RGSSA Library Catalogue

Monday, 16 February 2015

Discovering Asia: East Indies - The Quest for Spices

Secret maps, perilous sea voyages, fabulous wealth... It’s all there!

An exhibition “Discovering Asia” will feature at the Royal Geographical Society of South Australia http://www.rgssa.org.au/ in May 2015. It will have a wide scope, featuring works of exploration and travel about many of the countries of southeast and eastern Asia, including Indonesia, Japan, and China.

In the blog I’ll be looking at some of the books which recount the early voyages of discovery from Europe to the East. Because the RGSSA’s collection was founded on the purchase of S. William Silver’s York Gate Library from London, compiled during the 19th century, it’s very Anglocentric. But as well as early English translations and the great 16th-century English compilations of travel narratives it does include some interesting and significant works in Latin and the European languages.

The Spice Rush
The European push into Asia from the time of Columbus was all about spices. When he got to the West Indies Columbus was positive he'd reached Asia—which explains why the hot chillis his men found there got called “peppers”, even though they are capsicums (Capsicum frutescens spp.), native to Central and South America, and are not botanically related to the genus Piper, which includes the black pepper we still use today.

In its time, Columbus’s voyage was a bit of flop, because he hadn't found the quick way to the lands of spices:

“In respect of spices, which is to say in respect of one of the primary reasons why it was discovered, the New World was something of a disappointment.”
            (Jack Turner. Spice: the history of a temptation. Vintage Books, 2005)

In the blog I’ll look at how the frantic scramble for spices opened up Asia to the West. It’s fair to say that the Portuguese and the Dutch in particular ran mad over them—but the Spanish, English and French weren’t very far behind. My friends at the Art Gallery of SA library suggested, when I was telling them about the Dutchman who gave his countrymen the secret Portuguese maps, that maybe the mad Dutch frenzy for spices was due to something in the Dutch psyche, like the later tulip bubble. Fair enough—but most of the world ran mad over gold in the 19th century. I’d say it's something in the human psyche, common to all of us. Mad fads on the one hand (like, your cell phone or tablet, indispensable to life, can you breathe without one?) and the lust for wealth on the other. With, in the case of the men who actually sailed to Asia under tremendously dangerous conditions, a true spirit of adventure. The sea captains went East not just for the riches that cargoes of spices would bring them, but because it was there.

The Quest For Spices

Imagine a world in which pepper was so valuable it had to be bought with gold. This is what Europeans had to pay—and gladly paid—when they finally managed to sail to the “East Indies,” that is, to India at the end of the 15th century, and then points further east during the 16th century.

Spices have been used since time immemorial, and traded all over the world at least from the time of the Egyptian pharaohs—it is a documented fact that one pharaoh’s mummy had peppercorns, used as a preservative, in his nose and body cavity. Cloves dating back to 1721 BC have been found in Syria, and they were known as breath fresheners to the Chinese Han Dynasty in the third century BC. In Europe during the Middle Ages spices were important for flavouring food, in medicines, as preservatives, and for perfuming, but they were hugely expensive. The spice trade monopoly was held by the Arabs during the Middle Ages, and Ibn Batuta (1304-1377) mentions the clove trade in his Tuhfat al-nuzzar (“Travels”). Their spice trade with Europe was largely through Venice.

Ibn Batuta, 1304-1377.
    The travels of Ibn Battuta, A.D. 1325-1354, translated with revisions and notes from the Arabic text edited by C. Defrémery and B. R. Sanguinetti by H.A.R. Gibb. Cambridge [England], Published for the Hakluyt Society at the University Press, 1958-2000. 5 vols. (Works issued by the Hakluyt Society ; 2nd ser., no. 110, 117, 141, 178, 190)

If we read about the cookery books of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance we tend to get the wrong idea: spices abound in these recipes.

“A stew of chicken summered with cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, saffron, and a little vinegar and thickened with ground almonds was standard Portuguese fare during the sixteenth century.”
            (Lizzie Collingham. Curry: a tale of cooks and conquerors.
            Oxford, University Press, 2006, p. 59)

This was a dish from Portugal itself, not from Portuguese India. And here is a combination of meat with ginger, cloves, and mace that we wouldn’t be surprised to find today in Indian cuisine, but that was common in English cuisine until well after Shakespeare’s time.

With modern spelling, the recipe reads:
Coney in Gravy
Take blanched almonds, grind them with wine  And good broth of beef and mutton, and draw it through a strainer, and cast it into a pot, and let boil; and cast thereto powder of ginger, cloves, mace, and sugar. And then take a coney, and seethe him enough in good fresh broth, and chop him. And take off the skin cleanly, and pick him clean. And cast it [in]to the syrup, And let boil once. And serve forth.
 (From Harleian MS 4016)

(See http://www.godecookery.com/nboke/nboke51.htm This website also provides a modern version, using either rabbit or chicken.)

Wonders of the East: “Spetierie, Droghe, Gioie, & Perle”
But the very early cookery books (and most of those who write about them) give us the wrong idea. By the early Renaissance printing had only just been invented and books themselves were luxury items. Ordinary people didn’t read and they certainly did not have access to cookery books! The cookery books were written for the very rich, who could afford spices: the great households often kept a “spicer,” a person whose sole rôle was to mix and prepare spices for foods and medicines. Spices were a luxury item. Contemporary accounts such as Ramusio’s, quoted above, list spices along with fabulous gems, pearls, gold and silks as wondrous treasures of the East, the stuff that dreams were made of.

During the Middle Ages pepper was enormously expensive in Europe. By the end of the Middle Ages, when supplies had become more regular, it was still very dear, but not as outrageously so as it had been earlier, when only the rich could afford it. It was extremely important in cuisine but, as supplies increased, it had become less fashionable. The other spices, in particular the aromatics such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmegs and mace, were still only affordable to the comfortably off. The expanding middle classes could afford reasonable amounts of pepper but only small amounts of the other spices, perhaps for special dishes and special occasions. Spices were still, as they had been throughout the previous centuries, a status symbol.

