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Lot 137

“This work by an eminent writer and artist is probably the outstanding book on the early gold rush in California”—Zamorano Eighty

137. TAYLOR, Bayard. Eldorado, or, Adventures in the Path of Empire: Comprising a Voyage to California, via Panama; Life in San Francisco and Monterey; Pictures of the Gold Region, and Experiences of Mexican Travel. By Bayard Taylor, Author of “Views A-Foot,” “Rhymes of Travel,” etc. With Illustrations by the Author. New York: [C. W. Benedict, Stereotyper and Printer, 201 William St., for] George P. Putnam; London: Richard Bentley, 1850. Vol. I: xii, 251 [1, blank] pp., 4 plates. Vol. II: [2] [1]-[4] [2, list of illustrations, verso blank] [5]-247 [1, blank] 17, 17A, 23-43 [2] (publisher’s catalogue, this sequence not noted in BAL) pp., 4 plates. Total: 8 tinted lithograph plates. 2 vols., 12mo, original green blindstamped cloth, title stamped in gilt on backstrips. Spines light, minor shelf wear, lower cover of Vol. II with quarter-sized abrasion (with some board visible). Text block of Vol. I at p. 168 split (but holding strong), plates with moderate to heavy foxing, light foxing to text, otherwise very good, tissue guards present. Contemporary ink presentation to Frances A. Kimball, from her grandmother, D. V. Kimball. Preserved in green cloth slipcase with black gilt-lettered label.

Plate List

Vol. I:

[Frontispiece]: San Francisco in November, 1848. [left side]: From a Sketch by J. C. Ward, Esq. [below caption]: New York, Geo. P. Putnam.

Lower Bar, Mokelumne River. [below caption]: New York, Geo. P. Putnam.

Monterey. [below caption]: New York, Geo. P. Putnam.

The Volcano Diggings.

Vol. II:

[Frontispiece]: San Francisco in November 1849. [below print, left side]: Bayard Taylor; [right side]: Sarony & Major. [below caption]: New York, Geo. P. Putnam.

Sacramento City, from the South. [below caption]: New York, Geo. P. Putnam.

Portsmouth Square, San Francisco.


     First edition. BAL 19638. Bennett, American Book Collecting, p. 106. Braislin 1762. Cowan I, p. 226. Cowan II, p. 630. Graff 4073. Gudde, California Gold Camps, pp. 423-24. Hill, p. 289: “The book met with great success, selling 10,000 copies in America and 30,000 in England within two weeks.” Holliday 1076. Howes T43. Huntington Library, Zamorano 80...Exhibition of Famous and Notorious California Classics 73. Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 618a. LC, California Centennial 176. Libros Californianos, pp. 40-41 (Powell commentary): “His chronicle of the voyage to California via Panama is the best in print, and his chapters dealing with the constitutional convention at Monterey in 1849 are unexcelled”; p. 67 (Hanna List). Norris 3874. Peters, California on Stone, pp. 196-97. Rocq 16098. Streeter Sale 2654. Vail, Gold Fever, p. 23. Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 204. Zamorano 80 #73.

     The tinted plates are lithographs after the author’s original artwork. See Van Nostrand, The First Hundred Years of Painting in California (pp. 28, 30-31, 125-226) and Van Nostrand & Coulter, California Pictorial (pp. 122-223, illustrating plate of Lower Bar, Mokelumne River).

Kurutz note from the Volkmann Zamorano 80 catalogue:

Robert Glass Cleland, in the introduction to the Borzoi edition of this two-volume opus, wrote: “This work by an eminent writer and artist is probably the outstanding book on the early Gold Rush in California.” Dale Morgan provided this critique: “The chief defect of his narrative is its point of view, that of a detached observer rather than that of a participant.” While Morgan may be correct, Taylor’s command of the language and the scenes he witnessed make Eldorado one of California’s greatest books. Only J. D. Borthwick’s Three Years in California (q.v.) exceeds this as a Gold Rush narrative and only because the Scotsman actually worked a claim. Attesting to the staying power of Eldorado, it is still in print and has probably been reprinted more times than any other book on California history.

      Taylor, a successful author and correspondent with Horace Greeley’s New YorkTribune, came to California to cover the most exciting story in the world, the Gold Rush. He left New York on the Falcon on June 28, 1849, crossed the Isthmus of Panama, boarded the Oregon and arrived in San Francisco on August 18. Ironically, Taylor noted that a New Yorker in San Francisco sold 1,500 copies of his newspaper (the Tribune) for a dollar a piece in two hours. Lieutenant Edward F. Beale (to whom the book is dedicated) accompanied Taylor on most of his travels. He visited the diggings between the Cosumnes and Mokelumne Rivers as well as the major towns and camps. The journalist’s portrayal of San Francisco and Sacramento are verbal masterpieces. He described San Francisco at night, dotted with campfires and transparent lantern-lit canvas houses, making the city gleam “like an amphitheatre of fire.” His imagery of Sacramento City with its earsplitting sounds, its gaudily decorated tent saloons, and the hilarious performances at California’s only theater, the Eagle, demonstrate his singular talent. In addition, Taylor visited Monterey and witnessed the state constitutional convention. He left San Francisco on January 1, 1850, on board the Oregon, along with a cargo of $2 million in gold and several distinguished passengers including the newly-elected Senators Frémont and Gwin and Congressmen Gilbert and Wright. T. Butler King, whose report of March 22, 1850 comprises the appendix, was also a passenger. Reflecting on his short but kaleidoscopic visit, Taylor wrote, “The world’s history has no page so marvelous as that which has just been turned in California.” The remainder of Eldorado records his cross-country sojourn in Mexico and return trip to New York.

      Eldorado was simultaneously published by Putnam’s in New York and Richard Bentley in London. The exclusive English edition of that year is identical except for a newly printed title page. Portions of the text appeared earlier in the New York Tribune. Prior to publication, Taylor wrote Putnam, saying: “I have quite a number of illustrative sketches, to be engraved, all of which will greatly increase the interest of the book. By managing the thing properly, 10,000 copies can be sold in a year.” In another letter, dated May 10, 1850, Taylor stated: “Putnam has orders for near two thousand copies, and can’t get the books bound fast enough.” Taylor wrote in June 30, 1850: “I must also tell you that there are now three reprints of ‘El Dorado’ in London.” A popular work, several pirated editions also appeared in 1850 and, by 1859, the “eighteenth” edition was published. However, there is no evidence of the ninth through seventeenth editions. In 1882, the copyright changed to Marie Taylor.

(2 vols.) ($1,000-2,000)

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