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

Lots 80 & 80A

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Item 80. Woods’s Sixteen Months at the Gold Diggings—“A valuable contribution to the history of mining camps and communities, and the laws and regulations adopted by them for the protection of claims and property” (Woods).

80. WOODS, Daniel B[ates] (?-?). Sixteen Months at the Gold Diggings. New York: Harper, 1851. [2, blank] iii-vii, [8]-199 [1, blank] 6 (publisher’s catalogue) [2, publisher’s ads] pp. (complete). 12mo, original brown blindstamped cloth, spine lettered and ruled in gilt. Spine a bit light, binding slightly rubbed and worn (particularly at extremities which are a little frayed), pervasive mild foxing to text, overall a near fine to very good copy. Two contemporary ink ownership inscriptions (George Poore and L. P. Washburn). Tipped onto the last page of the preface is a contemporary newspaper clipping with this sobering documentation: “COST OF DYING IN CALIFORNIA. A correspondent of the Washington Union, furnishes that paper with the following bill from San Francisco for services rendered to his deceased brother.” Set out are the physician’s fee ($755) and funeral expenses, for a total of $889, attested to by Charles A. Chagin, M.D., Sacramento Hospital, Sutter’s Fort, November 25, 1849.
First edition. Blumann & Thomas 694. Braislin 1930. Cowan I, pp. 252, 279: “Woods reports mining $17,123.95 of gold from October 8 to November 9, 1850 on the Tuolumne River.” Cowan II, p. 694. Graff 4741. Gudde, California Gold Camps, p. 429. Hill, p. 621. Howell 50, California 940: “Vividly describes the sweat and toil of mining life.” Howes W651. Huntington Library, Zamorano 80...Exhibition of Famous and Notorious California Classics 80. Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 696a. Norris 4265. Rocq 15417. Streeter Sale 2696. Vail, Gold Fever, p. 29. Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 235. Zamorano 80 #80. ($400-800)

80A. WOODS, Daniel B[ates]. Sixteen Months at the Gold Diggings. London: Sampson Low; New York: Harper and Brothers, 1852. 199 [1, blank] 16 (publisher’s catalogue) pp. 12mo, original beige blindstamped cloth, spine lettered and ruled in gilt. Light outer wear and slight darkening, first and last few leaves browned, occasional foxing, overall very good. Monsignor Joseph M. Gleason’s copy, with his engraved bookplate (see Talbot, Historic California in Book Plates, p. 99 [illustrated] & p. 213). Front free endpaper with small embossed stamp of Birmingham bookseller W. J. Sackett, old small ink-stamped number on title verso. Lower pastedown with printed stamp of binder Bone & Son of London.
First English edition, second issue. Howes W651. Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 696c (noting that the only changes from the first U.S. edition are the addition of the English publisher on the title and deletion of U.S. copyright statement from p. [iv]). The first issue of the English edition (Kurutz 696b) is the same as the present, except that the title is dated 1851 rather than 1852. ($100-300)

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Daniel B. Woods, a Philadelphia clergyman, began this lively volume with a preface (dated July 1, 1851) stating that he intended to make this book a miner’s manual based on his experience working in the diggings “chiefly upon the American and Tuolumne Rivers and their tributaries.” A rare Argonaut-clergyman, Reverend Woods further stated that he kept this journal of mining at the request of friends, promising to record “its lights and shades, its fortunes and misfortunes.” He wisely advised his readers that mining was for young men and those who are doing “well enough” or have families should stay home.
Walking away from the pulpit, Woods began his adventure on February 1, 1849, when he embarked at the foot of Arch Street, Philadelphia, aboard the barque Thomas Walters. On February 21, the ship arrived at Tampico, Mexico. Woods crossed the continent to San Blas where he picked up the schooner San Blasina and, after great difficulty, arrived in San Francisco on June 25. In so doing, he created one of the earliest published journals of the Mexican crossing. Dropping his clerical title, he immediately headed for Sacramento and the mines where he began life as an Argonaut spending day after grueling day digging and rocking the cradle.
As a man of the cloth, he did not write in pious tones or with self-righteous indignation as did many secular diarists but wrote with flair and occasional good-natured humor. He did not shy away from the gambling and drinking saloons but saw life as it actually occurred. Importantly, he provided some of the best, most realistic descriptions of the sweaty, knuckle-bruising, backbreaking, footsore work of extracting elusive golden flakes and nuggets out of the earth. The clergyman became something of an expert on mining company rules and regulations, providing data not found elsewhere. In one of the concluding chapters, he gives a report on fourteen other mining companies. Trusted by fellow miners, Woods served as the secretary and treasurer of Hart’s Bar Mining and Draining Company. In addition to his own activities, the author devoted much of his text to mining in general and concluded with a chapter of practical hints to miners. On November 9, 1850, Woods left the mines and headed home via the Isthmus of Panama.
Sixteen Months at the Gold Diggings was reviewed in Harper’s New Monthly (January 1852), and received high praise with the reviewer calling Woods a miner among miners. In contrast, the San Francisco Alta California for January 13, 1852, sarcastically applauded it as a “genuine California book” for its expansive opening sentence: “California extends from Oregon to Sonoma and Lower California and from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific.” The London edition merely substituted a new title leaf. The Arno Press (New York, 1973) published a facsimile.

—Gary F. Kurutz



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