Art/Style/Travel Diaries

Don Benito Legarda Jr.’s legendary collection in Leon Gallery’s special mid-year offering

The scholar and erudite collector's lifetime pursuit of books and maps spanned 70 years and three continents

LOT 99, Rue à Manila, Capitale de L’île Luçon (Iles Philippines), Postels, Aleksandr; Bayot, Adolphe Jean Baptiste; Jacottet, Louis-Julien, Circa 1830s - 1850s, 14” x 9” (35 cm x 24 cm), CONDITION REPORT: GOOD

León Gallery offers a special auction featuring the legendary collections of books, maps, and prints of scholar and erudite collector Don Benito J. Legarda, Jr.

Legarda, affectionately known as “Beniting” to close friends, amassed an extensive collection of books and maps from decades-long travels, discoveries, and curation. Now, he leaves these treasures to the next generation, passing on the torch to enrich the ever-growing arena of Philippine studies.

“Don Beniting Legarda, economist and scholar, public servant and patriot, had one of the most famous if not legendary libraries of Filipiniana in the world,” León Gallery director Jaime Ponce de Leon writes in the catalog’s foreword. “A reflection of his inquiring mind, he had a taste for the rare and wonderful.”

Dr. Jorge Mojarro spoke of the sublime library Legarda kept throughout his life. “The first thing that jumps out on examination of Legarda’s library is his deep patriotism,” he writes in this catalog. The Filipinos and their history feature heavily in his collections and intellectual work, as he devoted his time to studying Philippine history, culture, and society.

Don Legarda’s daughter, Isabel Cristina Legarda, echoes her father’s love for books. “Books, for me, represent our shared humanity: not only the thoughts of artists, scientists, and other creatives today, but also our connection to minds long gone, yet living and reachable still through their words,” she says. “Books have life-changing and world-transforming power, both now and for generations to come.”

The curatorship of “The Travelers and Adventurers Auction” is handled by two esteemed scholars: Jorge Mojarro, who provided masterful notes and commentaries on the volumes, and founding member of the Philippine Map Collectors Society Alfredo Roca.

“At the core of this current collection are fascinating chronicles by the intrepid Europeans and Americans who sailed to these islands,” Ponce de Leon writes. Studying various writings from Antonio Pigafetta to Paul de la Gironiere, scholars and lovers of Philippine history will surely find a treasure that will quench their thirst for knowledge.

Highlighted are the rare books from Legarda’s extraordinary library, a testament to the diversity of his academic interests.

Lot 1, Sinibaldo de Mas
a) Artículo sobre las rentas de Filipinas y los medios de aumentarlas. (Article on Philippine revenues and the means to increase them]. Madrid: Imprenta y estereotipia de M. Rivadeneira, 1853. size: 9” x 6” (23 cm x 15 cm), depth: 11” x 7 3/4” (28 cm x 20 cm), CONDITION REPORT: GOOD
b) Arancel general del derecho que los géneros, frutos y efectos, tanto nacionales como
estranjeros, han de adendar a su introducción para consumo en estas islas. (General tariff of the duty that the goods, fruits and effects, both national and foreign, have to pay for their introduction for consumption in these islands). Manila: Imprenta del Boletín Oficial, 1855. height: 7 1/2” (19 cm), width: 5” (13 cm), length: 1 1/2” (4 cm), CONDITION REPORT: FAIR. PAGES WITH FOXING. LOOSE UNBOUND VOLUME. COMPLETE. CONSERVED IN AN ENVELOPE.

First on the list is Sinibaldo de Mas’ Artículo sobre las rentas de Filipinas y los medios de aumentarlas (Article on Philippine revenues and the means to increase them). “Sinibaldo de Mas was an adventurer, travel writer, sinologist, polyglot,” writes Dr. Mojarro.

“This article is an offset, originally published in an official administrative bulletin. Mas drafts a study of the sources of revenue of the archipelago and suggests that the cultivation and export of opium could be a solution,” he continues.

Tied with the aforementioned article is Arancel general del derecho que los géneros, frutos y efectos, tanto nacionales como estranjeros, han de adendar a su introducción para consumo en estas islas (General tariff of the duty that the goods, fruits and effects, both national and foreign, have to pay for their introduction for consumption in these islands), also by Mas. Dr. Mojarro notes that this rare administrative leaflet is one of the primary sources that helped Legarda complete his 1999 work After the Galleons.

