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Item 69. First appearance of Dame Shirley’s letters, in
The Pioneer: or, California Monthly—“Louise Clapp’s letters may well
comprise the best account of mining life in the whole of gold rush literature”
(Joanne Levy in They Saw the Elephant: Women in the California Gold Rush).
|69. [CLAPP, Louise
Amelia Knapp Smith (1819-1906)]. “California, in 1851 [&]
1852, by Shirley” in The Pioneer; or, California Monthly Magazine
[edited by F. C. Ewer]. San Francisco: W. H. Brooks & Company &
Le Count and Strong, January 1854–December 1855. Vols. 1-4 (1:1-6;
2:1-6; 3:1-6; 4:1-6), complete run: iv, 384; iv, 384 + iv, 384; 
-68, -384 pp. (no Shirley installment in the January 1855 number).
24 issues bound in 2 vols., later three-quarter smooth tan calf over
tan cloth, red leather labels, spines gilt-decorated, with raised bands.
Occasional foxing and staining, otherwise a fine set. Contemporary
ink inscription of Jas. Bell. Vol. 1 with signed pencil
inscription by a noted collector R. B. Honeyman on endpaper: “This
is the first appearance of the famous ‘Shirley Letters’ from the mines.
A very scarce and desirable Californiana item. R. B. Honeyman.” Warren
R. Howell’s pencil note at back: “$1,000 doytn 4 vols. in 2 Zamorano
80 #69.” Like many San Francisco imprints of this vintage “most of
the issues...were destroyed in the fires that were always ravaging
San Francisco. Today those twenty-three issues of The Pioneer
are of great rarity and corresponding value” (Powell, California
Classics, p. 67).
First printing of Dame Shirley’s letters; first printing of “the first magazine dedicated to the culture of California” (Hart, Companion to California, pp. 330-31). Hill, p. 765. Howell 50, California 700. Huntington Library, Zamorano 80...Exhibition of Famous and Notorious California Classics 69: “A cultured woman’s picture of life in the mines differs considerably from most miners’ and travelers’ accounts.” Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 133n. LC, California Centennial 271. Streeter Sale 2771 (illustrated at p. 1953). Powell, California Classics, pp. 66-76. Walker, San Francisco’s Literary Frontier, pp. 30-35. Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 39. Zamorano 80 #69. (2 vols.) ($2,000-4,000)
|69A. CLAPP, Louise Amelia Knapp
Smith. The Shirley Letters from California Mines in 1851-52....
San Francisco: Printed by Thomas C. Russell, at His Private Press,
1922.  lii, 350 [1, colophon] pp., 8 hand-colored plates (including
frontispiece), ornate chapter headings and decorations in blue. 8vo,
slightly later sympathetic tan linen over beige boards, printed paper
spine label. Very fine in fine gilt pictorial d.j.
First edition in book form; limited edition (450 copies, the issue on California bond paper and with colored plates). Cowan II, p. 837. Howes C427. Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 133a. Norris 3601. Rocq 6353. Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 39. ($250-500)
69B. [CLAPP, Louise Amelia Knapp Smith]. California in 1851: The
Letters of Dame Shirley. Introduction and Notes by Carl I. Wheat
[With]: California in 1852.... San Francisco: The Grabhorn Press,
1933. xviii  142 [6, notes] + xviii  143 [7, notes] pp., map
and text illustrations printed on pale blue grounds (mostly from California
pictorial letter sheets). 2 vols., 8vo, original blue cloth over grey
boards lettered and decorated on upper covers in black, printed paper
spine labels. Boards and endpapers with some mild foxing, otherwise
very fine in tattered dust jackets.
The Shirley Letters, as they are best known, have received
the highest possible praise by virtually every historian of the Gold
Rush. The importance of Louise Amelia Knapp Smith Clapp’s letters was
recognized early on and influenced the views and writings of such luminaries
as Josiah Royce (q.v.), Hubert Howe Bancroft (q.v.), Bret Harte (q.v.),
and possibly Samuel Clemens (q.v.). Gold Rush historian and bibliographer
Carl Wheat wrote: “These superlatively readable and informative letters
may well be accorded first place in any gathering of notable Gold
Rush literature.” More recently, Joanne Levy, the author of the pathbreaking
They Saw the Elephant: Women in the California Gold Rush,
extolled her words, “Louise Clapp’s letters may well comprise
the best account of mining life in the whole of gold rush literature.”
Her glittering epistles from the mines certainly may be regarded as
the most famous publication associated with the Gold Rush, and with
the ever growing interest in the role of women, appreciation of her
letters has soared.
——Gary F. Kurutz
Additional sources consulted: Joanne Levy, They Saw the Elephant: Women in the California Gold Rush (Hamden, Connecticut: Archon Books, 1990); Rodman W. Paul, “In Search of Dame Shirley,” Pacific Historical Review 33:2 (May 1964), pp. 127-46; Marlene Smith-Baranzini, Introduction to The Shirley Letters from the California Mines, 1851-1852 (Berkeley: Heyday Books; Santa Clara: University of Santa Clara, 2001); Carl I. Wheat, Introduction to California in 1851: The Letters of Dame Shirley (San Francisco: The Grabhorn Press, 1933).
Honeyman note from Item 69.