Pepper is native to South Asia and Southeast Asia, and the main early trading centres were on the Malabar Coast on India’s western coast. The spice is the dried fruit of the pepper vine (Piper negrum). Cinnamon is the inner bark of the cinnamon tree (Cinnamomum verum, and other species), dried and rolled into small quills. It is native to Sri Lanka (Ceylon), the Malabar Coast of India, Bangladesh, and Burma. Its source was unknown to Europeans for centuries. The exact source of cloves, nutmegs and mace, which occur naturally only in the small islands of the Moluccas (modern Malaku, in Indonesia), remained unknown even longer.
    Cloves are the dried buds of the clove tree (Syzygium aromaticum), found naturally only on a few islands within the Moluccas. Nutmegs and mace both come from the nutmeg tree (Myristica fragrans). Nutmeg is the inner nut and mace is the dried membrane which surrounds it, within the outer shell. Nutmeg trees grew only in the tiny Banda Islands within the Moluccas, in particular on little Run Island or Pulau Run (“Poolaroone” in early English texts). From these small scattered groups of islands, cloves, nutmeg and mace were traded all over the world centuries before Europeans reached the East Indies.

Opening Up The East: The First Portuguese Ventures
In 1498 Vasco da Gama (1469-1524) became the first European to reach India by sailing around Africa. His goal was the thriving sea port and trading centre of Calicut, on the western coast of southern India, in the area known as the Malabar Coast. It is now in the modern state of Kerala. “Calicut” is still the name generally used today, though its official name is Kozhikode. The major trading point for eastern spices, it was known during the Middle Ages and even earlier as the “City of Spices”. Arab merchants were trading there as early as the 7th century. Asked by Spanish- and Italian-speaking Arabs there why Da Gama’s ships had come, the Portuguese replied that they “came in search of Christians and spices” (Ravenstein (ed.). A Journal of the first voyage... p.48).

Discovering the spice route brought the Portuguese immense wealth. Their ships brought back pepper and cinnamon, both native to the Malabar Coast and grown there to this day. Pepper alone was worth a great fortune. For several decades after Da Gama the Portuguese had a monopoly on the pepper trade.

Vasco da Gama’s discovery of the sea route to India paved the way for the Portuguese to establish a long-lasting colonial empire in Asia. His success had been preceded by many disastrous shipwrecks, but Da Gama’s route meant that the Portuguese could make the whole voyage by sea, avoiding the highly disputed Mediterranean waters and the dangerous land trek over the Arabian Peninsula. Counting the outward and return trips, this was “the longest ocean voyage ever made until then, far longer than a full voyage around the world by way of the Equator.” (“Vasco da Gama”, Wikipedia) Da Gama was given the newly created County of Vidigueira in 1519 and the title that went with it, and made Governor of India in 1524, with the title of Viceroy.

Da Gama: Early Texts
The RGSSA holds many rare volumes of collected early voyages and travels from the York Gate Library of S. William Silver. The following collections by Ramusio and Purchas are identified in the Catalogue of the York Gate Library (2nd ed., 1886) as including sections on Vasco da Gama:

“Navigatione dal Capo Buona Speranza, fino in Calicut, 1497. Discorso,” page 119 (Narrative of Thome Lopes, 1502): In:

RAMUSIO, Giovanni Battista, 1485-1557
Delle navigationi et viaggi : raccolte da M. Gio. Battista Ramvsio, in tree volvmi divise : Nelle quali con relatione fedelissima si descriuono tutti quei paesi, che da già 300. anni sin’hora sono stati scoperti, cosi di verso Leuante, & Ponente, come di verso Mezzo di, & Tramontana; Et si hà notitia del Regno del Prete Gianni, & dell’Africa fino a Calicut, & ll’Isole Molucche. Et si tratta dell’Isola Giappan, delle due Sarmatie, della Tartariam Scitia, Circasia, & circonstante Prouincie : della Tana, & dell’Indie tanto Occidentali, quanto Orientali, & della Nauigatione d’intorno il Mondo. ... Et nel fine con aggiunta nella presente quinta impressione del viaggio di M. Cesare de’ Federici, nell’India Orientale, nel quale si descriue le Spetierie, Droghe, Gioie, & Perle, che in dette Paesi si trouano. ... Volume Primo. In Venetia, appresso I Givnti, 1613.

Ramusio’s three-volume “Navigationi et viaggi” has been adjudged the most highly valued collection of voyages of the sixteenth century. The set comprises accounts of voyages which had already been published, translated from the French, Spanish and Latin, together with manuscript accounts appearing in print for the first time. The choice of published narratives has been praised by later writers, as has his scholarship. Ramusio’s collection was very successful in the 16th and early 17th centuries, each volume appearing in several editions, some containing more narratives than others, and with small differences in the maps. Experts consider that the collection began a new area in the literary history of voyages and navigation. The work contains early maps of great significance, including those of Brazil, Canada, New England, Africa, Asia and Japan. The RGSSA holds the three-volume set of Ramusio (YG 2027, 2028, 2029). As with most sets known to collectors, the three are from different editions published at different times (1613, 1583, 1606). The illustration shows the engraved title page to the first volume.

“Gama’s Acts at Calicut and his Return, 1499”, page 28 (YG 2072, Vol. I Part II): In:

PURCHAS, Samuel, 1577?-1626.
Haklvytvs posthumus, or, Pvrchas his Pilgrimes: contayning a history of the world, in sea voyages, & lande-trauells by Englishmen and others, wherein Gods wonders in nature & prouidence, the actes, arts, varieties & vanities of men, w[i]th a world of the worlds rarities are by a world of eyewitnesse-authors related to the world, some left written by Mr. Hakluyt at his death, more since added, his also perused, & perfected, all examined, abreuiated, illustrated w[i]th notes, enlarged w[i]th discourses, adorned w[i]th pictures, and expressed in mapps, in fower parts, each containing fiue bookes; by Samvel Pvrchas, B.D. Imprinted at London for Henry Fetherston at ye signe of the rose in Pauls Churchyard, 1625. 4 vols.
The title is from the engraved title page. Each of the 4 parts also has a special title page with title: Pvrchas his Pilgrimes; and with imprint: London, Printed by William Stansby for Henrie Fetherstone ... 1625.