LOT 7, Los terremotos en Filipinas en julio de 1880. (Earthquakes in the Philippines in July 1880), Manila: Establecimiento Tipográfico de Ramírez y Giraudier, 1880, 152 pp. size: 6 1/2” x 4 1/2” (17 cm x 11 cm), CONDITION REPORT: FAIR. ATTACHED TO CARDBOARD FOR PROTECTION. WORN VOLUME. FOLDED PAGES IN FAIR CONDITION, HAVE SOME CRACKS, BUT NO PART IS MISSING.

Los terremotos en Filipinas en julio de 1880, a compilation of Diario de Manila articles about the destructive earthquakes in the Philippines in July 1880, will also be auctioned.

“Of great interest are the folded pages showing the movement of the pendulum of the Manila Observatory during earthquakes,” writes Dr. Mojarro.

LOT 10, Fr. Mateo Gisbert, Diccionario Español-Bagobo. Manila: Establecimiento Tipográfico de J. Marty, 1892, 1888 pp., size: 8” x 6” (20 cm x 15 cm), depth: 1/2” (1 cm), CONDITION REPORT: FAIR. PAGES SEPARATED FROM THE HARDCOVER, BUT SLIGHTLY AFFECTED BY TERMITE HOLES. PAGES SLIGHTLY OBSCURED BY THE PASSING OF TIME.

Fr. Mateo Gisbert’s Diccionario Español-Bagobo is one of the Jesuits’ most significant contributions to understanding the languages in Mindanao. Fr. Gisbert was part of the first expedition to reach the summit of Mt. Apo in 1880, and he spent decades with the people of Mindanao. Dr. Mojarro wrote, “The letters he wrote from Mindanao show that he was a missionary very concerned about the material welfare and prosperity of the natives.”

Diccionario Español-Bagobo is a manifestation of Fr. Gisbert’s concern for the natives of Mindanao. It is the first dictionary ever published about any indigenous language in Mindanao. The first part of the two-volume publication is a dictionary of the Bagobo language (now known as Tagabawa).

LOT 13, J. González Hidalgo, Obras malacológicas (Parte 1 y Parte 2). (Malacological works, 2 volumes), Madrid: imprenta de Don Luis Aguado, 1890. size: 11” x 8” (28 cm x 20 cm), depth: 1 1/4” (3 cm) each, CONDITION REPORT: EXCELLENT. EX-LIBRARY COPY FROM BIBLIOTECA DEL COLEGIO MÁXIMO DE SAN FRANCISCO DE BORJA (BARCELONA). ALL PAGES IN PERFECT CONDITION EXCEPT FOR PRELIMINARY BLANK PAGE OF VOLUME 1, WHICH LACKS A PORTION

Another dictionary is going under the block for this auction. This two-volume work entitled Obras malacológicas, written by J. González Hidalgo, will be going up for sale at this auction, too. A malacology or study of mollusks, these works are among the most complete works on mollusks in the Philippines even today. The first volume is an impressive collection of essays on Philippine mollusks with a dictionary of all known species at the time; the second volume is an equally impressive “Atlas” of the first volume, with over a hundred images of mollusks in the Philippines.

LOT 24, Antonio de Morga, Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas. Ed. by Wenceslao Retana. Madrid: Librería General de Victoriano Suárez, 1909. size: 9 3/4” x 6 3/4” (25 cm x 17 cm), depth: 2” (5 cm), CONDITION REPORT: FAIR. PAGES SLIGHTLY OBSCURED BY THE PASSING OF TIME. LEFT UPPER CORNER OF PAGE 5 BROKEN, BUT TEXT AFFECTED RECONSTRUCTED BY A TYPEWRITTEN NOTE BY BENITO LEGARDA JR. SEVERAL ARTICLES FROM NEWSPAPERS INSERTED AT THE VOLUME DEALING WITH MORGA AND GALEÓN SAN DIEGO, MOSTLY FROM AMBETH OCAMPO.

Wenceslao Retana’s edition of Antonio de Morga’s Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas offers a critical view of a foundational work on Philippine colonial historiography. Dr. Mojarro notes that Retana’s version includes “a long critical introduction, numerous notes, and several appendices where original documents from the Archive of the Indies in Seville are transcribed.”

