Dorothy Sloan -- Books

Auction 12: The Zamorano 80 Collection of Daniel G. Volkmann Jr.

Lots 50 & 50A

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Item 50. Zenas Leonard’s Narrative, a superb copy in original cloth—“The rarest and most sought-after book associated with Yosemite, the sequoias, and the High Sierra” (Kurutz) and “the cornerstone to any collection of western travels” (Howell).


50. LEONARD, Zenas (1809-1857). Narrative of the Adventures of Zenas Leonard, a Native of Clearfield County, Pa. Who Spent Five Years in Trapping for Furs, Trading with the Indians &c. &c., of the Rocky Mountains: Written by Himself. Clearfield, Pennsylvania.: D. W. Moore, 1839. iv, 87 pp., printed in double column. 8vo, original rose cloth embossed in floral pattern. Upper hinge cracked, light spotting to text and small faint water stain at lower corner throughout (mostly affecting blank margin), text slightly age-toned, but overall fine (this copy was described by John Howell–Books in their California Catalogue [50:150], as “one of the finest copies known” and “the finest copy we have seen”). Contemporary ink signature on both back endpapers of R. Masson(?) of Clearfield, Pennsylvania. Preserved in a red cloth chemise and slipcase. The O’Brien–Jennie Crocker Henderson–Warren R. Howell copy. Jennie Crocker Henderson purchased this copy in 1922 for $700.00 from the Anderson Galleries auction of the library of Dr. Frank P. O’Brien (catalogue slip laid in). Laid in is Wright Howes’s typed letter on his printed stationery, initialed by him, to Warren R. Howell, dated March 14, 1958, stating in part: “The mark is the old McClurg cost—it was James Gulick—so it cost them $43.30. Arthur Halperin says he remembers that Wagner bought his copy of Leonard for $75.00 from George Chandler when they were working at McClurgs....” Exceedingly rare and important.
First edition. American Imprints 39:56805. Blumann & Thomas 1902. Cowan I, p. 139 (written in 1914): “Of the original [edition] not more than four or five copies are known to exist.” Cowan II, p. 389. Currey & Kruska, Yosemite 235. Farquhar, Yosemite 1. Graff 2461 (with Mr. Graff’s brief account of how he obtained his copy after fifteen years of negotiations): “A classic of the Rocky Mountain fur trade. It is not only a pleasure to read, but comprises an accurate account of personal experience.” Holliday 653. Howell 50, California 150 (present copy illustrated at p. 99): “The cornerstone to any collection of western travels.” Howes L264: “Completely trustworthy account...the chief first-hand authority.” Huntington Library, Zamorano 80...Exhibition of Famous and Notorious California Classics 50. Jones 1025 & vol. 2 (no. 225, illustrating the copy that Jones obtained from Wagner). LC, California Centennial 96. Libros Californianos (Bliss, Cowan & Wagner lists), pp. 17, 21, 25. Plains & Rockies IV:75 (illustrated at p. 128; Becker located eight copies in 1982). Streeter Sale 3141 (illustrated at p. 2147): “Exceedingly rare and important.” Zamorano 80 #50.
We think that Henry R. Wagner’s 1940 letter to Dr. George D. Lyman of San Francisco, telling how he acquired his copy of Leonard’s book is worth reprinting here (from Plains & Rockies IV:75): “About 1908 or 1909 while passing through Chicago I stopped at McClurg’s bookstore to see if they had anything new, as I always stopped there when passing through Chicago. Mr. Chandler was at that time in charge of the Rare Book department. He told me that he had a book in which he thought I might be interested and produced the Zenas Leonard narrative. I had heard of the book on account of the reprint but had never seen the original which I knew was a very scarce book. He said the price was $75, so I put it in my overcoat pocket and went off with it. While chatting with him he said that Walter Douglas, who was at that time manager of the Phelps-Dodge interests in Arizona, had been in shortly before and he had showed him the book. Douglas was not interested. That evening on the Rock Island train to El Paso, while going to the dining car, I happened to see Mr. Douglas, whom I knew quite well.... While talking to him he said that something rather amusing had happened that afternoon. I might say that Douglas was only interested in collecting Mexican Inquisition documents. He said he had visited McClurg and Chandler had shown him a book whose title he did not remember but he said he wanted $75 for it. He then said that about five-thirty he stopped in McClurg’s to pick up a package and Chandler had told him that he had sold the book, and then Douglas said, ‘I wonder what fool paid $75 for that book.’ I allowed that I was the fool and said that it was a very rare book well worth $75, but he would not believe it.” The only thing to add is that the original price for the book in 1839 was 75 cents in cloth binding. ($40,000-80,000)