“a world of travellers to their domestic entertainment”

1625 Edition. Title page of the first volume
Samuel Purchas (1577?-1626), one of the great early compilers of travel narratives, published his Hakluytus posthumus, or Purchas his pilgrimes, in 1625. His earlier works had concentrated rather on the history of religion than on voyages and travel: he took a divinity degree at Cambridge. His compilation is called Hakluytus posthumus because Purchas saw it as the successor to the already famous works of Richard Hakluyt (1552?-1616). He wrote that he had assisted Hakluyt: “I was therein a labourer also,” and that he helped him to arrange papers which were unpublished when he died.

1625 edition: Engraved title page

In an age where few people could travel beyond their native shores, Purchas’s compilation offered: “a world of travellers to their domestic entertainment, easy to be spared from their smoke, cup, or butterfly vanities and superfluities, and fit mutually to entertaine them in a better school to better purposes.” It is generally agreed that although Purchas was not the equal of Hakluyt in either scholarship or accuracy, his work is an extremely important source, often the only one, of information on important questions relating to geographical history and early exploration.

Da Gama: Translations, Reprints & Facsimiles of Early Texts
Velho, Alvaro
Ravenstein, E. G. (Ernest George), 1834-1913 (editor)
    [Roteiro da viagem de Vasco da Gama. English]
    A journal of the first voyage of Vasco da Gama, 1497-1499, translated and edited, with notes, an introduction and appendices by E.G. Ravenstein. London, Printed by the Hakluyt Society, 1898. (Works issued by the Hakluyt Society; no. 99)
This account of the navigator’s historic first voyage round the Cape of Good Hope to India’s Malabar Coast is now generally attributed by scholars and bibliographers to Alvaro Velho (cf. Library of Congress, LCCN 2009016532). Ravenstein, the editor of this first English translation, concludes that there is insufficient evidence to make an attribution, but favours João de Sa. The journal, or “Roteiro,” is an anonymous account written by a member of Da Gama’s fleet. It has become an important documentary source for accounts of the voyage. For several hundred years it existed only in manuscript form, several copies being in existence but incomplete. The first Portuguese edition was only published in 1838.

The volume includes letters of King Manuel and Girolamo Sernigi, 1499, and early seventeenth-century Portuguese accounts of Da Gama’s first voyage.

The journal itself is detailed and very colourful: here is the description (p.49-50) of the people of Calicut on the Malabar Coast:

    “They are of a tawny complexion. Some of them have big beards and long hair, whilst others clip their hair short or shave the head, merely allowing a tuft to remain on the crown as a sign that they are Christians [sic: a common mistake of the time]. They also wear moustaches. They pierce the ears and wear much gold in them. They go naked down to the waist, covering their lower extremities with very fine cotton stuffs. But it is only the most respectable who do this, for the others manage as best they are able.
    “The women of this country, as a rule, are ugly and of small stature. They wear many jewels of gold round the neck, numerous bracelets on their arms, and rings set with precious stones on their toes. All these people are well-disposed and apparently of mild temper. At first sight they seem covetous and ignorant.”

Berjeau, J. Ph. (Jean Philibert), 1809-1891 (translator)
    Calcoen: a Dutch narrative of the second voyage of Vasco da Gama to Calicut, printed at Antwerp circa 1504, with introduction and translation by J. Ph. Berjeau. London, Pickering, 1874.

“Calcoen” means Calicut. The volume reprints the Flemish original in facsimile and adds a map of Africa “taken from ‘Ptolemæi C. Tabula noua totius orbis’, Lugduni 1541.” (Introd. p.[9]).

Berjeau supplies a most readable introduction to this text, deciphering the place names used and simultaneously tracing the route. He writes that “the name of Vasco da Gama is not even mentioned in the ... narrative, but there is no doubt it applies to the second voyage of the great navigator to India.” The unknown narrator, he explains, must have been a “Dutch officer or sailor” on the voyage, for it is clearly not a translation of any other known work and it adds details not available elsewhere. Berjeau highlights the understandable errors of interpretation made by the author, such as thinking that the local Hindus and Buddhists who showed reverence for statues of the Virgin Mary were Christians. In fact these worshippers mistook the figures for representations of an Indian goddess. Points which struck the narrator, as they did other early European travellers to the East, were the chewing of betel and the use of musk: Berjeau writes: “The civet cat is so clearly described that it was impossible not to translate by musc the word iubot, although it is not to be found in any modern Flemish or Dutch dictionary.”

R: Page of the facsimile of the Flemish original.

As Berjeau points out, Vasco da Gama’s known cruelty and barbarism is well supported by the text. Here is the translation of the arrival in Calicut:

“On the 27th day of October we ... arrived in a kingdom called Calcoen, ... and we mustered our forces before the town, and we fought with them during three days, and we took a great number of people, and we hanged them to the yards of the ships, and taking them down, we cut off their hands, feet and heads; and we took one of their ships and threw into it the hands, feet and heads, and we wrote a letter, which we put on a stick, and we left that ship to go a-drift towards the land. We took there a ship which we put on fire and burnt there many of the subjects of the king.”

Circa 1531-1583
Corrêa, Gaspar, 16th cent.
    The three voyages of Vasco da Gama and his viceroyalty: from the Lendas da India of Gaspar Correa. ... Translated from the Portuguese, with notes and an introduction by Henry E.J. Stanley. London, Printed for the Hakluyt Society, 1869. (Works issued by the Hakluyt Society ; 42)

Gaspar Corrêa’s account of Vasco da Gama’s voyages to India in his Lendas da India existed only in manuscript form until about 1860. In his introduction to the first English edition of the part dealing with Vasco da Gama, Henry E.J. Stanley writes: “Correa’s work ... enters into much more detail than the other chroniclers, frequently differs from them, and has not been made use of by the great majority of the historians who wrote subsequently to him.” Corrêa himself went to India when he was very young, “sixteen years after India was discovered—that would be in 1514.” It is not known exactly when he wrote his history but it was certainly from 1561 to some time before 1583, when he died. While serving as secretary to Alfonso d'Albuquerque, then Viceroy of Portuguese India, he came across a diary written by Joam Figueira, a priest who accompanied Vasco da Gama, which inspired him to write his history. His full narrative covers fifty-three years of the Portuguese exploits in India, up to the government of Jorge Cabral. The account of Vasco da Gama’s exploits translated for this Hakluyt Society volume is extensive and detailed.