LOT 25, Pedro Alejandro Paterno, Maring, amor de obrero filipino. Aurora social. Colección de novelas cortas. (Maring, love of a Filipino worker. Social aurora. Collection of short stories). Manila: La República, 1910. size: 5 1/2” x 4” (14 cm x 10 cm), CONDITION REPORT: FAIR. PROTECTED BY PLASTIC. ALL PAGES IN GOOD CONDITION, SLIGHTLY WORN. SEVERAL TIMES SIGNED BY THE PREVIOUS OWNER.

One of the last literary works of Pedro Alejandro Paterno is offered at this sale. Maring, amor de obrero filipino. Aurora social. Colección de novelas cortas. (Maring, love of a Filipino worker. Social aurora. Collection of short stories) features “a romantic and costumbrist tone, with an idealized Philippines in the background,” as Dr. Mojarro notes.

LOT 23, The official and pictorial record of the War with Spain and Philippines including the life, messages, and papers of President McKinley. Washington: War Records Office, 1902. size: 17 1/4” x 12 1/4” (44 cm x 31 cm), depth: 1 1/2” (4 cm), CONDITION REPORT: HARDCOVER IN BAD CONDITION. PAGES IN EXCELLENT CONDITION.

Also included in Legarda’s legendary trove is the official and pictorial record of the War with Spain and the Philippines, with the life, messages, and papers of President William McKinley.

LOT 92, Insulae Indiae Orientalis Praecipuae in quibus Moluccae celeberrime sunt, Jodocus Hondius, Amsterdam, Circa 1610, 17” x 22” (43 cm x 54 cm), CONDITION REPORT: VERY GOOD

Don Benito’s collection of maps is another treasure trove to be excavated and enjoyed. One of the highlights to look out for is Insulae Indiae Orientalis Praecipuae in quibus Moluccae celeberrime sunt, a map showcasing the European knowledge of the East Indies, a region intertwined with Europe as they honed their focus on the lucrative Spice Islands. “The map was the most detailed rendering of the East Indies at the time and one of the only regional maps to mention Francis Drake’s landings there,” writes Dr. Mojarro.

LOT 93, Map of South-east Asia including parts of New Guinea and New Holland. Robert Laurie & James Whittle, London, Circa 1799, 26” x 31” (65 cm x 80 cm), CONDITION REPORT: POOR

Another regional map to be auctioned is the Map of South-east Asia, including parts of New Guinea and New Holland. Extending from the Cape of Good Hope to China, the map portrays New Holland and New Zealand, with the Red Sea, Gulf of Persia, Bay of Bengal, and China Seas.

LOT 97, Indiae Orientalis Insularumque Adiacientium Typus, Abraham Ortelius, Antwerp, Circa 1608, 16” x 22” (40 cm x 54 cm), CONDITION REPORT: GOOD

Cartographer, geographer, and cosmographer Abraham Ortelius’ Indiae Orientalis Insularumque Adiacientium Typus portrays Southeast Asia, Japan, and the Philippines with a small section of the western coast of California. This map is featured in Ortelius’ Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, the first modern atlas of the world.

LOT 71, Asia ex magna orbis terre descriptione Gerardi Mercatoris desumpta studio et industria Gerardi Mercatoris, Circa 1595 (1623), 18” x 22” (46 cm x 55 cm), CONDITION REPORT: GOOD

A circa 1595 map of Asia called Asia ex magna orbis terre descriptione Gerardi Mercatoris desumpta studio et industria Gerardi Mercatoris is also up for bids.

Isabel writes a parting message for her father’s collection: “It’s my hope that those who end up carrying home a share of my father’s book collection will keep his love of knowledge and words alive and pass on this love to the readers, writers, activists, and thinkers of this planet’s future.”

“We invite you once again to retrace Don Beniting’s journey of the mind with us,” Mr. Ponce de Leon says. “These and other treasures were collected over a lifetime’s pursuit that spanned 70 years and three continents, forming the legendary array of books, maps, and prints of a revered scholar.”

“The Travelers and Adventurers Auction” will be held on 9 June 2024 at 2 pm at Eurovilla 1, Rufino corner Legazpi Streets, Legazpi Village, Makati City. Preview week is from 1 June to 7 June 2024, from 9 am to 7 pm. For further inquiries, email [email protected] or contact tel. no. 8856-2781. To browse the catalog, visit www.leon-gallery.com.

Follow León Gallery on their social media pages for timely updates: Facebook – www.facebook.com/leongallerymakati and Instagram @leongallerymakati.


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