Copyright 2000-2015 by Dorothy Sloan-Rare Books Inc. for all materials on this site. All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
| 65. [ROBINSON,
Alfred (1807-1895)]. Life in California: During a Residence
of Several Years in That Territory, Comprising a Description of the
Country and the Missionary Establishments, with Incidents, Observations,
Etc., Etc. Illustrated with Numerous Engravings by an American. To
Which Is Annexed a Historical Account of the Origin, Customs, and Traditions,
of the Indians of Alta-California. Translated from the Original Spanish
Manuscript. [With:] BOSCANA, Gerónimo (1775-1831). Chinigchinich;
a Historical Account of the Origin, Customs, and Traditions of the
Indians at the Missionary Establishment of St. Juan Capistrano, Alta
California: Called the Acagchemem Nation; Collected with the Greatest
Care, from the Most Intelligent and Best Instructed in the Matter...Translated
from the Original Spanish Manuscript, by One Who Was Many Years a
Resident of Alta California. New York: Wiley & Putnam, 1846.
xii  341 pp. (2 works in one vol. with continuous pagination),
9 lithographic plates (views, portraits) by G. W. Endicott after Robinson’s
original artwork. 12mo, original dark brown blindstamped cloth, title
in gilt on backstrip, orange and cream patterned endpapers. Binding
moderately worn (frayed and slightly chipped at spinal extremities,
lower portion of rear joint with small split at foot of spine), some
spotting and mild to moderate foxing to interior, generally a very
good copy. Contemporary ink ownership inscription of Stephen Strong,
Washington, D.C., March 5, 1846, on front flyleaf.
First edition of “the first book in English about California which was written by a resident” (Huntington Library, Zamorano 80...Exhibition of Famous and Notorious California Classics 65). American Imprints 46:6084. Blumann & Thomas 5091. Cowan I, pp. 193 & 276: “These two works were issued together, being paged continuously.... One of the most useful sources of authority of its time.” Cowan II, pp. 536-37. Graff 3525. Hill, p. 256. Holliday 940. Howell 50, California 211. Howes R363. LC, California Centennial 43. Libros Californianos (Wagner & Hanna lists), pp. 25, 68; pp. 47-49 (Powell commentary): “Both [William Heath] Davis [q.v.] and Robinson were traders, buying hides and tallow and selling manufactured products of New England from the Boston ships in their charge. The traders played an important role in bringing California beneath the Stars and Stripes. California had become ‘gringo-minded’ as the result of the infiltration of American commodities...and its subjugation was practically complete long before the wily Frémont crossed the Sierra, or Sloat sailed into Monterey. Had it not been for this placid commercial invasion, the conquest, with the pitifully small military and naval force then available, would have been greatly delayed.... Curiously, Richard Henry Dana was a common seaman on the Alert, chartered to Bryant, Sturgis and Company of Boston, whose agent in California was Alfred Robinson. The two came into contact frequently.” Norris 3289. Rocq 17121, 6226. Streeter Sale 2512. Walker, A Literary History of Southern California, pp. 32-36: “Robinson’s purpose in translating and illustrating Boscana was the same as his purpose in writing his account of life in California—to tell the truth as accurately as he could. Because he did so with both grace and imagination his book is one of the most reliable and interesting documents dealing with Spanish California.” Zamorano 80 #65 (J. Gregg Layne): “Without doubt the most important book for the period it treats.” Dana’s Two Years before the Mast makes it into every bibliography on the history of the cattle trade, but Robinson is totally ignored. In 1828 Robinson made his first voyage to California in search of hides and tallow. He helped develop the area of La Playa, known as “Hide Park,” for curing hides and selling goods from New England. Robinson’s business in the hide trade was booming by the time Dana arrived on the Pilgrim in 1835. Robinson left us one of the important accounts of California rancho life and the hide and tallow trade.