Just imagine the excitement when Da Gama arrived back in Portugal. Not only had he found the sea route to the wealth of the East Indies, he had brought home a big cargo of pepper. He had bought it for 3 ducats per hundredweight in Calicut. In Portugal it was selling for 22 ducats:* more than seven times what he’d had to pay!

“Within three years, the Portuguese were back in India. In 1505, Lopo Soares’s fleet of nine vessels departed from the Malabar Coast with a cargoi that included 1,074,003 kilograms of pepper, 28,476 kilograms of ginger, 8,789 kilograms of cinnamon, and 206 kilograms of cardamom.” *
* (Collingham, Op.cit., p. 51)

Portugal’s fortune was made for the next hundred years.

That very dear commodity, pepper, was used in Europe in Da Gama’s time, and for several hundred years afterwards, not only with meat and savoury dishes, but with fruit as well. Let’s end this blog entry with a 15th-century English recipe that you might like to try. (I speak as one who likes freshly ground pepper on sliced raw apple and adores it on fresh pear, like an Indian chaat, but don’t let that influence you!)

Fifteenth-Century Apple Fritters:
“Fretoure owt of Lente”
            6 large eating apples; sugar; 1 liqueur glass brandy
            Batter: 125 g flour; 2 eggs; 1 tablespoon oil or clarified butter;
            up to 300 ml. milk; pinch saffron; freshly ground black pepper
            oil for frying
Peel, core & slice apples about 1 cm (1/4 to 1/2 in.) thick. Put into a bowl, sprinkle with sugar, & pour on the brandy. Leave for several hours or overnight, turning occasionally. Drain well.
Batter: Pour 2 tblsps of almost boiling water over the saffron & leave to steep until “a good crocus yellow.” Mix flour, 1 whole egg, the 2nd egg yolk, & the oil. Beat in about 150 ml. of milk. Stir in the saffron water. Add more milk if batter is too thick. Add 2 or 3 grinds of pepper & stir in. Whisk the 2nd egg white until stiff & fold into the batter.
Dip the drained apple slices into the batter & fry in oil until golden brown. Serve sprinkled with sugar. Enjoy!
    (Based on: Jane Grigson. English Food. Penguin, 1977, p. 207)

Friday, 5 December 2014

Xmas Treats 2014


It's December already? Sorry I haven't been able to post more entries to the blog this year: I've been dogged by a horrid recurring flu virus all winter. But Sandra's great contribution means you have been able to read about some of the interesting books from the collection of the Royal Geographical Society of South Australia.

The RGSSA's recent exhibition "Out of Africa" was very successful, thanks to Heather B.'s hard work, showcasing works of travel and exploration and some fascinating old maps. However, checking the titles when it finished, I found that not all of the books had yet been catalogued online. So I hurriedly did them, and then Sandra, David B. and I had a go at some of the remaining books on Africa. (There's a lot of them! We've still got about 5,000 volumes of the non-Australian books to go.)

As always, the collection produced some unexpected delights, so here are a couple of little treats for Christmas!

S.W. Silver & Co. was the firm owned by Stephen William Silver (1819-1905), the London businessman whose York Gate Library, a unique collection of works of geography, travel and exploration, many relating to the British colonies with which the company traded, is now owned by the RGSSA. By 1846 Silver had taken over his father's export and banking business, S.W. Silver & Co. With agents and correspondents throughout the world the company did much official and private business with the British colonies, including Australia. It also published handbooks and other information about the colonies for intending immigrants. This little bibliographic curiosity is one of them:

The Cape, Free State, and diamond fields : the Union Steam Ship Company's voyage. London : S.W. Silver & Co. : Hamilton, Adams, & Co., 1880. (S.W. Silver & Co.'s Colonial and Indian pocket book series and voyager's companion ; no. 1)

It's very cute, only 15 centimetres long, and it would fit in the pocket of your safari suit, quite easily! And as you see, it's got a flap which slips into a holder on the cover. Nifty!
    Technically speaking it's not a good book. It's almost impossible to find the real title, which is actually on the fifteenth page. There's a preliminary section, with its own title page (looking more like a series title page--however!). This is the "Historical diary...", with 12 pages of text.

Only after that do we get the real title page:

This is followed by an introduction and then a page stating "PART I. --THE BOOK." Turn over and here's the list of contents, which confusingly includes "Part II, Glossary of nautical and steam terms". Oops. Then we get the actual text, which has a caption title and a running title (at the top of each page), "The Cape pocket book". (How many titles is that?) That goes to page 78. Then a page states "PART II. GLOSSARY OF NAUTICAL TERMS." Turn over and the text starts with the caption title "Nautical and steam terms". Oh, just shoot me now! After that there are 23 largely blank, unnumbered pages which provide helpful headings and in some cases columns, allowing you to list your luggage and do your cash accounts and write down useful introductions and make a log of the voyage... As the text is all in very, very small print the intrepid 19th-century traveller would have had to have very good eyesight indeed!
    The tiny book comes with two pockets, one at the back, which in our copy is empty (maybe meant for your own notes?), and one in the front with a folded map in it:

"Season-chart of the world, with the differences east and west of Greenwich; & the approximate monthly rainfall of either hemisphere: showing also the chief ports and routes of commerce throughout the world. Constructed by W. Hughes, F.R.G.S. for S.W. Silver & Co.'s Colonial handbook series and revised to date. London, 1878."

Well, it's Christmas, grouse is appropriate (I think). A bird the bloodthirsty English start shooting on the Glorious 12th, isn't it? The RGSSA's collection is stuffed (culinary motif) with travel books by great white hunters. The author Parker Gillmore is a prize example.

