The Mediterranean Sea has been the cradle of civilization and many books have been written by travelers about their journeys to and from the Mediterranean lands. Unfortunately due to the many wars and uprisings suffered throughout history, many of the regional books have been destroyed. Many rare books capturing voyages through Constantinople and the Byzantine and later through Istanbul, or books from the break-up of Yugoslavia all the way to Kosovo have vanished. Most of the surviving rare books have been picked up by various libraries around the globe. This made it very difficult for collectors to build a library or collection of books that will pass from one generation to the next.
A prolonged economic downturn may have potentially positive beneficial consequences. The opportunistic collector may benefit from the current financial crisis sweeping through the region and be able to score some great deals. In fact, rare books, coins, antiques and rare maps that are in the hands of lucky beneficiaries are also the items most likely to change hands during these tough economic times. It is now common knowledge that during bad economic times serious collectors can take advantage of declining prices to satisfy their intellectual desires at bargain prices.
It would be impossible to find any books on the Eastern Mediterranean region including the Ottoman Empire, the Balkans and modern Greece from the 18th and 19th centuries without expecting to pay the well deserved premium price. The most beautiful book ever produced on Greece and Turkey is considered to be “Voyage a Athenes et a Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, de vues et de costumes grecs et ottomans, peints sur les lieux,” by Louis Dupre. The first edition was published in 1825 by Dondey-Dupre, Paris . The large folio contains 40 hand-colored lithographed plates and 12 lithographed plates in text. The few times that it was offered for sale at an auction it proved it can fetch more than its initial estimates and it is now valued to at over 80,000 GBP.
Fortunately for those that are fascinated with this area a less expensive rare book is “Travels in the Ionian Isles, Albania, Thessaly, Macedonia, &c. during the Years 1812 and 1813’’ by Holland Henry, published in 1815 by Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown in London. The rare first edition in good condition is valued at around 2000 GBP. It gives an account of the areas through which British doctor Holland Henry travelled during the times of the Ottoman Empire and it provides historical evidence about the lives of the people in their preparation for the revolt against the Ottoman Empire in 1821.
Another less expensive alternative is a book that provides a historical description of the years of the Ottoman Empire “History of the Ottoman Turks: From the Beginning of their Empire to the Present Time. Chiefly founded on Von Hammer,” by Creasy, E.S . The first edition was published in 1854, in 2 volumes. The book is posted for sale around 2000 GBP and gives details about the treaties and foreign relations during the Ottoman Empire. It contains 12 maps.
Another interesting and rare book is the book “On Horseback through Asia Minor,’’ by Captain Burnaby, Fred. The first edition was published in 1877 and it is for sale for less than 1000 GBP. Asia Minor is the area that covers the Mediterranean shores of Turkey. The book’s author is a British captain, traveler and adventurer and was the first balloonist who crossed the channel of Normandy alone, thus giving him special fame.
Last but not least is a more modern book, published in 1953 and it is the book about an excavation in Cyprus during the period that the island was a British colony. The book is titled “Khirokitia: Final Report on the Excavation of a Neolithic Settlement in Cyprus on behalf of the Department of Antiquities 1936-1946,’’ by Dikaios Porphyrios. The first edition, autographed, is for sale for less than 1000 GBP.
In today’s economic climate sellers may be willing to sell for less some of these Eastern Mediterranean treasures. Keep in mind that any listed prices on the books referenced represent unsold copied, not realized prices. Bad economic times do have a few benefits for book collectors but more importantly they bring a time of less cardio-vascular disease due to more restrained diets.