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AUCTION 22

 

Illustrated Spanish Novel on the California Gold Rush

Joaquín Murieta among the Cast of Characters


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443.     NOMBELA [Y TABARES], Julio [Santos Justo]. [Publisher’s name above title] Urbano Manini, Editor. [Main title] La fiebre de riquezas siete años en California descrubimiento del oro y explotación de sus inmensos filones Historia dramática en vista de datos auténticos é interesantes relaciones de los mas célebres viajeros, por Don Julio Nombela [pseudonym]. Vol. I [-II]. [Vol. I imprint] Madrid: Urbano Manini, Calle de San Bernardo, núm II, 1871; [Vol. II imprint] Calle de Serrano. núm. 14, Barrio de Salamanca, 1872. [printer’s slug on versos of titles] Imp. de Santos Larxé, calle de Rio, 24. Vol. I: [4], [1]-547 [1, blank] pp., pictorial lithograph half title page (Siete Anos en California La Fiebre de riquezas) + 9 lithograph plates (8 of which are sepia tone); Vol. II: [3]-580 pp., 11 lithograph plates (2 of which are sepia tone); the 21 plates depict scenes from the novel. 2 vols., 8vo, (20.8 x 14.5 cm), contemporary black pebble cloth over blind-embossed blue cloth over which is green and black mottled paper, spine gilt lettered and decorated with raised bands, edges tinted red. Mottled paper on binding worn, corners rubbed and bumped, moderate shelf wear, Vol. I slightly cracked at p. [1]; Vol. II upper hinge starting (but sound). Some light staining and foxing throughout text; Vol. II with worm damage in gutter margin, occasionally touching a few letters. With the exception of a few light spots to a couple of the plates, the images are excellent and in strong impressions. With embossed bookstamp of Manuel de Haro y Mateos on Vol. I flyleaf, half title, and title page. The last sale we trace of this book is the Streeter-Grabhorn copy in 1968 ($50 for a poor copy). Very rare.

     First edition. Adams, Guns 1616: “This book first appeared in Madrid, Spain, as a serial in 1871-1872. The author writes of early California in a narrative style, but most of his book consists of flights of fancy. In the second part of the first volume he weaves Joaquín Murieta into the story and deals with him at length, following the details of the California Police Gazette version of Murieta’s life very closely—so closely, in fact, that certain parts are merely translations from the English text into Spanish. He calls upon his imagination in relating Murieta’s early life and ancestry.” Cowan II, p. 455. Gaer, Bibliography of California Literature, p. 43. Howes N170. Palau 192632. Streeter Sale 2933: “Much of this novel relates to California in the gold rush days, and there is much about well-known California characters such as Joaquín Murieta.” For a full discussion of the novel see: Luis Monguió, “Lust for Riches: A Spanish Nineteenth-Century Novel of the Gold Rush and its Sources,” California Historical Society Quarterly 27:3, September, 1948, pp. 237-248.

     The 1859 Police Gazette version of Murieta’s story, which Nombela used for this novel, was based on John Ridge’s Life and Adventures of Joaquín Murieta (San Francisco, 1854; Zamorano Eighty 64). The Police Gazette version was a confused, jumbled reprinting that poorly reflected Ridge’s original text; because of these significant alterations, scholars are fairly certain that it was the Police Gazette version Nombela used and not the original. Nombela also depended heavily on Alexandre Dumas’ Un Gil Blas en Californie, which was itself based to a certain extent on Hypolite Ferry’s Description de la Nouvelle Californie (Paris, 1850). Large sections of the present novel are nothing more than translations or reworkings of those two sources. Yet Nombela clearly had his own resources and imagination, having produced a work with many twists and turns and a Dickensian cast of characters who interact in numerous subtle and obvious ways. This convoluted plot generally ends every chapter with a cliffhanger, since the novel was originally published in installments.

     The author (1836-1919), who wrote under the name Julio Nombela, was an extremely prolific writer best known for his periodical and newspaper work. After abandoning a theatrical career, he met with some success in the world of periodical publishing as an editor and writer in addition to his work as a novelist. In 1875, he created the first Spanish newsletter and literary agency in Madrid. He published some of his novels serially in periodicals (“folletín”), a typical practice in popular literature at the time (Cambridge Companion to the Spanish Novel, pp. 66-67). He also experimented with innovative methods such as using a stenographer instead of a scribe to record his dictation. He used this method with the present work, one of the last such texts Nombela wrote. He used the telegraph to supply outlying publications with the latest news and articles from Madrid before this practice became commonplace. During his time, he was one of the few Spanish authors to make a living exclusively by writing. See: Ma. de los Ángeles Ayala Aracil,Impresiones y recuerdos de Julio Nombela in Anales de Literatura Española (2001), No. 14, pp. 11-28. Paul Patrick Rogers, “Grub Street in Spain” in Hispania, 25:1 (Feb., 1942), pp. 39-48.

      The graphic plates are signed either “Urrabieta” or “Urra” and bear publisher Manini’s cypher. About half the plates, as noted, are printed in a rich sepia tone with an unusual smooth, satiny finish. The artist is Vicente Urrabieta Ortíz (ca. 1813?-d. Paris, 1879), Spanish draughtsman, engraver and lithographer, a pupil of Inocencio Borghini (1799-1867), later associated with the lithographic establishments of Juan José Martínez and Santos González in Madrid. He worked for Spanish illustrated magazines such as Semanario pintoresco español and El artista and illustrated many books of all types. His Pablo de Segovia (Paris, 1882) is considered a landmark in pen-drawn book illustration. These very precise, well-executed plates feature unusual California iconography, including a lurid scene of Joaquín Murieta’s head on a pole, ensconced in a wire cage and being viewed by the populace.

($600-1,200)

 

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