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Monumental Pacific Railroad Survey

"An American encyclopedia of western experience"—Goetzmann


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548.     UNITED STATES. WAR DEPARTMENT. PACIFIC RAILROAD SURVEY. Reports of Explorations and Surveys, to Ascertain the Most Practicable and Economical Route for a Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. Made under the Direction of the Secretary of War, in 1853-4, According to Acts of Congress of March 3, 1853, May 31, 1854, and August 5, 1854. Washington: Beverley Tucker, A.O.P. Nicholson, & Thomas H. Ford, 1855-1860. 33d Congress, 2d Session, Senate Executive Document No. 78 (Vols. III, V, VI, and XII are 33d Congress, 2d Session, House of Representatives Document 91). 12 vols. bound in 13, 4to (30 x 25 cm), modern full leather with gilt-lettered spine labels. Profusely illustrated with 525 lithographed plates (many in color), numerous engraved text illustrations, and 89 lithographed maps, including: Map of the Territory of the United States from the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean Ordered by the Hon. Jeff’n Davis, Secretary of War to Accompany the Reports of the Explorations for a Railroad Route…Compiled from Authorized Explorations and Other Reliable Data by Lieut. G.K. Warren, Topl. Engrs. in the Office of Pacific R.R. Surveys, War Dep. under the Direction of Bvt. Maj. W.H. Emory…and of Captain A.A. Humphreys… [lower right below neat line] Engr. by Selmar Siebert; neat line to neat line: 108.5 x 119 cm; overall sheet size: 116 x 120.2 cm. Large Warren map professionally washed and backed, light browning at some folds, lower right quadrant lightly browned, a few small voids at neat lines neatly supplied in facsimile, and a few minor voids at folds. The volumes have some light to moderate foxing, staining, and chipping; folding maps with some splits at folds and with other condition problems. Vol. X is ex-library with stamps. Overall a very good set.


Vol. I: [i-v] vi-viii, [1-3] 4-134, [2, blank], [i-iii] iv-vii [1, blank], [1] 2-651 [1, blank] pp.

Vol. II: [4], [1-5] 6-128, [1-5] 6-8, [2], [9] 10-132, [1-5] 6-45 [3, blank], [i-iii] iv, [2], [1] 2-185 [1, blank], [2], [1-5] 6-50, [1-3] 4-28, [1-5] 6-22 pp., 37 lithograph plates (13 on tinted grounds), 1 colored folded map, 1 colored folded profile.

Vol. III: [2], [1-3] 4-36, [v-vii] viii-x, [i-v] vi-vii [1], [1] 2-136, [1-9] 10-77 [3, blank], [2], [1-7] 8-127 [1, blank], [i-v] vi-vii [1], [6], [1] 2-175 [1, blank] pp., 31 lithograph plates (29 on toned grounds), 2 colored folded profiles, 1 colored folded map.

Vol. IV: [4], [i-v] vi-vii [1, blank], [1] 2-193 [1, blank], [1-5] 6-17 [1, blank], [2], [1-3] 4-288, [i] ii-iv pp., 58 lithograph plates, 1 colored folded chart.

Vol. V: [16], [1-7] 8-43 [3, blank], [i-vii] viii-xvi, [2], [1] 2-370, [2], [i] ii-xiii [3, blank], [1-5] 6-15 [1, blank], [6], [1-3] 4-14 pp., 65 lithographs (25 on tinted grounds), 11 maps (3 colored, 3 colored & folded).

Vol. VI: [4], [1-3] 4-134, [2, blank], [1-5] 6-85 [3, blank], [1-7] 8-94, [97] 98-102 [2, blank], [1-9] 10-114, [4], [i] ii-iv, [1-3] 4-64, [2] pp., 50 lithograph plates (44 on tinted grounds, 2 colored).

Vol. VII: [1-13] 14-22, [2], [1] 2-42, [1-5] 6-204, [1-7] 8-28, [1-3] 4-116, [1-7] 8-37 [1, blank] pp., 51 lithograph plates (8 on tinted grounds), 2 folded colored maps.

Vol. VIII: [i-xiii] xiv-xlvii, [1-4] 5-757 [3, blank] pp., 42 lithograph plates (skips plate xxix).

Vol. IX: [i-xiii] xiv-lvi, [1] 2-1055 [1, blank] pp.

Vol. X: [1-13] 14-16, [i-v] vi-xiv, [1]-2, [1] 2-400, [1-7] 8-27 [1, blank], [1-11] 12-40, [37] 38-39, 40-64, [1-9] 10-24, [8], [1-2] 3-97 [3, blank], [1-9] 10-13 [1, blank] pp., 120 lithograph plates (17 colored).

Vol. XI: [1-11] 12-120, [i-iii] iv pp., 13 lithograph plates (5 folded), 36 maps (32 folded).

Vol. XII, pt 1: [5-17]-18, [4], [19] 20-358, [1-3] 4-41 [1, blank] pp., 70 lithograph plates on tinted grounds (1 folded), 3 folded maps (1 colored).

Vol. XII, pt 2: [1-13] 14-76, [2, blank], [i-vii] viii, [2], [1] 2-399 [1, blank] pp., 53 lithograph plates (8 colored).

     First edition of the most important report on the United States West to appear up until that time. A distinctly different version of the Pacific Railroad Surveys came out in 1855 (3 octavo volumes with an extra folio of maps). John L. Allen, “Patterns of Promise: Mapping the Plains and the Prairies, 1800-1860,” pp. 57-60). “The Warren map of 1857 is the capstone of western cartography before the Civil War…the best map of the plains before 1860…signifies the culmination of American efforts to map the plains during the first decades of the nineteenth century.” Cohen, Mapping the West pp. 172-175 (Warren map illustrated on p. 175): “Warren’s masterpiece was a synthesis of the most reliable information available…. Where geographical information was lacking, he simply left the area blank.” Howes P3.

