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Auction 14: Americana

Lots 59 & 60: Venegas

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“The Foundation of a Library of Californiana” (Cowan)


59. VENEGAS, Miguel. Noticia de la California, y de su conquista temporal, y espiritual hasta el tiempo presente.... Madrid: Viuda de Manuel Fernandez, y del Supremo Consejo de la Inquisición, 1757. [24] 240 + [8] 564 + [8] 436 pp., 4 copper-engraved folding maps. 3 vols., small 4to, early nineteenth-century forest green sheep over marbled boards on pasteboard, gilt-lettered red and green spine labels, edges sprinkled, matching marbled endpapers. Binding rubbed, corners bumped (slight loss), and some minor worming. Vol. 1 text block cracked at pp. 82-83 (but holding strong), hinges of vols. 2 and 3 starting but also holding well. The interior and maps are very fine. With small printed bookplate of Jean Hersholt in each volume. Preserved in a very worn quarter green morocco gilt-lettered slipcase with chemise.


[1] Mapa de la California su Golfo, y provincias fronteras en el continente de Nueva España, title within pediment cartouche (lower left of cartouche: Is. Peña sculp...[dedication dated 1757]). Three sides bordered by ten pictorial vignettes (missionaries, Baja California natives, and animals). Overall measurement of map with vignettes 37.5 x 31.5 cm; 14-3/4 x 12-3/8 inches. Backed with archival paper, small voids at some folds, overall fine. Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast 587. We will exercise restraint and only comment that this is one of the all-time great California maps.

[2] Seno de California, y su costa oriental nuevamente descubierta, y registrada desde el Cabo al las Virgenes, hasta su termino, que es el Rio Colorado año 1747. por el Pe. Ferdinando Consag de la Compa. de IHS, Missiono. en la California. Title within simple scroll cartouche. 31.5 x 28.5 cm; 12-3/8 x 11-1/4 inches. Trimmed close at top margin into neat line and at lower into engraver’s name, otherwise very fine. “The outer frame of the map in vol. 3, facing p. 194, is usually somewhat cut into, either at the top or at the bottom. Any loss of the frame at the top is unimportant as there is no text there. If the loss is at the bottom, the name...might be missing” (Lada-Mocarski). Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast 588.

[3] ...Carta de la Mar del Sur, ò Mar pacifico, entre el Equador, y 39½ de latitud septentrional hallada por el Almirante Jorge Anson en el Galeón de Philipinas, que apresò. [At head of cartouche]: Viage de Anson. Lib. 3. Cap. 8 pag. 305. Mapa 33. [Lower right]: Joseph Gonzz. Sculpt. Mti.... Title within simple scroll cartouche. 23.5 x 22.8 cm; 9-1/4 x 9 inches. Very fine. Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast 586.

[4] Mapa de la America Septentl. Asia Oriental y Mar del Sur intermedio formado sobre las memorias mas recientes y exactas hasta el año de 1754 [below neat line]: Manuel Rodriguez. Sculpst. Md. Ao. de 1756. Three ornate cartouches against pictorial grounds with costumed groups of Spanish, Asian, and Baja California natives and flora and fauna. 29.8 x 36 cm; 11-3/4 x 14-1/8 inches. Very fine. Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast 585.

    First edition, intermediate issue (p. 479 only of vol. 2 misnumbered). Barrett, Baja California 2539. Cowan I, p. 238: “This work is considered the foundation of a library of Californiana.” Cowan II, p. 659. Farquhar, The Colorado River and the Grand Canyon 5: “Venegas is the principal source of information about the explorations made by Father Consag in 1746 by which the question of the insularity of California was finally set at rest. Consag’s description of the Gulf of California and the mouth of the Colorado River received wide publicity through the volumes of Venegas.” Graff 4470. Hill II 1767. Howell 50, California 246. Howes V69. Huntington Library, Zamorano 80...Exhibition of Famous and Notorious California Classics 78. Jones 491. Lada-Mocarski 14 (agreeing with the mispagination here): “Much valuable information...on the Russians’ and others’ discoveries in the North Pacific.” LC, California Centennial 6. Libros Californianos, p. 10 (Powell commentary): “The distinction of being the most prized of all California books Miguel Venegas’ Noticias.” Mathes, California Colonial Bibliography 50. Medina, Hispano-Americana 3855. Palau 358387. Sabin 98848.

