AUCTION 23

 
 

Including What “May Well Be the First Published Illustration of a Texas Cowboy” (Kelsey)

 
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621. [FISKE, M. (attributed)]. A Visit to Texas: Being the Journal of a Traveller through Those Parts Most Interesting to American Settlers. With Descriptions of Scenery, Habits, &c. &c. New York: Goodrich & Wiley, 124 Broadway, 1834 [copyright, dated 1834, in name of publishers, Goodrich & Wiley, on title verso] . [i-iii] iv, [9] 10-264, [4, “Meteorological Journal”] pp. (p. 135 misnumbered 109), 4 copper-engraved plates (see below). 12mo (18.4 x 10.6 cm), early twentieth century black buckram, title in gilt on spine. Lacking map. Unbridled ex-library copy with bookplate of Forbes Library in Northampton, Massachusetts, with red ink stamp “Withdrawn”; perforated stamp on title; library pocket at rear (also with “Withdrawn” stamp); checkout slip on lower free endpaper (indicating little interest in Texas; the copy was checked out four times from 1928 to 1958); a few repairs to losses of portions of pp. 49-52. Scattered foxing and browning (including plates). The four engraved plates of Texas scenes are the only excuse for inclusion herein. The last copy we sold (2009), complete with map and all four plates and in original cloth, went for $7,800 (hammer + premium).

Plates

[1] Mr. Neil’s Estate near Brazoria. [below neat line at right] Engd. by J. T. Hammond. Border to border: 6.7 x 9 cm. Between pp. 38 and 39.

[2] Shooting a Deer on the Prairie. Border to border: 6.7 x 9.5 cm. Between pp. 46 and 47.

[3] Lazooing a Horse on the Prairie [below neat line at right] Engd. by J. T. Hammond. Border to border: 6.7 x 9.6 cm. Between pp. 60 and 61.

[4] Road Through A Cane Break [below neat line at right] Engd. by J. T. Hammond. Border to border: 6.7 x 9.6 cm. Between pp. 192 and 193.

     First edition of a primary and early emigrant’s guide to Texas. Basic Texas Books 209. Bradford 5374. Brinley Sale 4545 (75 cents in 1881). Clark, Old South III:114. Eberstadt, Texas 162:889 (commenting on Raines description of the book as “very rare”): “An extravagant appraisement which time has not justified.” Graff 1336. Howes T145. . Kelsey, Engraved Prints of Texas, pp. 7 & 26: “A beautifully illustrated book.... The cultural amalgamation of the Hispanic and the Southern cow herding and handling traditions in Texas is well known, but one of the engravings in A Visit to Texas (Fig. 2.13) may well be the first published illustration of a Texas cowboy.” Phillips, American Sporting Books, p. 388. Rader 3547. Raines, p. 210: “A very rare book.” Sabin 19533. Streeter 1155: “A fresh and interesting picture of life in Texas at that time, interspersed with caustic comments on the Galveston Bay Company”; highly recommended by Streeter in the introduction to his section on U.S. and European Imprints Relating to Texas, p. 328: “The plates in this fresh and lively narrative are thought to be the earliest to show sporting scenes in the West.” Streeter Sale 330: “His visit was made a few months before that of Mrs. Holley and covered considerably more ground.” Taliaferro 241n. Vandale 187.

     The exquisite little copper-engraved plates accompanying this account are significant. They are assuredly among the early engravings of scenes in Texas, and among the early ones based on an eyewitness account (preceded only by Zebulon Pike). The images are diminutive, yet precisely engraved with much fascinating detail. What appear on first glance to be rather simple scenes, prove to be quite complex under magnification. The canebrake engraving is a dramatic example of the prairie primeval in which the landscape seems to overwhelm the humans. Little is known of engraver J. T. Hammond. Mantle Fielding assesses Hammond as “a good line engraver of landscapes and subject plates,” suggests a birth date of c. 1803, and notes that he worked in Philadelphia and perhaps St. Louis (p. 369).

     No one is certain who wrote this important Texas book. It has been attributed to an M. Fiske, a Col. Morris, or Langworthy. The author states he arrived in Texas at Brazoria in March, 1831, munified with scrip for 20,000 acres of Galveston Bay and Texas Land Company holdings. His first visit was to John McNeel, one of Austin’s Old Three Hundred, who had a plantation in Brazoria County. He can hardly contain his growing sense of wonder, and his description of a gigantic, moss-covered live oak (pp. 37-38) is a classic. After his visit with McNeel, his imagination is fired by his own prospects. This generally favorable opinion of Texas remains throughout the rest of his visit, except for certain negative experiences, such as a constantly contrary white mustang, and a few unpleasant encounters, including a potential threat to colonists at Anahuac from Mexican troops excited by a drunken lieutenant (pp. 131-132).

     The same charity did not extend, however, to the company from which he supposedly had purchased his land. His motivation for his trip to Texas in the first place was “to examine the condition of a large tract of land I had purchased of the Galveston Bay and Texas Land Company, and to ascertain its value to settlers from the United States, by personal observation, as well as to satisfy myself concerning the soundness of the title which I had obtained” (p. [9]). Although he had little difficulty in being convinced of the value of the land to settlers, he was frustrated and disappointed in his investigation of his land holdings. In fact, he left Texas knowing that he had been cheated and that the Company could convey no land to him. The various attacks on the Company sprinkled throughout the book are bitter, remorseless, and blunt. Clearly he intended to save his compatriots from the same troubles. In his parting shot he remarks, “On my return to N. York, I got from the Trustees of the Land Company neither remuneration nor sympathy for my fruitless expense and disappointment” (p. 261). The publication of this work caused so much difficulty that the Company employed David Woodman to write his Guide to Texas Emigrants, a refutation published the next year.

     This work is often compared to Mary Austin Holley’s Texas (1831). This author ranged farther afield than Holley, who visited only Austin’s colony, but lacked the benefit of Austin’s personal assistance, which Holley received. Unlike Holley, the author does not so overtly espouse Texas independence and also notes that Austin is jailed in Mexico (p. 262). Other authors, such as David B. Edward and Karl Postl, silently plagiarized this author.

($400-600)

Auction 23 Abstracts

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