Gillmore, Parker
The hunter's Arcadia. London : Chapman and Hall, Limited, 1886.

I've got a formula for cataloguing these books, so once I work out where the hunter travelled to (not easy: most of them don’t bother to say, and Africa's a large continent), I assign the appropriate subject headings, check for any interesting illustrations, hoping they're not all going to be of dead game, and that's it. I was about to dismiss Mr Parker's The Hunter's Arcadia as typical--well, I ask you! What a title!--when, desperately seeking enlightenment from the preface as to where he went, I happened across a mention of S.W. Silver & Co.!

"Messrs. Silver and Co., of Cornhill, can supply the wanderer with anything, and what is procured from this firm is sure to be excellent. Their portmanteaux, travelling bags, waterproof sheets and clothing cannot be too highly commended, while their gun-pads for reducing recoil are almost indispensable for firing such heavy charges as are now in vogue for killing large game. Fail not to have one of their revolvers. As far as natives are concerned they are not necessary, but there are some bastard descendants of Europeans knocking about, and this weapon is better than argument with such wild beasts. They (Messrs. Silver and Co.) can also supply the hunting-coat I always use, which will be found not only cool but capable of resisting thorns. Their explorer's room is always worthy of a visit, and the attentive and courteous employés of the firm thoroughly understand the use and appropriateness of each article. As your travelling is done by wagon you need not fear overloading yourself."

Jolly good show! Then I came across a charming illustration (no credit supplied for the illustrator, sadly). The accompanying text, which threw quite a new light on Mr Gillmore, tells us that he was out with a party of local people who were hunting birds and sighted some sand grouse, some of which they managed to catch by throwing their "kerries". Gillmore himself didn't take part and when offered some of the bag he refused, knowing that grouse need to be simmered for at least three hours to be palatable to a European. The hunters had been having him on: they just laughed. Clearly in the past he must have hunted grouse, but at this time he just observed them:

"To me, sand grouse occupy the same relative position towards birds that Kate Greenaway's or Caldecott's children do to the human family. They are, in very truth, regular little Dolly Vardens in perfection of outline, beauty and variety of plumage, and in grace and energy of movement, while their little feather-trowsered legs impart an air of modesty that is most piquante. Those folks that have crossed the Atlantic have doubtlessly heard "bees" spoken of by our cousins. Now there are several kinds of "bees" in America, such as quilting "bees," logging "bees", and husking "bees." The double-banded sand grouse has a "bee" of its own, which I will designate a courting "bee." About midday, in spring, these little pets will assemble, possibly to the number of a dozen, and dance the most extraordinary and intricate figures, in which all take a part. From the back of an ant-hill I have often watched them at this amusement. In it there is none of the poetry of the gliding waltz, but all the energy and go of the Scotch reel..."

Lovely, isn't it? It's typical of Gillmore's rather discursive style; it can be charming, but his refusal to pinpoint localities becomes very frustrating! It appears from the preface that this time he was in Bechuanaland (modern Botswana), having travelled there via South Africa. Unfortunately his books intersperse such descriptive passages with the typical hunter's litany of the game, big and small, he slaughtered, so don’t pick one up expecting it to be to modern tastes! --Well, yes, I would eat grouse, if offered, but I wouldn't march all over Africa killing antelopes and leopards and lions and whatever else was around: I can't really relate to a person who writes "I took my shot-gun and proceeded up the river in search of anything edible or curious." (p. [149])

I couldn't find a recipe for grouse or even pheasant in the RGSSA's antique Australian cookery book by Philip E. Muskett and Mrs Wicken (see the blog entry, "Happy Birthday Julia Child"), but just for a Christmas treat, here's Mrs Beeton's:

    1025. INGREDIENTS.--Grouse, butter, a thick slice of toasted bread.
    Mode.--Let the birds hang as long as possible; pluck and draw them; wipe, but do not wash them, inside and out, and truss them without the head, the same as for a roast fowl. Many persons still continue to truss them with the head under the wing, but the former is now considered the most approved method. Put them down to a sharp clear fire; keep them well basted the whole of the time they are cooking, and serve them on a buttered toast, soaked in the dripping-pan, with a little melted butter poured over them, or with bread-sauce and gravy
    Time,--1/2 hour; if liked very thoroughly done, 35 minutes.
    Average cost, 2s. to 2s. 6d. the brace; but seldom bought.
    Sufficient,--2 for a dish.
    Seasonable from the 12th of August to the beginning of December.

Framed detail from Mrs Beeton's illustration of roast grouse

Before I sign off for 2014, I must express my appreciation to all who have contributed to the cataloguing project this year: especially Sandra, our "distance cataloguer", who's doubled our output, David B., who's not only contributed on the technical side, but willingly helped with the shelf-check (stocktaking, to non-librarians), hauled books down from upstairs, filled in instruction sheets for Sandra, and done photocopying, and George, who's also helped with the shelf-check, hauled down more piles of books from upstairs and done photocopying. (Getting the books may not sound like much but when I tell you it entails perching on a ladder in the top gallery, 3 storeys above the floor--!! I can't thank them enough, I get dizzy if I just look down.) Thanks also to all the reference desk staff who answered my frantic appeal for help with the re-shelving, and to Liz, who's been doing yet more photocopying for the project. And special thanks to Heather C. for her great work indexing the exciting "Gill scrapbook" (more on this next year), and for finishing the transcription of the historic letters.

That's it for 2014, dear blog readers. Thanks so much for your continued support: the stats have gone from just under 3,500 in December 2012 to over 15,000!

Wishing you all merry Christmas, happy Hanukah, happy holidays,
and all the very best for a peaceful and safe New Year.

Monday, 14 July 2014

let's go back to Rio!

A dynamic aspect of the RGSSA's collection is the mountain of primary source information it contains on social history.  It's so much more interesting to read about facets of history from a personal encounter with it rather than digesting boring lists of names and dates. Many of the travel books in the collection are primary sources of social history that frame personal travel experiences, events and observations in the exotic places of the distant past and capture a moment in time. 