    Streit III:663. Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast 585-588 (see also note in 483) & pp. 144-147; Spanish Southwest 132: “I have seen it asserted that the object of publishing this book was to counteract some assertions made in Anson’s Voyage [1748], in which some aspersions were cast on the Jesuits, especially about their handling of the natives in the missions in California.... Throughout the work great attention is paid to the geography of the country.” Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West 138 & I, p. 85 (citing only map 1 above, but mentioning the others): “A well drawn map, showing the mission and Indian towns of Pimería Alta.” Zamorano 80 #78 (Henry R. Wagner): “Volume III contains extracts from López de Gómara and Torquemada relating to the early explorations on the northwest coast and several articles written by Father Burriel himself. Of these, the most interesting is his account of the construction of the map of California, and of the general map of North America.”
    The superb and aesthetic maps in this Venegas’s history of California are highly significant. The most important of the four maps is Consag’s Seno de California (map 2 above). This map is a cornerstone of California cartographical history and of interest to any library or collector with a serious focus on the history of the evolution and resolution of the concept of California as an island. Joseph González engraved Consag’s map of Seno de California to accompany the printed account of Consag’s expedition to the mouth of the Colorado River in 1746. This map conclusively ended the classic cartographic myth that California was an island. Father Kino had previously offered strong evidence that California was not an island and had convinced the foremost contemporary cartographers of his theory. Yet Kino had not proven his claim by actually crossing the Colorado River from Sonora to the California side. Kino’s explorations were not fully accepted by some Spanish explorers and authorities–even Venegas did not concur–until Consag led an expedition to the mouth of the Colorado River in 1746 and rowed completely around the head of the Gulf. The following year Ferdinand VII issued a decree proclaiming that California should no longer be considered an island (see Schwartz & Ehrenberg, The Mapping of America, p. 133). A decade following that admission, this map recording Consag’s discoveries was published in Madrid. Cowan (I, p. 239) wrote that “other than Cabrera, Burriel was the first writer whose sound sense allowed him to reject the apocryphal voyages as unworthy of credit, to restrict northern geography to actual discoveries, and to correctly define in print the peninsula and regions of the Colorado and Gila [Rivers] as far as known.”

    The frontispiece map (map 1 above), Mapa de la California su Golfo, y provincias fronteras en el continente de Nueva España, is one of the most handsome maps of California from the colonial period, or any era of California history for that matter. The illustrations framing the map are among the few eighteenth-century printed images of California. According to Dr. W. Michael Mathes, the Native Americans depicted on the maps are from Baja California. They were based upon a combination of sources, partly from verbal description, and some from drawings, such as Tirsch, et al. Burriel based his map on Consag’s latest explorations. The head of the Gulf of California is essentially that of Kino’s 1705 Passage par terre a la Californie (see Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast 483), but Kino did not know of Isla Angel de la Guarda, which first appeared on Consag’s map. The Mapa de la California su Golfo was skillfully engraved by Manuel Rodríguez and adorned with captivating vignettes illustrating the flora, fauna, and inhabitants of California and the martyrdoms of Fathers Carranco and Tamaral.

    Burriel’s Carta de la Mar del Sur, ò Mar pacifico... (map 3 above) was engraved by Joseph González after Anson’s chart of the Pacific Ocean between the equator and 39°30' north latitude, graduated for latitude (see Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast 558 for Anson’s map). Manuel Rodríguez engraved the final map, Mapa de la America Septentl. Asia Oriental y Mar del Sur, a general map of the north Pacific showing America and Asia (map 4 above). Burriel decried the inclusion of this map without his permission because it showed the Delisle fantastic geography of the Fonte voyage.
    California 49: Forty-Nine Maps of California from the Sixteenth Century to the Present 15 (Alfred W. Newman) lists Robert de Vaugondy’s 1772 Carte de la Californie (appeared in Diderot’s Enciclopédie), which gives a pictorial summary of the cartographic history of California in five maps on one sheet. Newman states that map 5 of Vaugondy is based upon a Spanish map in Venegas’s book. The Mapa de la California su Golfo is, in turn, based upon Consag’s Seno de California. For more on the maps in this work, see Ernest J. Burrus, La Obra Cartográfica de la Provincia Mexicana de la Compañía de Jesús, 1567-1967 (Madrid: Ediciones José Porrúa Turanzas, 1967. Colección Chimalistac de Libros y Documentos acerca de la Nueva España, Serie José Porrúa Turanzas, 2 vols.–vol. 1 is text, vol. 2 is a folder of 46 maps).
    Written by a native Mexican who became a prominent Jesuit priest, this is the first history of the Californias. Although his health denied him the opportunity to serve in California itself, Venegas was able through his contacts in both government and ecclesiastical establishments to secure voluminous research materials upon which to base his work, which remains authoritative to this day. In addition to the expected work in archives and other such collections, to which he had practically unfettered access, he also employed the novel technique of sending surveys to some of the principal actors in California mission work.
    Unfortunately, Venegas did his work too well. Finished in August 1739, the manuscript was entitled “Empressas Apostólicas de los PP. Misoneros de la Compañía de Jesús, de la Provincia de Nueva España obradas en la conquista de Californias” and contained 709 pages. Because the manuscript contained potentially damaging revelations about the poor Spanish California defenses, it did not immediately see the light of day but was, as were other such documents, filed and left to languish. A decade later, the manuscript was turned over to Procurator General Pedro Ignacio Altamirano in Madrid for revision and publication. He, in turn, assigned the actual editing to Jesuit savant Andrés Marcos Burriel at Toledo in 1750.

