Sale of Fine Books & Manuscripts Features Harold & Agnes Keith Collection of
Borneo and Southeast Asian Literature
12 June, 2002 San
Butterfields, the west coasts leading auctioneer, is pleased to
present an important collection of Borneo and Southeast Asian literature from the Harold
and Agnes Keith Collection on Thursday, June 27, 2002 in San Francisco and via the
Internet. This historically significant collection will be presented during the Fine Books
& Manuscripts sale, comprising two sessions, the later session featuring Entertainment
Memorabilia including vintage posters and classic Hollywood collectibles.
Agnes Newton Keith was an
ambitious young reporter for the San Francisco Examiner in 1932 when she was beaten
by a mugger outside their offices and suffered severe memory loss for several years.
During her recovery in Los Angeles she became re-acquainted with a friend of her
brothers, Harry G. Keith, an urbane British foreign officer stationed in North
Borneo as Conservator of Forests and Director of Agriculture. They were married the day
before he had to return by ship to North Borneo and there she began a new life in the
The profound tranquility of
Sandakan before the War inspired her to write a book about her experiences and enter it in
the 1939 Atlantic Monthly Non-Fiction Prize Contest. That book was entitled Land Below
the Wind, an old seafarers term for the South Pacific islands that fall below
the traditional typhoon routes, and won the contest by unanimous vote. The biography went
on to become a bestseller and the title is employed to this day as the unofficial motto
for the state of Sabah, Malaysia, the successor of North Borneo.
The Japanese Army ended their
idyllic seclusion in 1942 when they invaded North Borneo and sent the Keith family off to
a POW compound for just over three years. Although keeping notes was a capital offence,
Agnes wrote a diary on the backs of labels and in the margins of newspapers, which she
buried in tins or sewed inside her sons home-made toys. After the war Agnes Keith
wrote her second book, Three Came Home, another bestseller which went on to become
a successful film starring Claudert Colbert in 1950. Their former house in Sandakan is now
a museum and is one of the leading attractions in Sabah, Malaysia.
The Keiths were also passionate
bibliophiles and collected an extensive array of books and documents relating to Borneo
and Southeast Asia. Many of the items in their 1000+ volume library are unique
presentation copies or the sole surviving examples of early monographs on the region.
Without a doubt, this collection constitutes the most important collection of rare books
and manuscripts relating to Borneo ever to have come up for auction.
Highlights from the collection
-Five early tracts by Sir James
Brooke, the first Rajah of Sarawak, several presentation copies inscribed by the author to
Walter Read, one of the founders of the British North Borneo Company. Bound together in
one volume, these scarce monographs include "A Letter from Borneo" (1842)
and "A Vindication of the Character and Proceedings
" (1853). The
Keith collection also includes many signed and presentation copies of works by Charles and
Anthony Brooke, Lady Raffles and John Leyden, among others.
Application Addressed to the Marquess of Salisbury. G. G., Secretary of State for Foreign
Affairs, &c., &c., &c., by the Undersigned on Behalf of Themselves and Their
Associates. North Borneo." W. Greaves & Co., London, .
The original charter
application for the British North Borneo Company, privately printed for the founders,
Alfred Dent and Baron von Overbeck. The charter was eventually granted on Nov. 1 1881, and
the British North Borneo Chartered Company became the entity whichconstituted the State of
North Borneo. This original charter application is arguably the founding document of
British North Borneo and the modern state of Sabah, Malaysia.
-A number of rare early
monographs by BNBC officials, including Cowie, Treacher, Pryer, Donop and others, and the
first works printed in Sandakan from the press of W. Rozario. Many of these items are not
listed in any institutional holdings, including the British Library, and may well be the
only surviving extant copies.
-A volume of autograph letters
by Capt. Francis Xavier Witti (1881-82) written during his ill-fated mission through the
heart of Borneo that led to his infamous demise at the hands of head-hunters, including
the final letter before his death.
-A unique copy of the "Proclamation"
of the Commander of the Japanese Forces upon their invasion of Sandakan issued on January
19 1942, as well as the sole surviving example of Khabar Perang (later Sandakan
Nippo), the propaganda newspaper of the Japanese occupying forces in Sandakan,
complete in 265 individual issues.
-A number of rare, privately
printed accounts of prisoner of war camps in Borneo and Malaysia, including scarce works
by Archer, Simpson and others.
-Several scarce collections of
early scholarly journals, including Moors Notices of the Indian Archipelago
(1837) and Logans Journal of the Indian Archipelago and Eastern Asia
-Many important early
explorations of the region, including works by Jacob Jansz de Roy, Beeckman, Sonnerat,
Thomas Forrest, and James Rennells personal copy of Dalyrymples Historical
Collection of the Several Voyages and Discoveries in the South Pacific Ocean.
-An extensive library of over
100 19th century accounts by European travellers, including seminal works by
Bock, Belcher, Crawfurd, Dienaar, Keppel, Mundy and Schwaner.
-Many important works of
natural history and illustration relating to the early exploration of Borneo, including a
presentation copy of Beccaris Nelle Foreste di Borneo (1902), Bethunes Views
of the Eastern Archipelago, John Whiteheads magnificent folio volume on Mount
Kinabalu, and important works by Temminck, Marryat, and Molengraaff.
The fine selection of rare
books also includes rare travel literature, botanicals, Americana and fine bindings and
will be previewed for potential bidders in Los Angeles June 14-16 and in San Francisco
June 21-23. Butterfields illustrated auction catalog can be viewed online at http://www.butterfields.com. Online real-time
bidding during the 194-lot auction will be powered by eBays Live Auctions
Dr. Martin Gammon, Fine Books, Manuscripts, (415) 503-3207 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Monique Crine and Levi Morgan, Butterfields, (415) 503-3348 Email: email@example.com
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