Just one topical example in the collection—

Bell, Alured Gray, [1870-1925]
The Beautiful Rio de Janeiro.
London : William Heinemann, [1904]
RGSSA catalogue

For some time, Rio de Janeiro has constantly headlined news reports as the focus of the sporting world with major world events currently being held in Rio and over the next few years. In recent weeks, the football World Cup tournament has been played out in Brazil with the final match just played in Rio returning a World Cup victory for Germany.  Meanwhile, elite athletes world-wide are training for the next Olympiad in Rio in 2016.

The Bangu Football Grounds: Central Railway : p. 182.
[Founded in 1904]

However, a century ago, Rio de Janeiro was a very different place in 1914. This is the setting for a travel book in the RGSSA's collection. The Beautiful Rio de Janeiro was written by the Englishman, Alured Gray Bell, born in Alexandria, Egypt, 1870.  He relates his experiences of living in Rio in the years just prior to the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.  It was the first English language publication to feature the city and today could easily carry the title, Lonely Planet guide to Rio in 1914.  Richly illustrated with almost one hundred 'moody' black and white photographs that depict a strangely unwelcoming Rio with desolate beaches. Throughout the book, numerous and charming full-page watercolours show the sights and sounds of Rio painted by various unknown artists in an avante-gard impressionist style.

It is difficult to imagine from Bell's wintry photograph of Ipanema Beach that it would become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.  Ipanema is where everyone in the world wants to visit in Rio as popularised in the song by Astrid Gilberto (1964) and now a fashionable seaside suburb in the southern part of the city.  Bell also includes a map of Rio in 1914.

Ipanema Beach: a South Atlantic Suburb of Rio : p. 30.

Perhaps, a little more inviting in colour—

South suburban Rio de Janeiro—Ipanema : p. 116.

Another icon synonymous with Rio de Janeiro is the statue of Christ the Redeemer that overlooks the city and completed in 1931. The statue sits atop a mountain aptly named Corcovado meaning "hunchback" in Portuguese and is often confused with nearby Sugarloaf Mountain.  Bell repeatedly describes Corcovado in the Tijuca Forest National Park as a 'frowning presence over the city'.  The following photograph shows the approach to Corcovado and its summit can be clearly seen 'frowning' in the distance, of course, sans statue.

"To go to Rio and not to go up to Corcovado is folly." : p. 50.

On the way to Corcovado : p. 48.

The Botafogo portion of Rio's Bay-side Avenue, overlooked by Corcovado Mountain : p. 8.

From Bell's introduction; the following conversation took place at the turn of the 20th century
Travelling across England after a two years' residence in Rio de Janeiro I found myself alone in the train with a schoolboy, aged ten, and asked him if he knew anything about Brazil.  "No," was the little Englishman's reply; "we are only doing Europe."  "But you know where it is?" I suggested.  "America," he replied rather timorously.  "And what do you imagine it to be like?" I asked.  "Don't know."  "But you must imagine something about it—is it all ice, do you think?"  He thought quite half a minute, and then ventured this very respectable guess: "Prairies and fields." Certainly he was right for a fifth of the country; but he should have added "forests, mountains and great rivers.
Bell continues to explain that his book was sponsored by Marshal Hermes da Fonseca, President of the Republic of the United States of Brazil (1910-1914). The residents of the 'River of January' are known as Cariocas (pronounced care-ree-o-cas) and very proud of their city and its landscape. The Brazilian President intended that English-speaking people should be "better acquainted than our schoolboy with the magnificent metropolis of Brazil." 

'pre-tango' days

Sample luxury cruising at its unrivaled very best in the author's opening paragraph and envy an itinerary seldom offered by modern cruise lines.

The Royal Mail Steam Packet "Arlanza" : p. 2.

My first visit to Brazil, 1909, was by the R.M.S.P. Asturias, twin-screw, 12,002 tons, then the latest and largest ship of this fine British merchant fleet.

The trip from Southampton gave the following itinerary: Cherbourg, Vigo, Lisbon (a morning and afternoon on shore in the pretty capital of the mother-country of Brazil), Madeira (a morning on shore), St. Vincent, Pernambuco (the first Brazilian port of call, eight days' sail from Madeira, during which the equator is crossed), Bahia (a day's sail), Rio de Janeiro (on the sixteenth day, allowing a night and a half-day on shore), Santos, Montevideo, and finally Buenos Aires on the twenty-first day. There was not a rough day throughout the passage, and only one hot day.  
I recall the morning swim in the large, improvised sail-bath on deck, between Lisbon and Pernambuco, as the hall-mark of a perfect voyage.  Lovely Brazilians and Argentines also haunt the memory from those so-called pre-Tango days and the 'regulation' fancy-dress ball of the Asturias. Wealth and luxury abounded on board; and if only more people knew of the pleasure of this stock voyage of the great steamship line, more would try it for the sake of health, education, art, novelty, and ease.
Chapter I. Between the United Kingdom and Brazil by the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company : p. 1. 

Aboard a "Royal Mail" : p. 2.
In Bell's next chapter he describes the unspoilt vista he saw entering Rio de Janeiro Harbour by steamship.

We have turned from a southerly to a westerly course around Cape Frio, about latitude 23° South, just inside the Tropic of Capricorn, and after a few hours' steaming we are off the harbour entrance, and turn north to enter this peerless bay. Now to right and left are forest-clad mountains with stretches of buff beach on either shore, and islands which seem as sentinels of a treasure house.  We pass in.  In the mouth of the channel is the Island of Lage, dividing it into two passages.  

We take the western and broader passage, 950 yards wide, leaving close on our left the Sugar Loaf (Pao de Assucar) Mountain, 1,383 feet high, an almost scrubless rock.
Now the South Atlantic is dead-astern, and the majestic panorama unfolds—the mountain-guarded, pear-shaped, island-studded harbour, eighteen miles in length from south to north, and twelve miles at its widest point between the eastern and western shores.  On our immediate left lies Rio de Janeiro; we steam ahead for two miles and anchor from a quarter to half a mile off the city, or moor alongside the new and spacious quays.  We have passed several islets on the way in.  Around and about us everywhere are noble mountains and hills, the loftiest, the Organ Mountains, attaining upwards of 6,000 feet, closing in the bay on the north.
Chapter II. Rio de Janeiro and the Bay of Guanabara : p. 7.