    Burriel, using yet more sources made available to him, such as archival documents from the Philippines and Mexico City, brought the narrative down to the mid-1750s. By the time he had finished, the work was over 1,100 pages, considerably rearranged from Venegas’s original, and contained three maps. However, because of Burriel’s effort it was now acceptable for publication, a process that culminated in April 1757, when it was issued with the new title Noticias de California. Ironically, Burriel was not entirely pleased with the effort, objecting particularly to the one map for which he was not responsible as being too inaccurate to publish. Despite those qualms, the rest of Europe was tremendously interested in the work and it was abridged into an English translation (London, 1759; see following item), and from that into Dutch (1761-1762), French (1766-1767), and German (1769-1770).

60. VENEGAS, Miguel. A Natural and Civil History of California: Containing an Accurate Description of That Country, Its Soil, Mountains, Harbours, Lakes, Rivers, and Seas; Its Animals, Vegetables, Minerals, and Famous Fishery for Pearls. The Customs of the Inhabitants, Their Religion, Government, and Manner of Living...Together with Accounts of the Several Voyages and Attempts Made for Settling California, and Taking Actual Surveys of That Country, Its Gulf, and Coast of the South-Sea.... London: Printed for James Rivington and James Fletcher, 1759. [20] 455 + [8] 387 pp., 8 copper-engraved plates on 4 sheets ([1] Women of California. Men of California; [2] The Cayote or Fox. The Taye or Californian Deer; [3] The Manner of Curing the Sick in California. Sorcerers of California; [4] The Martyrdom of Father Carranco. The Martyrdom of Father Tamaral); folding copper-engraved map, title within small ornate cartouche: An Accurate Map of California Drawn by the Society of Jesuits and Dedicated to the King of Spain [below neat line]: J. Gibson Sculp. (32 x 19.7 cm; 12-5/8 x 7-3/4 inches). 2 vols., 8vo, contemporary brown calf, spine with raised bands and gilt-lettered sepia morocco spine labels, edges gilt-tooled (skillfully rebacked, original spines and labels preserved, new sympathetic endpapers). Binding scuffed and worn, corners bumped (some board exposed), but these flaws are ameliorated greatly due to recent restoration by an expert hand. The interior has uniform light to moderate browning, occasional mild fox marks, and a skillful paper repair to blank margin of vol. 1 frontispiece (infilled and not affecting image or line border). At the top margin of the reverse side of vol. 2 frontispiece is an effaced ink note dated 1769, with some resulting bleed-through to the printed caption above the frontispiece and a thin strip along the top of the image. Both volumes bear old ink inscriptions on the titles (two of which are partially effaced). One of the ink inscriptions is that of Charles Shoemaker, dated April 27, 1799. The plates have light offsetting from adjacent text and the martyrdom plate is foxed. The folding map has been neatly reinforced at folds. Overall a very good set.
    First English edition of preceding. This translation, as the preface makes clear, was published to whet English appetites to conquer the territory. Barrett, Baja California 2536. Cowan I, pp. 237-238: “These four plates appear to have issued with but a few copies of the work, as two is the number usually found.” Cowan II, p. 658. Graff 4471. Hill I, vol. I, p. 307: “This first translation gave the English-speaking world its earliest thorough account of the little-known areas of the west coast of North America. This work has been cited as the first book in English completely devoted to California.” Howell 50, California 247. Howes V69. Jones 499. Norris 4070. Palau 358390. Sabin 98845. Streeter Sale 2435. Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast 587n (noting that Gibson’s map is entirely different from Mapa de la California su Golfo, y provincias fronteras en el continente de Nueva España). Wagner, Spanish Southwest 132a: “The map was engraved by J. Gibson, and has most of the inscriptions in Spanish, only a few being Anglicized.”
    Some of the attractive plates are reworkings and enlargements of the vignettes that appeared on the frontispiece map of the original edition printed in Madrid in 1757 (see preceding entry). One of the images has been reversed. Usually this work is found with two plates, but occasionally a copy will have four plates, as in the present copy.

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