|64. [RIDGE, John
Rollin (1827-1867)]. The Life and Adventures
of Joaquín Murieta, the Celebrated California Bandit. By Yellow Bird.
San Francisco: W. B. Cooke and Company, 1854. 91 pp., 2 portraits (Murieta
and Captain Harry Love) engraved by Anthony & Baker (possibly after
Charles Nahl). 8vo, pale blue printed wrappers in expert facsimile (small
strip of original upper wrap preserved). Title lightly soiled, text uniformly
browned and with occasional foxing and staining, small marginal tears to
blank margin of first few leaves neatly repaired, a few blank corners of
text leaves lacking, overall a very good copy, with contemporary ink ownership
inscription of “John Bornheimer/Tucker Bar Cal Sept. 23(29?), 1854.” The
Clifford copy, preserved in a full red morocco folding box. The only other
copy definitely traced is at Yale (the Cowan-Wagner-Streeter-Beinecke
copy). The copy at the New York State Library in Albany was destroyed by
fire in 1915. In a letter from 1973, Warren R. Howell mentions two other
copies (in private hands), now lost. The “Yellow Bird” is the rara avis
of the Zamorano 80.
First edition. Adams, Guns 1853: “Exceedingly rare.” Cowan I, pp. 275-76. Cowan II, p. 533. Dykes, Rare Western Outlaw Books, p. 23: “The rarest Murieta item is John Rollin Ridge’s The Life and Celebrated Adventures of Murieta.... You must admit that Ridge started something that caught on. Murieta lives on in prose and verse plus several plays and at least one movie.” Greenwood 494: “The first book published on Murieta, and the model for many subsequent titles to follow.” Howes R279a. Huntington Library, Zamorano 80...Exhibition of Famous and Notorious California Classics 64 (this copy): “This rare work is important for describing Yankee treatment of Mexican miners.” Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 533.1a. Libros Californianos (Cowan list), p. 22. Streeter Sale 1169 (illustrated at p. 899 and described as the “only definitely located copy of Yellow Bird’s classic”): “This source for the enduring legend of Joaquín Murieta was written by the Cherokee Indian John Ridge, who worked for many years on the staff of the Alta California in San Francisco.” Walker, San Francisco’s Literary Frontier, pp. 49-54. Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush, p. 148n. Wright II:2039. Zamorano 80 #64. Regarding the portraits, engravers Anthony & Baker, who engraved many of the California pictorial letter sheets, often worked with noted California artist Charles Nahl. See Hamilton, Early American Book Illustrators and Wood Engravers, vol. 1, pp. 190-92 & vol. 2, pp. 123-24.
One of the most interesting tales of book lore is about F. W. Beinecke’s acquisition of the “Yellow Bird.” By the time he reached the age of eighty, the only Zamorano 80 first edition Beinecke lacked was the Ridge. Streeter’s copy was coming up at auction, so naturally the increasingly frail Beinecke was extremely keen to obtain it. Parke-Bernet Galleries and Mrs. Streeter agreed to transfer the “Yellow Bird” from the October 1968 session of the auction, where it was catalogued with Californiana. They moved the book forward to the April 1967 session, placing it in the section on Georgia (Ridge’s birthplace). Beinecke purchased Streeter’s copy for $10,000. Thus a great collector’s final desire to complete The Zamorano 80 was fulfilled, enabling him to join one of the most exclusive circles of bibliophiles. ($75,000-150,000)
64A. [MURIETA, JOAQUÍN]. Lot of three editions on Murieta: (1) BELLE, Francis P. Life and Adventures of the Celebrated Bandit Joaquín Murrieta, His Exploits in the State of California.... Chicago, 1925. 8vo, original terracotta cloth. Fine. Adams, Guns 193. Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 533.1j. (2) HOYLE, M. F. (compiler). Crimes and Career of Tiburcio Vasquez...Compiled from Newspaper Accounts of the Period... [with: RIDGE, John R. The History of Joaquín Murieta, the King of California Outlaws, Whose Band Ravaged the State in the Early Fifties]. Hollister: Evening Free Lance, 1927. 8vo, original red printed wrappers bound in red cloth. Monsignor Gleason’s copy, with his bookplate (see Talbot, Historic California in Book Plates, p. 99 [illustrated] & p. 213). Light ex-library. Adams, Guns 1855n. Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 533.1e (note). (3) Joaquín Murieta, the Brigand Chief of California: A Complete History of His Life from the Age of Sixteen to the Time of His Capture and Death in 1853. San Francisco: Grabhorn Press, 1932. 8vo, original green cloth over patterned boards. Endpapers browned, else fine, with original Grabhorn pamphlet on their Rare Americana series laid in. Adams, Guns 1574. Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 533.1k. (3 vols.) ($150-300)
Joaquín Murieta (also spelled Murrieta or Murietta) ranks as the
most famous California Gold Rush brigand. As the story goes, Joaquín, a
native of Sonora, Mexico, came to the Mother Lode some time in 1848, suffered
discrimination and violence because of his Hispanic heritage, and took
vengeance on his American oppressors. With his horse gangs, he terrorized
the countryside from 1851 to 1853. Newspapers up and down the state reported
the bloody exploits of Joaquín and his band of marauding desperadoes.
Finally, Harry Love and his California Rangers, motivated by a $5,000
reward offered by the State of California, killed two men they thought
to be Murieta and his companion Manuel García (Three-Fingered Jack) in
July 1853. As proof of ridding California of this scourge, Love caused
the head of Joaquín and the hand of Three-Fingered Jack to be pickled and
paraded around California.
——Gary F. Kurutz
Additional sources consulted: Francis P. Farquhar and Raymond Wood, Notes in Joaquín Murieta: The Brigand Chief of California (Fresno: Valley Publishers, 1969); Humberto Garza, Joaquín Murrieta: A Quest for Justice! (San Jose: Chusman House, 2001); Frank F. Latta, Joaquín Murrieta and His Horse Gangs (Santa Cruz: Bear State Books, 1980); Remi Nadeau, The Real Joaquín Murieta (Los Angeles: Trans-Anglo Books, 1974), pp. 115-25; James W. Parins, John Rollin Ridge: His Life and Works (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1991), pp. 95-112; James F. Varley, The Legend of Joaquín Murrieta (Twin Falls, Idaho: Big Lost River Press, 1995), pp. 129-46.
Item 64. Portrait of Murieta, possibly by Charles Nahl—“The ‘Robin Hood of El Dorado’ has long been considered something of a martyred hero among Latino activists, symbolizing resistance to Anglo tyranny in the conquered land of Alta California” (Kurutz).
Item 64. Portrait of Harry Love, Los Angeles County deputy sheriff and alleged Texas Revolutionary soldier, who decapitated Murieta (or someone), collected a $6,000 reward, and paraded the pickled head of his victim around the countryside. Sometimes it is difficult to determine who is the lawman and who is the outlaw.
Item 64. Selected text from Yellow Bird’s Murieta.
Item 64. Selected text from Yellow Bird’s Murieta.