A little bit of Guanabara Bay : p. 78.

"I have journeyed in five continents, and have yet to see the equal of the Bay of Guanabara" : p. 6.

'carnivalling' against one's will

Of course, no book on Rio is complete without the author's impression of Carnival
There is then Rio de Janeiro's greatest outburst, the annual Carnival. This amazing four days' interruption of all business does amaze and, at first brush, annoy the English or American business visitor. But so well is the whole thing done, and so really genuine becomes the universal fun-making, that one is caught carnivalling against one's will. It has been estimated that over 200,000 people can and do collect by day or night in the Avenida [Avenue] Rio Branco, all more or less on harmless mischief bent. The sobriety of the crowds is astonishing, so also is the squirting of perfumes, while the special parade of fancy and illuminated cars, organised by such carnival clubs as the Lieutenants of the Devil, and others, afford spectacles well worth seeing. Throughout Carnival motor-cars are at a premium, every car that the city contains being in full use for the four days.
Up in Petropolis I came in for a carnival of water. Everybody was exchanging water—water from garden hoses, from buckets, from water-balls.  With my companions I hired a carriage and proceeded to give and take all the water possible, and there was no lack of water trade.  The sober Legations were drawn into the frivolous deluge, and at one time between the balcony of the French Legation and a mock fire-brigade in the road an appalling water bombardment was in progress directed with spirit by the Minister's wife.  Very forlorn and very paper and confetti-strewn do the streets of Rio look before Carnival is finally swept up.  The more enthusiastic spirits then retire to their lairs, and premeditate more mad frolic for the carnival to come.

A bit of Petropolis : p. 76.

Residence of Mr. Frank H. Walter, Petropolis : p. 60.

Italian designs on Rio

Rio was undergoing major modernisation during the years Bell lived in the city. He devotes a chapter to the new architecture and highlights the role played by Italian design and architects. Rio's main street was Central Avenue but renamed the Avenida Rio Branco when it was modernised in 1914 and features in more than one hundred illustrations in the book. Antonio Januzzi is presented as a key figure for understanding the modern architecture of Rio and left his mark on some of the most beautiful buildings in the Avenue.  

Bell writes: "Despite the strong influence of French design, the new Rio owes much to Italian architects.  Still arise here and there copies of the Portuguese style, called with disdain by many Brazilians as "plum pudding' style".  Januzzi  designed more than 5000 buildings in the city and won two major design awards for his brilliant work in the Brazilian capital.  He received the decoration of Commander of the Italian Crown (1896) and the gold medal of the Exhibition of Turin (1898).  Worthy of note is the disdain with which the Brazilian elite regarded Portuguese architecture.  Bell identifies the style as having: "French windows, facade Spanish, English sills, German or Italian roof and shutters. Abuse of blue, green and red and the use of images of saints."

A portion of the Avenue of Royal Palms, Botanical Gardens : p. 172.

One of the best appointed libraries in the world ...
"The foreigner will do well to visit the National Library in Rio de Janeiro with its splendid rooms and halls.  The National Library is the best-equipped and the best-housed institution of its kind in South America.  It was founded by the Prince Regent of Portugal, Dom Joao, afterwards King Joao VI., who on coming to Rio de Janeiro in 1808 brought with him the Portuguese Royal Library, which consisted of some 60,000 volumes of old works. ... The National Library was at first housed in a large building at Largo da Lapa, but was later on transferred to the architecturally handsome pile in the Avenida Rio Branco, which it now occupies.  It was opened in 1910 in commemoration of the centenary of the foundation of the library. The building is fireproof and isolated from other buildings, and in every way suitable to house the valuable collection which it contains. The furniture is all of steel, and the elaborate manner in which the library is equipped makes it one of the best appointed in the world. It is divided into four sections: for printed matter, manuscripts, drawings, geographical maps and pictures and coins and medals."

The National Library staircase : p. 176.

To highlight, as mentioned, the dynamic of reading personal travel experiences in other times and the realisation that cultures and places constantly evolve and sadly not always for the better.
"You do not need to carry a revolver in Rio de Janeiro. Tram and motor traffic is dangerous as in any great capital; drunkenness is rare, and I am inclined to think that crime is also.  I have suffered twice from the pocket-picking fraternity, but it can be shown that the majority of this crowd is of the imported article.  If Rio suffers at all, it is not in the number, or the failure in detection, or the immunity from arrest of criminals, but in an excessive leniency of the courts and juries, Brazilians themselves constantly remarking a curious public sympathy with the accused. There is another peculiar anomaly in Rio. Gambling is, I believe, prohibited by law; but it is permitted openly under police control."
Chapter XV. Justice and police : 161.

To conclude with Bell's comments on sport in 1914—

In Rio de Janeiro climatic insistence makes sport of nearly every kind a very severe tax on the human frame during at least five months in the year. It is then a little surprising that, in a census recently taken of its readers by a Carioca daily, as to the king of sports, association football headed the list. Various enthusiasts recorded their reasons for this choice, and it remains an enigma to me why a sport that prohibits the use of the human hand should appeal so especially to Brazilians. The fact, however, is that "soccer" first, then rowing, and then horse-racing, with lawn tennis a long way next, and athletics almost nowhere, is the order of popularity of sport in Rio. It is really only in the last fifteen or twenty years that these games have been earnestly taken up, and yet with the material at her command Brazil ought not to be very far from the day when her athletes enter for the Olympic Games. There is one defect which I venture to think holds her back: the indifference of the Brazilian woman to the value and charm of sport; her aversion from exercise. Lawn-tennis has made very little headway, while golf is absolutely unknown. In the purely masculine sphere cricket has not taken on, and the princely game of polo does not exist. Under the spell of international rivalry, school and college athletics and gymnastics are now being cultivated, and her friends must hope to see Brazil follow the new lead of France among the Latin nations in these important fields.

