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Auction 15: Fine Collection of Californiana Formed by Daniel G. Volkmann Jr.

Lots 11-13: Travels, Circumnavigations, Gold Rush

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11. BARTLETT, John R. Personal Narrative of Explorations and Incidents in Texas, New Mexico, California, Sonora, and Chihuahua, Connected with the United States and Mexican Boundary Commission, during the Years 1850, ’51, ’52, and ’53. New York & London: D. Appleton, 1854. [2] xxii, 506; [2] xviii [1, blank] 624 [2, ads] pp., 2 folded lithographed frontispieces on tinted grounds, 29 woodcut engravings, 14 lithographs on tinted grounds, numerous woodcut illustrations in text, 1 folded map (new paper backing). 2 vols. in one, 8vo, rebound in modern full green levant morocco, spines with raised bands and gilt-lettered red leather spine labels. Light uniform age toning and occasional offsetting from lithos, generally a very good, clean copy, with blind stamps of the Boston Society of Natural History on title page of vol. 1 and most plates.
    First edition. Abbey 658. Basic Texas Books 12. Clark, Old South III:272. Cowan I, p. 13. Cowan II, p. 36. Flake 325. Graff 198: “An essential book for the Southwest.” Hill 74. Howes B201. Plains & Rockies IV:234:1. Rader 287. Raines, p. 22. Sabin 3746. Saunders 2721.
Streeter Sale 173: “Bartlett’s was the first thoroughly scholarly description of the Southwest.” Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West 798: “Among the most important Western maps...excellent early map showing Gadsden Purchase Boundary.” Wheat, Maps of the California Gold Region 252.
    Although a competent reporter and scholar, Bartlett was not a sterling boundary commissioner and is remembered for a blunder that cost the U.S. the price of the Gadsden Purchase.
“The history of the Mexican Boundary survey was, perhaps more than any other episode in the American West, colored by ineptitude, personal animosity, ambition and political interference. It was to have significant effect on the final shape of the region” (Martin & Martin 40). The crux of the problem lay in errors in the Disturnell map, used to determine the boundary in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which distorted the area along the Rio Grande and near El Paso. The Mexicans claimed that lines of latitude and longitude should be adhered to, while it was to the advantage of the U.S. to establish the boundary according to geographical locations. Bartlett compromised, unknowingly giving up an area not only rich in copper mines, but also containing a portion of the only practical route for a southern railroad to California. This created a great deal of the conflict between the party members, as well as “a political issue of the greatest importance in Washington.... The issue was defused in 1853 with the Gadsden Purchase, a treaty in which the United States obtained the disputed territory, as well as additional lands and other Mexican concessions, in return for cash payment” (Martin & Martin 40). Bartlett had greater success later as John Carter Brown’s librarian.

12. BELCHER, Edward. Narrative of a Voyage around the World, Performed in Her Majesty’s Ship Sulphur, during the Years 1836-1842.... London: Henry Colburn, 1843. xxii [i.e., xxxviii] [2] 387 pp., engraved frontispiece, 7 engraved plates, 3 folded engraved maps, text illustrations + vi [2] 324 [3] 326 [327]-474 pp., engraved frontispiece, 10 engraved plates, 20 engraved text illustrations (total 19 plates + 3 maps). 2 vols., 8vo, contemporary three-quarter leather over boards, spine with raised bands and gilt-lettered red and green morocco labels. Binding rubbed and worn, corners bent with small losses, hinges starting, text and plates browned.
    First edition. Cowan I, p. 15. Cowan II, p. 44. Ferguson 3564. Forbes, Hawaiian National Bibliography 1377 (not noting mispagination in vol. 1 and calling in error for 12 plates in vol. 2). Hill 102. Howell 50, California 18. Howes B318. Hunnewell, p. 23. Lada-Mocarski 117 (not noting mispagination in vol. 1). Sabin 4390. Wickersham 6543a. This surveying voyage, repeatedly extended by intervening circumstances, lasted nearly seven years from the time Belcher took command in Panama until the Sulphur returned to England. During his visit to California (vol. 1, pp. 311-340), he stopped at San Francisco and San Diego, although he does not seem to have been overly impressed with either of those locales.


