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AUCTION 16

“THE WORLD RUSHED IN”
THE CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH

Lot 139

Wonderful copy of Thompson & West History of Nevada County

139. [THOMPSON & WEST (publishers)]. [WELLS, Henry Laurenz (compiler)]. History of Nevada County California with Illustrations Descriptive of Its Scenery, Residences, Public Buildings, Fine Blocks, and Manufactories. From Original Sketches by Artisans of the Highest Ability. Oakland: Thompson & West, 1880. 234 pp., 83 lithographed plates (one counted as part of pagination; several double-page; several with multiple images; Donner Party leaf with image on recto and verso), plus hand-colored lithographed map: Map of California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona Published by Thompson & West Oakland. 1880 (24.7 x 31.6 cm; 9-3/4 x 12-1/2 inches). Oblong folio, original black cloth stamped in gilt and blind, expertly rebacked with sympathetic black morocco spine, retaining original new endpapers. First few leaves with some wrinkling and expert strengthening, first few leaves with very light waterstaining at top blank margins, otherwise a very fine copy with very fresh plates and the map fine and bright. Later ink and pencil ownership inscriptions of Emily M. H. Jeffery on front pastedown, front flyleaf, title, and in blank margin of map. This copy is in wonderful condition for such an unwieldy book, usually found in dilapidated condition and missing plates or the map. Unfortunately, the Thompson & West plate books are often the victims of breakers.

     First edition. Blumann & Thomas 2191. Bradford 742. Cowan II, p. 452. Cowan & Dunlap, Chinese Question 471. Howes N60. Rocq 5957. Some of the handsome lithographs were executed by C. L. Smith & Company. The history includes information and illustrations of gold mining in the area. Not only are there illustrations of various current mining operations, but Chapters XLIX to LIX (pp. 170-206) give extensive information on older mines still operating in Nevada County and on mining operations in use at the time. This section includes historical information on the early development of area mining during the Gold Rush. Chapter XV (pp. 40-46) gives a history of the discovery of gold in California.

     The text at pp. 38-40 and the two accompanying plates concern the Donner Party. The plate entitled “Arrival of the Relief Party” is especially dramatic, showing two figures crawling from beneath their snow-covered shelters.

     Thompson & West published encyclopedic histories of counties and their development, with highly inclusive surveys of every aspect of a region from early history to the time of publication. What makes the Thompson & West histories so appealing are the many lithographic plates of scenes of urban and rural life, rather than the usual array of pioneer portraits so prevalent in many county histories. These Thompson & West Victorian images, often idyllic and nostalgic to the modern eye, provide superb documentary details of architecture, street scenes, homes, farms, ranches, businesses, transportation, material culture, and social history. ($2,400-3,600)

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