50A. LEONARD, Zenas. Adventures of Zenas Leonard, Fur Trader and Trapper 1831-1836, Reprinted from the Rare Original of 1839.... Cleveland: The Burrows Brothers Company, 1904. 317 pp., plates, portraits, facsimiles, folding map. 8vo, original navy blue cloth, spine gilt-lettered. Ink ownership inscription of Alexander Thomas Leonard, M.D., San Francisco, 1919. Occasional foxing (mainly confined to text edges and endpapers), otherwise fine in d.j. (somewhat faded and with upper inside flap detached but present).
Limited edition (520 copies). Howes (L264) notes a second edition printed at Clearfield ca. 1885. The present edition, which was edited by Dr. W. F. Wagner, was the first to contain critical notes. ($150-300)


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Zenas Leonard’s overland account is the rarest and most sought-after book associated with Yosemite, the sequoias, and the High Sierra. Further, it documents the first instance of non-Indians to look on that dramatic geologic chasm known as the Yosemite Valley and the first to encounter those regal botanical giants, the Sequoia gigantea. Bibliographer and historian Francis P. Farquhar lists this as entry number one in his majestic Yosemite, Big Trees, and High Sierra. In discussing the importance of this title, Farquhar writes: “Leonard’s narrative is the principal source of information about the expedition of Joseph Reddeford Walker, in 1833, from Great Salt Lake to California. Walker’s was the first party to use the Humboldt River route to California and the first known party of white men to cross the Sierra Nevada from east to west.” Reliable knowledge of the High Sierra begins with the Walker party. Leonard’s narrative also has the distinction of being the second printed account of an overland trip to California, preceded only by James Ohio Pattie’s Personal Narrative (q.v.).
A fur trapper and mountain man, Leonard began his trip west in 1831, and in 1833 joined Captain B. L. E. Bonneville’s expedition to explore the Great Salt Lake. At the Green River rendezvous, Leonard became a member of a detachment led by J. R. Walker heading for California and the Pacific Ocean. He served as the expedition’s clerk. During the course of this odyssey, the mountain man “kept a minute journal of every incident that occurred.” One incident, in particular, proved memorable. He observed that “Some of the precipices appeared to us to be more than a mile high.” Those precipices, of course, turned out to be the Yosemite Valley. While producing a riveting account of the natural wonders, Leonard also provides an important and early impression of the settlements and missions along the California coast. The expedition reached the Pacific on November 30, 1833, and wintered in Monterey. Taking note of the Russian, British, and Mexican activities and thinking of the future, Leonard worried that the United States would not secure this promising land. The Walker expedition headed home on February 14, 1834, with “52 men, 315 horses, and for provisions 47 beef and 30 dogs,” making it to Independence, Missouri on August 28, 1835. Leonard had been “absent four years, four months, and five days.”
Once home in Clearfield County, friends besieged him for information about his western wayfaring. Not wishing to repeat the story over and over, he acceded to their request by agreeing to write out an account for publication in the newspapers. Leonard, however, faced one major problem: hostile Indians had stolen part of his journal. Not deterred, he consulted the journal of his commander and reconstructed the missing portion. Because of this missing manuscript, a few inaccuracies crept into his text. Farquhar and Lloyd W. Currey and Dennis G. Kruska in their respective bibliographies have delved into the publishing history of this overland trip. Part of Leonard’s narrative first appeared in the 1835 and 1836 issues of the Clearfield newspaper, the Pioneer and Banner. In 1839, D. W. Moore, using the same typeface as the newspaper and making a few editorial changes, published the narrative in book form in a double-column format.
Several later editions of this important work have been published. The first, published by the Burrows Brothers Company of Cleveland, appeared in 1904 and was edited by W. F. Wagner. In 1934, Milo Milton Quaife edited the text for R. R. Donnelley & Sons Lakeside Classics. The University of Nebraska Press, under its Bison Books imprint, reprinted the Lakeside Classics edition in 1978.

——Gary F. Kurutz




Item 50. First edition of Zenas Leonard’s Narrative, fine in original cloth—“the rarest and most sought-after book associated with Yosemite, the sequoias, and the High Sierra” (Kurutz).




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