1); by James Gillet, Salisbury Square, Fleet-street 1811, 914 pages and 1058 pages, with black and white maps and illustrations, Vol. 1 has a colour map. (PLEASE NOTE: I have checked if all the plates are present against a list of plates at the back of vol. 2. Vol. 1 has 1 map missing. Vol. 2 has 5 illustrations missing. Also, I found that vol. 2 has been slightly misbound. Pages 813 to 820 are between pages 1044 and 1045.)
“2 leather bound volumes dating from 1810 and 1811. The books contain information and descriptions of various countries of the world as it was known in 1810.”
Yes, I “Wow”ed. It's wasn't a “Wow” followed by “I've found something great”. No, this was a solitary “Wow” followed by silent mouth open contemplation. The reason for this dumbfounded monosylabic proclamation, is quite simply the shock of finding something as rare and wonderful as this two volume set. I wont go into the details of where and how I found these, as this is something this bookseller keeps firmly under his dust jacket, but I will share a wee bit of the thought process with those of you who are still reading this blog entry.
OK. So here I am holding these volumes that are over two hundred years old. What do I know about Smith's Geography? Nothing. This is a problem as these volumes are not cheap and will require some serious investment/commitment on my behalf. So this is the point where I pull out the phone connect to the interwebs via a tiny screen in the middle of a busy street, away from prying eyes. Yep, the little screen... and not much information other than one copy for sale in Germany at a phenomenal price. I have previously been caught out by these sort of quick miniscule phone searches thinking I was buying gold and later finding out that I had a lump of Pyrite. The big question is should I take the plunge? … obviously I did.
So what do I now know about A System of Modern Geography? Not a lot. It's rare and worth $$$. Unfortunately the copy I have is not in the best of conditions. But at 205 and 204 years old, they ain't too bad. There are a few illustrations missing, which is not uncommon with these old tomes, and one of the maps in also missing. I am tempted to hypothesize that they weren't bound in with the pages to begin with as there doesn't seem to be any indication that pages have been removed and a few of the maps and illustrations have been bound a few pages either side of where they are supposed to be indicating a certain lackadaisical approach to the correct placement of the plates by the binder. I was sort of hoping to find out a bit more about these volumes on the real internet (not the phone internet) when I got home, but I nearly came up a complete blank other than a few library listings and smatterings of uninformative data.
I like these books. I think they are beautiful even though they are worn, they are definitely books of interest. Well worth my investment. Do I think they will sell? Maybe not today or tomorrow, but i'm fairly sure that someone other than myself will one day demonstrate a true appreciation of these volumes. In the meantime they will sit nicely on the shelves of the new Huc & Gabet showroom... (more information soon).
(Apologies for the slightly blurry photographs. The were taken on my phone... yep, the same phone.)