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

Lots 78-80: The Gold Rush

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78. [FLEMING, G. A.]. California: Its Past History; Its Present Position; Its Future Prospects: Containing...a Minute and Authentic Account of the Discovery of the Gold Region...a History of the Rise, Progress, and Present Condition of the Mormon Settlements.... London: Printed for the Proprietors [by McGowan], 1850. viii, 270 pp., engraved title page, 2 engraved plates, map (all vividly hand-colored and with gesso highlights). 8vo, original blind-embossed terracotta cloth (neatly recased, original spine preserved, new endpapers). Spine faded, corners bumped, light offsetting on engraved title, else fine. With printed sticker of Wells Fargo Historical Collection on rear pastedown. Scarce.

    First edition. Byrd 23. Flake 1085: “Written when Utah was considered part of California.” Graff 1347: “G. A. Fleming is the author, according to a presentation copy owned by B. E. Waters.” Holliday 159. Howes F178: “One of the fullest and most interesting of the contemporary accounts.” Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 242: “The hand-colored plates are of exceptional quality and the engraved frontispiece is one of the glories of Gold Rush literature.” Norris 536. Sabin 9973. Streeter Sale 2623. Vail, Gold Fever, p. 17. Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 4; Maps of the California Gold Region 144.

     The illustrations are Emigrant Party on the Road to California (frontispiece), Scene on a Branch of the Sacramento (title page illustration), Encampment in the Valley of the Sacramento, and an untitled map showing the Transmississippi West from the 42nd to the 32nd parallels (full color, gold regions in yellow; 13 x 20.9 cm; 5-1/8 x 8-1/8 inches).

Despite some bibliographical confusion, as discussed by Kurutz, these would seem to be all the illustrations intended to have been issued with the book. This guide is a perfectly serious one intended to be of actual use to an English emigrant. Opening with a review of English law and regulations concerning ships carrying emigrants, it soon moves to a general description of the area and its history, mostly drawn from secondary sources, such as Frémont and Vizetelly. Written principally for the poor–those for whom “the mind succumbs to the stomach”–the author puts forth the proposition that those who can successfully practice a trade in California will ultimately prosper more than those who merely seek gold.
($1,500-3,000)

79. FOSTER, G[eorge] G. (editor). The Gold Regions [wrapper reads Mines] of California: Being a Succinct Description of the Geography, History, Topography, and General Features of California, Including a Carefully Prepared Account of the Gold Regions of That Fortunate Country. Prepared from Official Documents and Other Authentic Sources. New York: Dewitt & Davenport, 1848. vii [1, blank] [9]-80 [12, ads] pp., woodcut map (untitled, showing California from Los Angeles to Sutter Buttes with gold regions encircled by a dotted line; 18.5 x 11.2 cm; 7-1/4 x 4-3/8 inches). 8vo, original ivory wrappers printed in gold, title within ornate decorative border, stitched. Spine with small losses at top and bottom, both wrappers lightly chipped but with no loss to printed areas, lower wrapper detached, upper wrapper nearly so, remains of old label at upper left of upper wrapper, minor edge wear to text, overall a very good copy of a fragile, unusual imprint. Preserved in a blue folding cloth box.

    First edition. Historically, there seems to have been confusion, dating back to Sabin, concerning the actual title of the first edition, caused by slightly different readings on the wrapper and the title page itself (“Regions” vs. “Mines”). The actual first edition is as described here and in Kurutz. This work reached three editions in the first year of publication. Bradford 1746. Braislin 755. Byrd 14. Cowan II, p. 219. Eberstadt 107:55: “This is the first considerable pamphlet on the Gold Regions and but two others (Sherwood’s and Simpson’s Guides [see items 189 and 191 herein]) are contemporary with it. The author was the first to suggest going to California in Companies or Associations, and he predicts that ‘one year will see ten or fifteen thousand hardy and adventurous Americans in the heart of California, ready to dig gold.’” Graff 1387. Howell 50, California 85. Howes F287. Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 250a: “Foster, in his eloquent and stirring introduction, correctly predicted that a fortune could be made by the enterprising blacksmith, wheelwright, carpenter, shoemaker, etc. This slender work is a useful anthology of some of the earliest reports of the gold discovery and features the writings of Farnham, Mason, Doniphan, Larkin, Folsom, Fremont, Colton, and articles from the June and August issues of the Californian.” Mintz, The Trail 160. Rocq 15810. Streeter Sale 2529: “This is one of the first published accounts of the gold discovery in book form.” Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 77: “The small woodcut map was one of the earliest to mention the ‘Gold Region.’” Wheat, Maps of the California Gold Region 39.
    Written with a social-leveling purpose, Foster’s work is a compilation from various sources, including, as he acknowledges, Farnham, Doniphan, and Emory, all of whom he quotes extensively. In fact, the book is a patchwork from those sources and gains its authority from their reliability (or lack thereof). Just as interesting as the oft-repeated descriptions of California intended for the gold seeker is Foster’s insistence that the poor and oppressed of the East Coast should emigrate to California as the best way to improve their lot. There they may become independent of the scheming Eastern financial speculators of Wall Street, their straitened living circumstances, and the haphazard, degrading employment that characterizes their lives: “The present remedy for all this is emigration, which keeps labor scarce, and renders the possessor of a stout heart and a good pair of arms his own independent master, so long as health is spared him” (p. v). He correctly and presciently realizes, with unusual insight for the time, that the great wealth of California lies not in gold but in husbandry, farming, skilled labor, and commerce. He urges that any fifty poor families unite and finance their way to California somehow, not to mine for gold, but to become independent by serving those flocking there with Gold Fever.
($2,000-4,000)

80. FOSTER, G[eorge] G. (editor). The Gold Regions of California: Being a Succinct Description.... New York: Dewitt & Davenport, 1848. vii [1, blank] [9]-80 pp., woodcut map. 8vo, original tan wrappers printed in sepia (title within ornate decorative border), bound in full tan and maroon acid-mottled sheep with gilt ruling on both covers (in the Mexican style). Spine chipped with losses, upper hinge weak, corner slightly bumped, wrapper rubbed with some losses at gutter margins, interior fine. With printed bookplate of the Pacific-Union Club affixed to front pastedown, and their ink library number on title verso. Wrappers slightly trimmed at lower edge (barely touching border), endsheets and wrappers browned, but otherwise the pamphlet, map, and wrappers are very good.
    First edition. This copy does not have the ads and the wrappers are not printed in gold. Otherwise, the two copies are identical.
($1,500-3,000)


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