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|44. HOFFMAN, Ogden
(1822-1891). Reports of Land Cases Determined in the
United States District Court for the Northern District of California.
June Term, 1853, to June Term, 1858, Inclusive...Volume I [all
published]. San Francisco: Numa Hubert, Publisher, 1862. vii  -458,
146 pp. Large 8vo, original full law sheep, red and black leather spine
labels. Some cover wear, hinges strengthened but back hinge cracked,
some soiling and staining (primarily to margins at back of book),
typed list of cases tipped in at back, some old manuscript annotations
in appendix. Preserved in a chemise and half red morocco slipcase.
From Randall House with Ron Randall’s pencil notes on chemise.
First edition. Cowan II, p. 287. Graff 1919. Greenwood 1654. Howell 50, California 588 (citing the 1975 reprint): “The extremely rare first edition contains the decisions of Judge Ogden Hoffman on appeals from the Board of Land Commissioners.... His work has since become a classic of California history.” Howes H569. Huntington Library, Zamorano 80...Exhibition of Famous and Notorious California Classics 44. Norris 1652: “Very rare.” Streeter Sale 2874: “Though one would not suspect that this rather thick volume of reports of law cases was at all rare, it is in fact a very rare book, as well as quite an important one. For many years before the publication of The Zamorano Eighty in 1945, I had been assembling a collection of Californiana, but it was only in January, 1957, that I was able to complete my holdings of The Zamorano Eighty by the purchase of this volume.—TWS.” Zamorano 80 #44. ($2,000-4,000)
Judge Hoffman’s massive legal tome is the consummate early source
of information on land ownership in California from the Spanish and
Mexican era. The Reports of Land Cases contains the decisions
he made on appeals from the Board of Land Commissioners and is packed
with valuable historical data on just about every major land grant
bestowed by Spanish and Mexican governors. Hoffman presents 110 cases,
along with an appendix listing 813 land claims filed with the Land
Commission, and his volume of opinion provides an essential starting
point for understanding a sad and unjust chapter in American legal
history as the Californios struggled to hold on to their ranchos before
courts with little knowledge or sympathy for Mexican law and customs.
——Gary F. Kurutz
Additional sources consulted: Kenneth M. Johnson, Introduction to facsimile edition of Report of Land Cases (N.p.: Yosemite Collections, 1975); Oscar T. Shuck, History of the Bench and Bar of California (Los Angeles: Commercial Printing House, 1901), pp. 472-73.