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Includes Directions to the California Gold Fields from Mexico

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9.     ÁLVAREZ, José J[usto] & Rafael Durán. Itinerarios y derroteros de la República Mexicana, publicados por los ayudantes del Estado Mayor del Ejército…. Mexico: Imprenta de José A. Godoy, calle del Seminario núm. 6, 1856. [1-7] 8-352, 345-360, 369-480, [3, errata; 1, colophon] pp. (text complete). 8vo (22.7 x 17 cm), contemporary nineteenth-century tan Mexican sheep over terracotta paper-covered boards, spine gilt lettered and decorated, raised bands. Boards and corners lightly rubbed, light shelf wear, and a few spots and stains. Pp. 197-198 torn with old repair (no loss) and pp. 213-214 with small piece missing from blank margin (not affecting text). Text block slightly cracked at pp. 478-479. Overall very good. With printed book label of Teodoro Zúñiga on front pastedown.

     First edition. Barrett, Baja California 34: “Territorio de la California pp. 432-437.” Eberstadt 138:033: “An important guide book, giving the routes and mileages, with sketches of the country throughout Mexico, including Coahuila, Sonora and New Mexico.” Palau 9290. Sabin 976.

     According to Álvarez’s statement on p. [5], Durán is chiefly responsible for this work. Álvarez (1821-1897) is also the creator of the map Carta de la ciudad y sitio de Puebla…, made for the same Mexican Army agency as this book, and which appeared in Anselmo de la Portilla’s Historia de la Revolución de México contra la dictadura del general Santa-Anna 1853-1855 (Mexico: Imprenta de Vicente García Torres, 1856; Palau 129763, Sabin 38612 & 76734). The author was active in many campaigns, having battled the French among others.

     This book is an extremely valuable compilation which gives detailed data on many various parts of Mexico. By piecing together the different itineraries it offers, a traveler could basically go anywhere in Mexico and into the U.S. and have extremely detailed instructions about the best route and what facilities, such as water, grass, and shelter, were available every step of the way. A detailed name index listing routes and where they are to be found in the book further enhances the volume’s usefulness for travelers on the road to places great and small. A large number of the routes described begin at Mexico City. Some routes are quite short, as from Presidio del Norte to nearby Paso del Norte (p. 399). Others are far more extensive, such as that from Saltillo to Zacatecas. Some routes include both land and water travel. Scores of ranchos, both active and abandoned, are described or noted. The work is a vital one in Mexican historical geography because it describes many places that have long since ceased to exist or have been drastically altered by development.

     Despite the Mexican-American War, there was clearly still a need to travel into the U.S., and the work offers several routes not only to Borderland areas but also to locales within the U.S. itself. Itinerary #83 for Tamaulipas, for example, gives detailed directions for a journey “De Victoria á Béjar, población de los Estados-Unidos, 223 leguas al N” via Nuevo Laredo and includes much information on what the countryside looked like at the time (pp. 320-322). Another itinerary gives the route from Saltillo to Béjar, but in somewhat less detail (pp. 359-360); yet another bare-bones itinerary is provided for the journey from Béjar to La Bahía del Espíritu Santo (p. 369). Another itinerary into the U.S. covers the route from Paso del Norte to Santa Fe, New Mexico (p. 399). Oddly, it contains no detailed information whatsoever, suggesting that perhaps the authors knew little of it themselves.

     Two of the itineraries concern Lower and Upper California. One describes the journey from La Paz, at the far southern end of Baja California, to the U.S. border (pp. 424-435). This is one of the most detailed and expansively described routes in the whole work, preserving a wealth of geographic and natural details. Many of the places detailed in this section have either disappeared or been extensively altered. The other journey is from Ures, Sonora, to the California gold fields; many Mexicans traveled there after the discovery of gold on the Sonora Route (pp. 411-412). The recommended route goes from Ures to Mesilla and thence to the far northwest corner of the state; then, upon reaching California, it passes through Los Angeles and follows the mission route to the gold fields just north of Stockton. In this section, the authors comment on the missions, one of the few instances in which they include anything which might pass for architectural observations. San Gabriel is described as “opulenta antes de su destrucción” and Santa Bárbara is described as being “una hermosa parroquia.” Stockton is noted as a thriving place that “tiene mucho comercio por los buques procedentes de San Francisco del Alta California.”

     On the other hand, as something of a counterweight to California gold fever, the authors include two appendices listing all known mineral deposits in Mexico, some which were then being actively worked, some not. These appendices were intended to spur on further exploitation of these resources. As they remark, “Esto, ademas de la ventaja indicada, pone de manifiesto que los mexicanos viven sobre montañas de plata, y que las riquezas esplotadas son ensayos de los grandes depósitos intactos que todavia existen en su seno” (p. [4]).

     This work is also significant as a source for postal history. One of the appendices is entitled “Postas de la linea de diligencias generales” and includes routes for both official conveyances and private coach lines. These were also the routes used for postal services, and because 1856 was the year Mexico began to use postage stamps, the appendix is particularly valuable as a record of the state of the Mexican postal service as it entered the modern era. Mexico’s budding telegraph system is outlined on p. 459. According to the authors, the text is built upon extensive work in various archives, including those of the postal service. As the authors correctly observe about the facts they have collected in this work: “con el tiempo serán muy importantes” (p. [4]).


Sold. Hammer: $500.00; Price Realized: $600.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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