The lovely lithographic plates after the author’s original artwork illustrate Mission San Luis Rey, Mission San Gabriel, Mission Buenaventura, Yerba Buena, and Santa Barbara (three views) and portray a Native American of California and Father Boscana. Peters, California on Stone, p. 82 & plate 59. Samuels & Samuels, Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West, pp. 402-403. Van Nostrand, The First Hundred Years of Painting in California, pp. 11-12, 119: “[Robinson’s drawings] are of interest as the earliest known views by one who became a long-term resident of the state.” Van Nostrand & Coulter, California Pictorial, pp. 36-37 (reproducing the frontispiece of Santa Barbara). See also Nancy Dustin Wall Moure, Loners, Mavericks & Dreamers: Art in Los Angeles before 1900 (Laguna Art Museum, 1993). ($400-800)
|65A. ROBINSON, Alfred. Life
in California before the Conquest: Hispano-Californians, Léperos and
Indians, Franciscan Misioneros and Misiones, American and English Comerciantes,
Puertos, Presidios, Castillos, Sailors and Backwoodsmen, Revolutions
and Strife.... San Francisco: The Private Press of Thomas C. Russell,
1925. xxvii  316 [2, colophon, verso blank] [2, ads] pp., 7 mezzotint
plates (pulled directly from lithographs in the original edition),
text illustrations, decorated chapter headings, vignettes. 8vo, original
natural linen over drab grey boards, printed paper spine label. Very
fine in near fine d.j. (a few tears and light creases).
Limited edition (#224 of 250 copies, signed by Russell). Reprinted from the first edition, edited and corrected, and with added synopses of chapters, foreword, and notes by Thomas C. Russell. Hill, p. 556. Norris 3290. ($150-300)
65B. ROBINSON, Alfred (translator) & Gerónimo Boscana. Chinigchinich
(Chi-ñích-ñich): A Revised and Annotated Version of Alfred Robinson’s
Translation of Father Gerónimo Boscana’s Historical Account of the
Belief, Usages, Customs and Extravagancies of the Indians of This Mission
of San Juan Capistrano Called the Acagchemem Tribe [annotations
by John Peabody Harrington]. Santa Ana: Fine Arts Press, 1933. 247
 pp., 11 plates and maps (5 vivid full-color linoleum-cut plates
printed in oil paint by Jean Goodwin; other plates are black-and-white
or on maize grounds), text illustrations, decorated and colored initials.
Small folio, original tan cloth over brown boards stamped with gilt
design, paper spine label printed in gilt. Other than light offsetting
on title from frontispiece, very fine.
Robinson’s California classic has been acclaimed as the most important
published account of pre–Gold Rush California by an actual resident.
It had a tremendous impact on the Americanization of California. Like
Richard Henry Dana, Robinson came to California from New England, but
unlike the more famous author, he settled permanently in this remote
Mexican province in 1829 and had a more accepting view of Hispanic
culture. He worked as the resident agent for the Boston firm of Bryant,
Sturgis and Company and was active in the famed hide and tallow trade,
exchanging Yankee-manufactured goods for California “banknotes” (cow
hides). “Alfredo” Robinson, similar to several of his transplanted
American contemporaries, embraced his new home by marrying into a prominent
family (de la Guerra), converting to Catholicism, and becoming a person
of influence in Californio society. Robinson not only described his
own personal activities but also recorded in some detail the constant
political machinations that beset Alta California. Foreshadowing the
future, the merchant took the first shipment of California gold to the
United States in 1842. His narrative is further enhanced by detailing
everyday life and capturing the flavor of Mexican California through
its amusements, festivals, and religious services. The personalities
of the leading Californio grandees and their stylish ways particularly
caught his attention. Robinson also included historical background
along with extensive descriptions of the ranchos, pueblos, and missions.
Because of this, he is an oft-quoted and frequently cited authority.
——Gary F. Kurutz
Additional sources consulted: Andrew Rolle, Introduction to Life in California (Santa Barbara & Salt Lake City: Peregrine Publishers, Inc., 1970); James D. Hart, American Images of Spanish California (Berkeley: The Friends of the Bancroft Library, 1960).
Item 65. Lithograph of Mission San Buena Ventura after author’s original art.
Item 65. Lithograh of Santa Barbara after author’s original art.
Item 65. Lithograph from Alfred Robinson’s Life in California (1846).
Item 65. Lithograph from Alfred Robinson’s Life in California (1846).
Item 65. Lithograph after Robinson’s original art—“Earliest known views [of California] by one who became a long-term resident of the state” (Jeanne Van Nostrand).
Item 65. Lithograph of Alfred Robinson’s view of Yerba Buena (1846).