     Miles & Reese, The Illustrating Traveler: “The Pacific Railroad Survey is an extraordinary cornucopia of maps and views, the latter rendered in woodcut, steel engraving, and tinted and colored lithographs. The plates cover a broad spectrum of subjects from general views to specific geological illustration…. The vast scale of the Railroad Survey, publishing thousands of images in tens of thousands of copies, was a far cry from the meager illustrations of the first generation of American surveys.” Plains & Rockies IV:262-267: “First adequate topographic treatment of the entire West based on field reconnaissance surveys.” Rittenhouse 442. Rumsey 6938. Schwartz & Ehrenberg, p. 287: “Warren’s fundamental master map of the Trans-Mississippi West…represents the first adequate topographic treatment of the entire West based on field reconnaissance surveys…. Warren’s work remained the standard map of the West for twenty-five years.” Wheat, Transmississippi West 822-824, 843-846, 852-853, 864-867, 874-875, 877-882, 936 (23 entries in all).

     Goetzmann, Army Exploration in the American West 1803-1863, pp. 313-316, etc.:

The most important achievement of the surveys was Lt. G.K. Warren’s map of the trans-Mississippi West. An event comparable in importance to the publication of Lewis and Clark’s first reports, Warren’s map marked the culmination of six decades of effort to comprehend the outlines of western geography. Though there were still vast areas marked unexplored on its surface and not all of the features were correctly laid down. Warren’s map, nevertheless, was a landmark in American cartography…. Compared to Warren’s map, all previous works of a general nature on the trans-Mississippi West are mere sketches…. The map was of fundamental importance in the progress of geographical knowledge in the United States.

     Goetzmann, Army Exploration in the American West 1803-1863, pp. 333-337, etc.:

The series of 147 lithographs that illustrated the volumes of the Reports [was] a kind of knowledge that particularly epitomized the half-scientific, half-literary approach to natural history that was so typical of the Humboldtean scientific tradition. First premises founded in semireligious aprioristic assumptions lay always just below the surface of those sublime representations of the western landscape, stretching over the horizon toward infinity. The magnificent set of lithographs were the work of eleven artists: R.H. Kern, John M. Stanley, F.W. von Egloffstein, H.B. Möllhausen, Lt. Joseph Tidball, Albert H. Campbell, Charles Koppel, W.P. Blake, John Young, Gustave Sohon, and Dr. Thomas Cooper….

There was a conflict for most of the artists between the desire to express the impressions of grandeur and sublimity that the fantastic forms of the new domain inevitably presented. Most of the artists were stunned by the variety and profusion of everything they saw…. One of Stanley’s best executed drawings showed a huge herd of buffalo stretching for miles and miles over the rolling Dakota landscape. It was one of the best scenes of a buffalo herd ever done, and the animals and rolling contours were used to indicate scale and distance…. The best landscape work was done by Von Egloffstein, whose [work] was a perfect exploitation of the tension between geographical accuracy and the ‘stunned imagination’…. Along with the landscapes the artists included scenes with the figures and the structures of civilization. Stanley drew numerous scenes of parleys with the northern Indians, and he also managed to take some of the first daguerreotypes of the Rocky Mountain peoples…. Other artists like Blake and Koppel sketched southwestern scenes; Mojaves helping the wagon train cross the Colorado…the town of Los Angeles as it looked in 1853 [first printed view]…. All of these, besides portraying the landscape, provided a kind of historical record. They arrested the frantic motion of Manifest Destiny for a brief moment and caught, as if on a single slide, all the aspects of far-western settlement in 1853. Nature was overpowering, the sublime reality. The progress of man was as a figure in the foreground, just beginning to turn the tide in favor of the forces of civilization. That was what the pictures showed, and that was what the Pacific railroad surveys were all about. The Pacific Railroad Reports were thus an American encyclopedia of western experience.

     Handbook of Texas Online: Whipple Expedition:

The expedition’s maps contributed to the production of a map in which the contours of the trans-Mississippi West clearly emerged for the first time. The Pacific Railroad surveys served as ‘great graduate schools’ for a generation of American scientists, their specimens swelled the collections of the Smithsonian Institution, and the scientific reports are considered a ‘glorious chapter’ in the history of American science. For historians of the Southwest the detailed, illustrated reports of the Whipple expedition, and the diaries kept by some of its members, remain fascinating archives, conveying a rich history of a region long since changed and of a way of life forever lost.

The wealth of plates and maps focuses more on California and the other Western states than Texas. However, many of the maps relate to Texas, or include parts of Texas. Ron Tyler in his preliminary survey of nineteenth-century Texas lithographs identified over twenty lithographs relating to Texas in the set, including Canadian River Near Camp 38 and Comanche Camp on Shady Creek (both toned lithographs by Sarony, Major & Knapp after Heinrich Baldwin Möllhausen; see Item 424 herein). See also Tyler’s Prints of the American West, pp. 68, 87-91, 93-95, 105-106, 159 (several illustrations): “One illustration in W.P. Blake’s report on the geology of the Great Basin, volume five in the Pacific Railroad Reports, contains a view of Placer Mining by the Hydraulic Method, Michigan City [California] that is acknowledged to have been printed from a daguerreotype.”


Sold. Hammer: $6,000.00; Price Realized: $7,200.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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