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

Lots 183-185: Vasquez, Overlands

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183. SAWYER, Eugene T. The Life and Career of Tiburcio Vasquez, the California Bandit and Murderer: Containing a Full and Correct Account of His Many Offenses against the Law, from Boyhood Up, His Confessions, Capture, Trial, and Execution. To Which Is Appended Judge Collins’ Address to the Jury in Behalf of the Prisoner. [Copyright notice at foot of title]: Entered according to Act of Congress, in the Year 1875, by E. T. Sawyer, in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington. [Slug on lower wrapper]: Bacon & Company Book and Job Printers, San Francisco. 48 pp., 2 woodcut plates (portraits of Sheriffs J. H. Adams and Andrew Wasson). 8vo, original beige pictorial wrappers, title and portrait of Tiburcio Vásquez within border, later stitching. Slightly stained, with small void at bottom left of upper wrapper in blank margin and upper extremity of spine, pencil word “Dup” erased from upper wrapper, wrapper separated at upper joint, otherwise fine, interior very fine. With bookplate of Thomas Wayne Norris on inside of front wrapper and that of Irving W. Robbins, Jr., laid in. In half maroon sheep slipcase with gilt-lettered red leather spine label and chemise.

    Second edition. The first edition, also 48 pp., appeared a few months earlier in San Jose. Both editions are very rare and are frequently conflated, both in the bibliographical record and in trade. In fact, the present Norris-Robbins copy was described by both sales catalogues as the San Jose edition. For cites to the San Jose edition, see Cowan I, p. 207. Cowan II, p. 569. Howell 50, California 891. Howes S129: “Best biography of this outlaw.” Norris 3547. Sabin 77304. Streeter Sale 2954: “Sawyer gives here the most complete account of the exploits of Vasquez both as a bandit and as a lover. Judge Collins’ [one of Vásquez’s lawyers] address to the jury on behalf of Vasquez is a masterpiece.” Cites to the San Francisco edition: Adams, Guns 1949: “The first edition is one of the rarest of the few books about Vásquez. The author writes with personal knowledge, much of the narrative supposedly coming from Vásquez’ lips; in addition, the author traveled through Monterey and San Benito counties, interviewing relatives and old acquaintances of Vásquez, from whom he gathered much information.”
    Vásquez (1837-1875), noted desperado and nineteenth-century romantic antihero, is eclipsed in notoriety only by Joaquín Murieta. Vásquez was born to a respected, well-to-do Monterey family in a handsome adobe structure behind Colton Hall, and his grandfather was a founder of San Jose. He received a good education and spoke and wrote English and Spanish proficiently. Vásquez’s first brush with the law occurred when he was a teenager and took part in the revenge murder of a local lawman, Constable William Hardmount–supposedly after Vásquez’s sister or girlfriend was insulted during a fandango. In the Gold Rush era and thereafter, Vásquez terrorized Monterey and Los Angeles counties and the wagon roads from Los Angeles to the Cerro Gordo Mines and the San Joaquin Valley, holding up stagecoaches, rustling cattle and horses, murdering, stealing, striking terror in the hearts of men, and evoking passion in the breasts of women. In 1875, his final capture took place in what is now West Hollywood. Vázquez has been deemed variously a cutthroat outlaw, an idealist gone wrong, and a folk hero. Today flowers are left on his grave, and in southern Alameda County, the Tiburcio Vásquez Health Center is named in his honor. To many Mexican-Americans, Vásquez is a symbol of their ongoing struggle for social equality in the United States. Before being hanged, Vázquez left this statement to explain his actions: “A spirit of hatred and revenge took possession of me. I had numerous fights in defense of what I believed to be my rights and those of my countrymen. I believed we were unjustly deprived of the social rights that belonged to us.”
    Vásquez lived a life that survives as an amalgam of fact and fable. It is difficult to separate the two, and the present work is thought to be the most reliable printed source on Vásquez. Perhaps his life reveals larger truths about the transition of California from Mexican to Anglo-American rule. Displaced Californios needed avengers like Vásquez and Murieta to act out responses to their helplessness and outrage at the loss of their lands, social status, and political power, and Anglos found in such figures dangerous but gallant symbols of a society they perceived they were “manifestly destined” to civilize. His jury took about three hours to sentence him to be hanged for murder on a scaffold furnished by Trueman & Woodrow, “an excellent piece of workmanship, constructed of clean pine lumber, skillfully put together, and cost $370.” It worked: “The drop was about eight feet; his neck was broken and he died without the quiver of a muscle.” The only word Vásquez uttered from the gallows was: “Pronto” (“Do it quickly”).
($2,000-4,000)

