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Auction 14: Americana

Lots 51-53: Texana, First Geologic Map, Indian Depredations

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51. PARKER, James W. [& Rachel Parker Plummer]. Narrative of the Perilous Adventures, Miraculous Escapes and Sufferings of Rev. James W. Parker during a Frontier Residence in Texas, of Fifteen Years; with an Impartial Geographical Description of the Climate, Soil, Timber, Water, &c., &c., &c. of Texas; Written by Himself. To Which is Appended a Narrative of the Capture and Subsequent Sufferings of Mrs. Rachel Plummer (His Daughter), during a Captivity of Twenty-One Months among the Cumanche [sic] Indians, with a Sketch of their Manners, Customs, Laws, &c.; with a Short Description of the Country over Which She Travelled Whilst with the Indians; Written by Herself.... Louisville: Morning Courier Office, 1844. 95, 35 (i.e., 36) pp. (first 12 leaves at front with photofacsimiles where damaged, final 6 leaves supplied in photofacsimile). 8vo, new plain paper wrappers (lacks original printed wrappers). Occasional pencil notes, scattered soiling and foxing throughout, first few leaves slightly dog-eared. We have made no attempt to create a facsimile that might later be mistaken as original leaves. Preserved in leather and cloth clamshell box.

    First edition of a work crucial for the history of Texas, the genre of Indian captivity, and women’s history. Bradford 4169. Field 1176. Howes P80 (rated “dd”). Rader 2592. Raines, p. 161. Sabin 58685. Streeter 1525: “The capture of Fort Parker on the Navasota River in the then quite unsettled part of Texas and the subsequent captivities are among the famous events in Texas history.” Tate, The Indians of Texas 2322. This book is the virtually unobtainable first edition of Parker’s Narrative and the second, expanded edition of his daughter Rachel’s narrative of her captivity, the latter first published at Houston in 1838 (see Streeter 242, who located one copy only). The first edition of Plummer’s narrative is the first “Indian captivity” concerning a Texas incident that was actually published in Texas. No copy of the present work is listed in the auction records for the past thirty years. We prefer not to offer defective copies, but this book is so rare and important that we are willing to make an exception. The book is more rare than might be assumed from the locations cited in Streeter and RLIN. In obtaining copies for the facsimile leaves, we discovered some of those copies cited are ghosts, some are the partial 1926 reprint, and of the ones that actually exist, some are defective. The rarity of this edition may arise from several factors. First, it was a relatively cheap publication destined by inherent vice to disintegrate over time. Second, because of its spectacular, titillating content, many copies may well have been read to death. Finally, because of that same content, copies may have been destroyed as unfit reading material by the Mrs. Grundys of the day who would probably have highly disapproved of the narrative’s graphic sexual nature.

    Probably the most famous incident involving Native Americans at the time of the Texas Revolution was the attack on Fort Parker described in these two firsthand accounts. The Parker family was led into Texas in 1834 by Daniel Parker, who at the time of the attack had just returned from fighting in the Battle of San Jacinto. This family, with its strong Celtic roots, prudently built their own fort outside present-day Mexia in Limestone County, Texas, for protection from regional tribes, who naturally did not care all that much for their new paleface neighbors. On May 19, 1836, while most of the men in the Parker clan worked in the fields outside the fort, a band of several hundred Comanche warriors approached the fort waving a white flag. They requested beef and water, and when they were told no beef was available, the men remaining in the fort were killed and emasculated. The women were beaten and raped, including the family matriarch, who was unceremoniously stripped and pinned to the ground with a lance. Hearing the approach of other Parker men from the fields, the Comanche departed quickly, taking five hostages, including Rachel Plummer (1819-1839) and celebrated captive Cynthia Ann Parker (1825-ca. 1871), future mother of Comanche chief Quanah Parker. The family matriarch, apparently a tough old bird, wrested the spear from her body, pulled herself up, and lived to tell the tale.
    The Parker clan immediately rode hell-for-leather in pursuit of the Comanche, joined by other outraged, hotheaded Texans. The Comanche made it to the Trinity River, where they camped overnight, entertaining themselves by repeatedly raping the women captives. In the morning, the war party split into several groups and their pursuers gave chase, but finally the Texians had to admit defeat and give up the chase. Afterward, Rachel’s father, Reverend James Parker (1797-1864), made three trips into Comanche territory searching for his daughter and the other captives, but each time he returned home empty-handed. Some of the captives died, but others were sold or given to other tribes. Rachel Plummer lived as a Comanche slave for over a year and a half. While in captivity Rachel bore a child and was forced to witness her infant’s grisly torture and murder by the Comanche. Eventually a Santa Fé trader ransomed Rachel, but she did not live long after her redemption, due in part to lingering complications resulting from her mental and physical tribulations. Plummer’s narrative, though sometimes questioned as not entirely accurate, is nevertheless interesting and valuable for the details it conveys about Native Americans in Texas and their interactions with Anglos at the time. A 1926 supposed reprint of this edition is in fact only partial.

    The vivid drama of shocking events relating to the attack and captivity has somewhat overshadowed the importance of Parker’s excellent description of Texas (pp. 43-94), which would have been especially useful to emigrants, to whom it seems to have been principally directed. For more on James W. Parker and Rachel Parker Plummer, see Handbook of Texas Online.

52. ROBINSON, James W. Autograph letter signed to Ira Randolph Lewis, strongly urging Lewis to quickly come and take his seat at the General Council. San Felipe de Austin, January 16, 1836. 1 p., small folio, plus integral leaf with address: “Gov. James W. Robinson Letter Austin Jany. 23rd 1836. San Felipe Jan 21 1836. Free J. W. Robinson Acting Gov. Ira R. Lewis Esq. Matagorda Texas.” Paper browned and creased where formerly folded, a few splits and minor voids at folds (no losses), remains of wax seal. Provenance: From a direct descendant of recipient Ira Randolph Lewis.