Rugby does not seem to take root, only two clubs, the Paysandu and Rio Cricket, pretending to fifteens. Rowing is popular, and the Botafogo regattas especially so. The attendance of the President at the big regattas is almost de rigueur and both here and in the pretty football club grounds the attendance of mothers and sisters is visibly on the increase. I should not call the standard of rowing high; it is perhaps too amateurish to attain Henley form, but it is producing, with swimming, for which Rio supplies such perfect facilities, men of fine physique.

Olá to Jonathon who follows this blog and resides in the beautiful River of January.

original water-colour drawings of Rio! 

Of course, the RGSSA's collection holds many other resources regarding the discovery, exploration and history of Rio de Janeiro and the Americas. 

George Angas, by Charles Baugniet
The collection holds original water-colour drawings of Rio de Janeiro by George French Angas. A natural history painter, many of his sketches from his travels as a naturalist in the mid 1800s became the basis for lithographic plates used in his publications.  He was born at Newcastle upon Tyne and the son of George Fife Angus (1789-1879) who was a significant figure in establishing the Colony of South Australia. 

In 1844, George joined his brother, John Howard Angas in South Australia.  The brothers had been sent to Adelaide by their father to salvage the family fortune.  He explored and sketched extensively in South Australia, New South Wales, New Zealand and South Africa.  Several of his self-illustrated volumes are in the Society's collection, some in limited edition.

On a voyage from Sydney around Cape Horn to England, Angas was aboard the Royal Tar in 1846 when the ship was delayed in Rio de Janeiro for two weeks.  He did a number of water-colour drawings of Rio, some of his original drawings are in the RGSSA's collection.  They were intended for a book called The Scenery of Rio Janeiro but it was never published. Angas also describes his arrival in Rio de Janeiro, some fifty years before Bell's description and perhaps more eloquently, in his volume II of Savage life and scenes in Australia and New Zealand.  From his diary entry dated Dec. 2 [1846]— 
This morning we were cheered by the sight of land: the high mountains of South America were before us, in the province of Rio Janeiro.  The day broke gloriously, and it was beautiful in the extreme to see the Brazilian coast with its jagged and lofty peaks, now struggling through the mists of early day.
To the voyager, weary of the endless waters, land is a joyous spectacle; and to us it is gladdening to see the blue peaks of South America glittering in the pure sunshine, and inhale the fragrance of sweet blossoms from the shore, brought hither by the land-breeze during the night—to watch the green and golden dolphin, flashing like a blaze of jewels through the snowy foam—and to know that we are rapidly nearing an earthly paradise, and that the sparkling fish, radiant with beauty, and the stray birds and butterflies overhead that have wandered from the shore, are harbingers of more brightness and beauty upon the land that lies bathed in sunshine before us.  Such influences as these bring with them happy and buoyant spirits. Here, too, we saw the turtle, lying like little floating islets upon the surface of the water, with their heads stretched up into the morning sunshine.  Large and very singular-looking birds, with long wings and tails, soared above us; and as we neared the land, new beauties presented themselves every moment.  Passing the island of Raza—on which stands the lighthouse and Rodondo, a lofty abrupt cone—the Paya and Maya islands are seen to the right, scattered with cocoa-nut trees; and the Morris's isles, of tragic interest, lie still further distant. Here the grandeur of the mountains becomes very imposing: giant masses of rock—hurled, as it were, into the most wild and remarkable forms, resembling spires, cubes, and pyramids—rear their lofty summits, bare and naked, against the sky.
The entrance to the harbour of Rio Janeiro now faced us, guarded by the Sugar Loaf mountain on the left, and on the right by the conical rock above Santa Cruz. We speedily discovered houses, and forts, and flags, with crowds of shipping in the distance between the opening.  On the right of the entrance stands the fort of Santa Cruz: here no vessel is allowed to pass into the harbour without hailing, and reporting "her name," "where from," "number of clays out," &c.  The water is deep close alongside the fort, and any vessel not bringing up, or coming within hail, is immediately fired at, without the slightest ceremony, until she obeys these orders. Farther on, situated upon an island nearly in the centre of the harbour, is the fort of Vilganhon, which we had also to hail; and being permitted to pass, we were directed to our anchorage, not far from this latter fort, and about two miles from the shore.  Here we lay in company with other vessels that had put in for refreshments: ships waiting to take in or discharge cargo lie higher up the harbour, close to the city.
"Silent rapture" of the vast Atlantic
About eight miles from Rio Janeiro, beyond Boto Fogo, there is a lovely mountain-path leading to a ruined archway on the summit of the mountain-ridge that divides the harbour from the ocean.  I pursued it alone, and never shall I forget the silent rapture with which I stood by that arch and gazed around; looking down upon the gay harbour and the distant city on the one hand, while on the other lay a waste of wild and dreary sand-hills, intersected with glens of rich foliage, bounded by the immeasurable ocean—the vast Atlantic.  There was no sound save the distant roar of the sea, every wave of which I could see distinctly break along the shore for miles; and no sign of life but the busy throng of insects flitting around, and an occasional serpent gliding stealthily into the bushes. 
           Chapter IX. Voyage Round Cape Horn -- Rio Janeiro -- Arrival In England : p. 249.

Angas, George French, 1822-1886. 
Savage life and scenes in Australia and New Zealand
London : Smith, Elder, 1847
RGSSA catalogue

The Scenery of Rio Janeiro in a Series of Sketches. 
Eight watercolours, the first a design for a title page, 32 x 23 cm. the other seven all c. 23.2 x 32.3 cm. mounted on cards, in maroon linen folder. (MS. Id Rare Books Room)
These watercolours were never published. York Gate Library stamp on front of folder.
Not in Catalogue of the York Gate Library, 1886. Angas added titles in watercolour on the views and longer titles in pencil on the mounts. The pencil titles are repeated on backs of mounts.
If you would like to see these sketches please contact the library. 

Sandra Thompson
RGSSA distance cataloguer