Dorothy Sloan -- Books

The Zamorano 80


In 1945 the Zamorano Club published The Zamorano 80: A Selection of Distinguished California Books Made by Members of the Zamorano Club. The criterion for inclusion was that a selection above all should be distinguished, and that rarity and importance would be secondary. Yet, over time, it appears that the eighty books selected are both distinguished and important, and a number of them are definitely rare. The Club's goal was to choose those books considered cornerstones of a serious collection of Californiana. The books listed in The Zamorano 80 for the most part have withstood the test of time.

The persons most involved in the selection and approval process were Leslie E. Bliss, Robert G. Cleland, Robert E. Cowan, Homer D. Crotty, Phil Townsend Hanna, J. Gregg Layne, Henry R. Wagner, and Robert J. Woods. Originally, the Zamorano Club intended to make a list consisting of one hundred titles, but the committee and their consultants soon discovered that they could not unanimously agree upon the one hundred books which merited inclusion. Understandably, with human tastes and opinions differing as they invariably do, consensus was no easy task. Furthermore, some members felt very intensely about their selections or rejections. As we know, bibliophiles of all persuasions are an impassioned breed. As Lawrence Clark Powell stated in his introduction to the revised edition of Libros Californianos (Los Angeles: Zeitlin & Ver Brugge, 1958): "Bibliomania at its worst is a gentle form of psychopathia, though it may have its roots deeply sequestered in the same ego from which spring all those 'peculiarities of human behavior' which Stekel has so exhaustively discussed." In his inimitable fashion, Powell went on to distinguish two distinct species of confirmed bibliomaniacs: the collector and the student. He said that the collector is concerned with rarity, and the student seeks knowledge. Powell concluded by quoting Henry R. Wagner's pragmatic remarks on his selection of the twenty rarest and most important books dealing with the history of California:

There is no such thing as the twenty rarest and most important works relating to any subject, for the reason that the most important books on any subject are not usually rare, and the rarest books on any subject are usually of but little importance except from a collector's point of view.

It would be comparatively easy to make a list of the twenty rarest books relating to California, but extremely difficult to make one of the twenty most important books.... I will not go into the question as to what constitutes importance; that depends upon one's point of view and also of the particular subject under treatment. In such case, the question is one of perspective. To go into such questions would take a book, and when the book was finished probably no one could be found to agree with the conclusion.

After much good-spirited dispute, the Zamorano committee and its advisors finally reached a consensus on a list of eighty titles, but only after discarding the twenty most controversial titles. How I would love to know what those twenty discarded titles were-perhaps the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, surely something on Francis Drake and his sojourn in Alta California in 1579, hopefully Louis Choris's beautiful album Voyage Pittoresque autour de Monde (1822), maybe Hugo Reid's 1852 treatise on The Indians of Los Angeles County, or possibly the first book to contain the name "California" (Las sergas de Esplandián, printed at Seville in 1510). Perhaps J. Goldsborough Bruff's acutely perceptive and vivaciously illustrated 1849-1852 overland and Gold Rush journal (New York, 1944) was too fresh off the press for consideration. At any rate, the process of final selection of The Zamorano 80 was speeded along by the smooth arbitration skills of Zamorano member and attorney Homer D. Crotty. Or perhaps, as Crotty modestly suggested in the introduction to The Zamorano 80, harmony might have been achieved due to a special menu at a dinner meeting of the committee, which featured consensus-inducing Long Island duckling a l'orange, Bombe Waikiki, and "other ingredients" which Crotty slyly did not specify. He concluded: "The minds met and so the list now offered had and still retains the fullest approval of all."


Daniel Woodward wisely remarked in the catalogue for an exhibition of The Zamorano 80 in 1986 and 1987 at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California (The Zamorano 80: Collectors' Books about California. An Annotated Check List Occasioned by the Exhibit of Famous and Notorious California Classics):

From the beginning it has been a favorite sport of collectors to criticize the inclusion of some of the 80.... If the purpose of such a list is to promote fresh interest in studying, collecting, and preserving the materials of history and literature, there can be no question that, even in warm-spirited controversy, The Zamorano 80 has been an uncommon success.

Acquiring all eighty first editions of The Zamorano 80 is a major achievement. Only one institution (the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut) holds all eighty of the first editions. The Bancroft Library at the University of California at Berkeley and the Huntington Library at San Marino, California, lack only the Yellow Bird (Zamorano 80 #64). Daniel G. Volkmann Jr., Henry H. Clifford, Thomas W. Streeter, and Frederick W. Beinecke are the only confirmed private collectors who achieved the distinction of acquiring all eighty first editions of The Zamorano 80.

Daniel G. Volkmann Jr. has achieved a historic milestone. Congratulations to Mr. Volkmann for joining a very exclusive circle.

——Dorothy Sloan


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