    This is a good, strong letter clearly documenting the urgency many Texans felt about establishing their own independent government as the wheels of war rolled inexorably forward in January 1836. Writing as “Acting Governor,” Robinson (1790-1857) urges in part: “It has become absolutely necessary that you give your attendance in this place without delay. And it is hoped that no apology or excuse will be made.... I am sure you can come, if you love country or family or friends or your species, come quickly, and take your seat in the General Council. I am ordered by the General Council to make this call.” Although not so well-known as Austin, Houston, and others, Robinson is an important figure in Texas history. At the time this letter was written, he had succeeded Henry Smith as Governor of Texas (second Anglo governor of Texas). Judge, attorney, and San Jacinto veteran, Robinson arrived in Texas at the beginning of 1833 with a letter of recommendation addressed to Stephen F. Austin. He served as a delegate from Nacogdoches to the 1835 Consultation and was elected lieutenant governor of the provisional government of Texas. In 1842 he was captured during Woll’s invasion of Texas and taken to Mexico. He returned to Texas with terms from Santa Anna and probably was able to negotiate a brief armistice. After annexation, he moved to San Diego, California, where he became a prominent attorney and engaged in promoting a railroad line between El Paso and California. For more on Robinson, see Sam Houston Dixon & Louis W. Kemp, The Heroes of San Jacinto (Houston: Anson Jones, 1932); Hobart Huson, District Judges of Refugio County (Refugio, Texas: Refugio Timely Remarks, 1941); and Handbook of Texas Online (James W. Robinson).
    Recipient Ira Randolph Lewis (1800-1867), prominent Texas patriot, soldier, and attorney, was Moses Austin Bryan’s father-in-law. Lewis came to Texas in 1831 and served in the Consultation and the General Council of the provisional government. While he was serving on the council in February 1836, he was commissioned a colonel and raised funds and men from the United States. In 1842 he served as a volunteer in the campaign against Adrián Woll. See Handbook of Texas Online (Ira Randolph Lewis).

The First Geological Map of Texas

53. ROEMER, Ferdinand. Texas. Mit besonderer Rucksicht auf deutsche Auswanderung und die physichen Verhältnisse des Landes nach eigener Beobachtung geschildert.... Mit einem naturwissenschaftlichen Anhange und einer topographisch-geognostischen Karte von Texas. Bonn: [Printed by Carl Georgi, Bonn, for] Adolph Marcus, 1849. xiv [2] 464 pp., folding lithographed map on heavy paper with geological formations in original color: Topographisch-geognostische Karte von Texas mit Zugrundelegung der geographischen Karte v. Wilson nach eigenen Beobachtungen bearbeitet von Dr. Ferd. Roemer. Bonn bei Adolph Marcus. [Below neat line]: Lith. von Henry & Cohen in Bonn. 55.7 x 48.4 cm (21-7/8 x 19-1/8 inches). 8vo, contemporary three-quarter brown sheep over patterned charcoal boards, spine stamped in gilt: H.G. Slightly shelf-slanted, binding worn and dry, corners bumped (some board exposed), front hinge cracked (but holding strong), text with uniform slight age toning, some splits and repairs to map folds (one very minor loss affecting only three letters of one word), generally a very good copy, with contemporary ink note in German on front free endpaper.

    First edition. Basic Texas Books 179. Day, Maps of Texas, p. 51. Dobie, p. 52. Dykes, Western High Spots (“Western Movement–Its Literature”), p. 13. Graff 3549. Howes R407. Raines, p. 177. Vandale 144. On Roemer, see Britannica (11th ed.). Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol. 11, p. 500-501; Handbook of Texas Online (Ferdinand Roemer). Roemer (1818-1891) is justly celebrated as the father of Texas geology, a title with which the publication of this book endowed him. With a doctorate in paleontology from Berlin, he was well qualified to examine Texas geology when he arrived in 1845 and spent the next eighteen months exploring the central part of the state on a trip sponsored by Alexander von Humboldt and the Berlin Academy. After his return to Germany and the publication of this book, he pursued a career as an academic and as a professional paleontologist.
    The map published with this work is the first geological map of the state and in some respects has never been surpassed. Roemer identifies various geological strata by color, such as granite, alluvial, Tertiary, and Paleozoic. This geological data is superimposed on an excellent topographical map that includes a wealth of human detail. He gives an excellent account of the road system, with many towns, settlements, forts, ferries, etc., laid down. Roemer’s map is fundamental to any Texas map collection.
    More than a dry scientist, Roemer was also an acute social observer, and this book contains many descriptions of incidents and people he met during his stay. He was especially aware of German immigration to the area, and many of his comments concern their current or potential welfare. His eyewitness account of the treaty negotiations between the Comanche and Baron von Meusebach and Robert S. Neighbors is considered a valuable, intelligent account of those proceedings.
    Despite the current fame of the book, it had somewhat languished over the years. Published in Germany in a language not all that widely read in many circles, the text went through only that initial publication until it was discovered by Oswald Mueller, who published the text in English in 1935. That translation has been reprinted several times and, more than likely, the present celebrity of the work is due to it rather than to Roemer’s original publication. Only Raines mentions it before 1935. Despite that history, the book is today recognized as one of the monuments of Texas history.
    The Seibert copy (Sotheby’s, New York, 1999) sold to a dealer for $17,000 hammer ($19,500 with buyer’s premium).

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