Sep 27, 2018 - Sale 2486

Sale 2486 - Lot 516

Price Realized: $ 228
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 300 - $ 400
(WEST INDIES.) A botanical specimen, with accompanying Dutch explanation of its use for torture by "de Wilde Indianen." Specimen is 34 x 6 inches, folded into quarters but well-preserved; with accompanying manuscript wrapper, 16 x 13 inches unfolded, worn with folds. Np, circa 1700?

Additional Details

What we offer here is an early botanical specimen with a wild explanation. The specimen is the seed pod from a palma saccifera, also known as the "Bag-bearing nut tree." It was described by the Dutch botanist Cluvius in the 16th century as native to a desert island in the West Indies called Coronopez where some Dutch sailors were shipwrecked (see also John Parkinson's Theatrum Botanicum from 1640, with an illustration). The present example comes with a manuscript note in Dutch, perhaps circa 1700, explaining that it was a stocking used by wild Indians for torture: they would force their prisoners to wear the stocking and then set the fuse on fire to maximize the suffering. The note identifies the stocking as made from a date tree native to the island of Coronopez.
Missing from our expert analysis: we can't determine the location of the mysterious isle of Coronopez, or what it is called today. Nor can we identify the contemporary name of the palma saccifera, or whether it still survives. But we feel confident that it was natural rather than woven, and are rather skeptical whether it was ever used to torture prisoners. Accompanied by a slip from the bookseller Lathrop C. Harper Inc. bearing a translation from the Dutch into English.