As a result of the independence of Mexico from Spain in 1821, the naval department of San Blas was without ships. After three centuries of attempts to penetrate the former Spanish colony, England sought opportunities of exploitation and investment, and began to serve as the maritime carrier for Mexico on the Pacific coast. As a result, the great surveys of George Vancouver (1792-1793) notwithstanding, British navigators sought to expand knowledge of the Pacific Basin and continue the national obsession, the search for a northern water passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Between 1825 and 1828, Frederick W. Beechey with the Blossom had explored the Pacific coast to the Arctic Ocean with Lieutenant Edward Belcher, a native of Nova Scotia, as surveyor. Dissatisfied with his explorations, Beechey, commanding the Sulphur, made a second voyage in 1836 but fell ill upon reaching Valparaiso and the expedition was continued under Henry Kellett. At Panama, Belcher, now a captain, joined the expedition and assumed command for the remainder of its exploration. Of particular importance is the exploration of California, not only because it included a monthlong survey of the Sacramento River from San Francisco Bay in longboats, but also because of the international situation of the region. France and England were, at the time, creditor nations of Mexico, which was unable to service the debts to the bankers of those nations, and both began extensive exploration to the end of possibly occupying the territory of California in payment of debts. During the years of Belcher’s survey, Abel Dupetit-Thouars (q.v.) and Eugène Duflot de Mofras (q.v.) were involved in surveys of California for similar reasons.
    Following his sojourn in California, Belcher continued to Hawaii, the Marquesas and Society Islands, Tonga, the New Hebrides, the Solomons, and New Guinea. After making extensive observations on those islands, the expedition returned to England from Australia. Of particular interest are the observations of naturalist Richard Hinds regarding fauna observed and collected during the voyage.
    Belcher subsequently explored Malaysia, Borneo, the Philippines, Celebes, Moluccas, Ryukyus, Formosa, Hong Kong, Macau, Korea, Japan, Mauritius, and the Cape of Good Hope between 1843 and 1846, and captained an Arctic voyage in 1852-1854 in search of Sir John Franklin, whose expedition was lost without a trace in search of the Northwest Passage in 1845.

––W. Michael Mathes

13. BIDWELL, John. Echoes of the Past about California: An Account of the First Emigrant Train to California, Fremont and the Conquest of California, the Discovery of Gold, and Early Reminiscences [wrapper title]. Chico: Chico Advertiser, [1914]. [4] 91 pp., title with photographic portrait of author, 3 halftone photographic illustrations (scenes). 16mo, original green printed wrappers with original staples. Light adhesive stain on upper wrapper where old label was affixed. Except for uniform age toning from the poor paper on which it was printed, an excellent copy. In a blue cloth slipcase with chemise.
    First separate edition (consists of three articles first published in Century Magazine for November-December 1890 and February 1891, with an additional chapter of reminiscences). Braislin 173. Cowan II, p. 52. Dobie, p. 84: “Bidwell got to California several years before gold was discovered. He became foremost citizen and entertained scientists, writers, scholars, and artists at his ranch home.... Graphic, charming, telling.” Eberstadt 113:531. Eberstadt, Modern Narratives of the Plains & Rockies 35. Graff 292. Holliday 88. Howell 50, California 299. Howes B432. Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 55: “The photographs depict the Bidwell mansion and ranch.” Mattes, Platte River Road Narratives 52n. Mintz, The Trail 36. Norris 280. Paher, Nevada 127: “Narrates his journey from Ohio in 1839 to California, which he completed in 1841. Obviously impressed with the Humboldt River and its sink, the author devotes more detail than usual on his exploration of the river four years prior to Frémont’s arrival there. Well written.” Plath 55. Rocq 1371. Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 16. Bidwell’s first employment in California was at Sutter’s Fort. He gives an account of Sutter’s method of threshing wheat. A huge mound of wheat was placed in a corral. Then several hundred wild horses were turned into the corral where Native Americans chased them to make them run faster. Also includes observations on the hide and tallow trade, rounding up wild cattle, etc.

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