184. SAWYER, Lorenzo. Way Sketches, Containing Incidents of Travel across the Plains from St. Joseph to California in 1850 with Letters Describing Life and Conditions in the Gold Region....With Historical Notes Compiled from Rare Books and an Introduction by Edward Eberstadt. New York: Edward Eberstadt [Kelmscott Press], 1926. 125 [1] pp., photographic frontispiece (portrait). 8vo, original half white parchment over grey gilt-lettered cloth. Except for slight darkening to spine, as issued. Thomas W. Streeter’s copy, with his book label on front pastedown, his penciled notes on front flyleaf and p. 71, and ink presentation: “‘And ye clothed me.’ To Mr and Mrs T. W. Streeter with respects of the Editor Edw Eberstadt 11/23/26.”
    First separate edition, limited edition (unnumbered presentation example of 35 large-paper copies, with Eberstadt’s ink note: “Presentation Copy E”). First appeared as a series of articles in the Family Visitor and Ohio Observer (1850-1851). Braislin 1616. Cowan II, p. 570. Eberstadt 107:349. Eberstadt, Modern Narratives of the Plains & Rockies 423. Graff 3687. Howell 50, California 823. Howes S133. Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 556. Littell 910. Mattes, Platte River Road Narratives 403. Mintz, The Trail 403. Norris 3548. Plains & Rockies IV:191n: “One of the most readable of all the overland accounts of the gold-rush days.” Streeter Sale 3228 (this copy). Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 175. Kurutz quotes Eberstadt’s prospectus: “Sawyer’s journal is one of but two known contemporarily printed accounts of the migration across the plains, and has long been a lost book in plains literature.” The story of the rediscovery of this text is something of a modern bibliographical odyssey. Henry R. Wagner rediscovered the text as it was in the Cleveland, Ohio, Family Visitor, which he announced in his 1920 Plains & Rockies. Until the publication of this book, the text was available only in that rare periodical.
($500-1,000)

185. SEDGLEY, Joseph. Overland to California in 1849. Oakland: Butler & Bowman, 1877. 66 pp. 8vo, original brown gilt-lettered cloth over stiff boards. A few voids to spine, corners bumped, small stain on upper cover, endpapers browned, text block split at pp. 6-7. Overall, a very good copy of a rare overland.

     First edition (only 25 copies printed). Braislin 1633. Cowan I, p. 209. Cowan II, p. 575. Graff 3723: “A rather lugubrious narrative.” Heckman, Overland on the California Trail 311. Holliday 984. Howell 50, California 830. Howes S268. Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 577. Mattes, Platte River Road Narratives 619. Mintz, The Trail 410. Sedgley left Lynn, Massachusetts, in March 1849, as a member of the Sagamore and California Mining Company, to begin the overland trip to the goldfields, where they arrived in September of that year. This diary has been commented upon for its realism and often minute detail, including the fact that the author seems to have kept a record of all the graves the party passed and their inscriptions. He is ever fearful of cholera. During the trip he became sick with “fever and ague”; his diary closes with his departure in the Belfast on November 28 to regain his health.

His last entry, for February 1877, after he returned from his voyage, notes that only five of the company’s original forty-eight members remain in California.
($1,500-3,000)


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