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Auction 12: The Zamorano 80 Collection of Daniel G. Volkmann Jr.

Lots 16 & 16A

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Item 16. Carson’s Early Recollections of the Mines—the first book printed in Stockton and a rare, early Gold Rush account with an important map.

16. CARSON, James H. (18??-1853). Early Recollections of the Mines, and a Description of the Great Tulare Valley. By J. H. Carson, Esq. the Discoverer of Carson’s Creek, and One of the Pioneers of the West. Stockton: Published to Accompany the Steamer Edition of the “San Joaquin Republican”, 1852. 64 pp., foldout lithographic map: Map of the Southern Mines by C[harles] D[rayton] Gibbes. 1852. Lith. of Quirot & Co. corner Califa. & Mongy. Sts. S.F. (20.5 x 13.5 cm; 8 x 5-1/4 inches). 8vo, original yellow printed wrappers, cover title within rules (inside front wrap and recto of lower wrap with ads, including engraved illustrations of the New York Hotel in Stockton and Adams & Co.’s Express and Banking Offices). Wrappers neatly rebacked with matching paper, top margin of upper wrapper reinforced with glassine tape, small piece of lower blank corner of upper wrapper torn away, light wear and minor chipping to fragile wraps, text and wraps creased at center, overall a very good and desirable copy with splendid provenance, preserved in chemise and half burgundy morocco over burgundy cloth slipcase. The Huntington–Edward Eberstadt & Sons–Thomas W. Streeter–Henry H. Clifford copy, with Streeter’s distinctive pencil notes in text (setting forth variations between this book edition and the newspaper appearance). Chemise with Streeter’s note documenting that this copy was a Huntington duplicate for which he paid $470. Very rare, especially in the wrappers.
First edition in book form; first published in the San Joaquin Republican earlier the same year. Baird, California’s Pictorial Letter Sheets 150 (citing the map in its letter sheet appearance). Bennett, American Book Collecting, pp. 110-11. Cowan I, p. 43. Cowan II, p. 107. Graff 604. Greenwood 321: “The first book printed in Stockton.” Gudde, California Gold Camps, p. 399: “Gibbes’ maps are historically important, though they are not always entirely accurate”; California Place Names, p. 386: “Important source for the names of mining settlements.” Holliday 178. Howell 50, California 351. Howes C183: “Only a few copies known.” Huntington Library, Zamorano 80...Exhibition of Famous and Notorious California Classics 16. Jones 1273. Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 119a. Libros Californianos (Wagner list), p. 26. Quebedeaux, Prime Sources of California and Nevada Local History 102 (citing the appearance of Gibbes’s map in the 1852 Stockton directory): “Gibbes’ Map of the Southern Mines is one of the most important of all the maps of the California gold region.” Rocq 15744. Streeter Sale 2703 (this copy): “Gives a fresh, first-hand account of the beginnings of the California gold rush.... One of the very few early sketches on the San Joaquin Valley.” Vail, Gold Fever, p. 17. Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 36; Maps of the California Gold Region 218. Zamorano 80 #16 (Leslie E. Bliss): “The author’s glowing predictions of the future for the Tulare or San Joaquin Valley have in general been surpassed by the great development of the present.” See also Bancroft, California, vol. 6, pp. 96-97.
“[Charles Drayton Gibbes’s] maps of [1852] (portraying...the State and the Southern Mines) were to become landmarks in California’s cartographical history.... In 1852 the only maps of importance were those of Charles Drayton Gibbes, whose [California] map of 1851 has been mentioned [Wheat, Maps of the California Gold Region 192 & p. xxxi]. [Gibbes] had a long career in California as surveyor, cartographer, geographer and scientist. His map of the Southern Mines served to illustrate James H. Carson’s Early Recollections of the Mines [and] gives in considerable detail the roads, trails, rivers and towns from ‘Fort Washington’ on the San Joaquin north to Jackson. Mariposa has now appeared, together with Agua Fria, Mt. Ophir, Big Oak Flat, Chinese D[iggings], Columbia, Shaw’s Flat, Tuttle T[own], Carson’s Hill, Knight’s [Ferry], San Antonio and Mokel [Mokelumne] Hill” (Wheat, Maps of the California Gold Region, pp. xxxi-xxxii). This map also appeared in the 1852 Stockton Directory (Quebedeaux 102) and as a California pictorial letter sheet (Baird 150). ($40,000-80,000)

16A. CARSON, James H. Recollections of the California Mines: An Account of the Early Discoveries of Gold, with Anecdotes and Sketches of California and Miners’ Life, and a Description of the Great Tulare Valley.... With a Foreword by Joseph A. Sullivan. Oakland: [Printed by Saul & Lillian Marks at the Plantin Press, Los Angeles] for Biobooks, 1950. iii-ix [3] 113 [1, colophon] pp. (complete), 5 wood engravings by Henry Shire, folding facsimile of Gibbes’s Map of the Southern Mines, large folding map (facsimile of Gibbes’s 1850 Map of the San Joaquin River), illustrated endpapers. 8vo, original maroon cloth over tan cloth boards. Fine.
Limited edition (750 copies), reprinted from the 1852 Stockton edition, with added notes by Sullivan. Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 119c. Rocq 15746. ($40-80)


James H. Carson, an artillery sergeant stationed at Monterey at the time of the gold discovery, produced one of the great books of California history and the Gold Rush. He provided some of the most lively, colorful, and sardonic accounts of those early Midas-like days when the precious yellow metal could be found with relative ease. Early Recollections of the Mines has the further distinction of being the first book printed in Stockton and one of the earliest works of an original nature published in California. Expressing himself with a gifted and facile pen, the onetime Army sergeant saw as well as anyone the sober side of hunting for gold. But he softened the tales of toil and risk with humor and self-deprecation. He loaded his text with choice anecdotes, amazing stories, and brilliant descriptions of life in the golden land.
The following incident illustrates his wonderful talent with words. Initially skeptical of the fantastic discovery stories he was hearing, Carson became a believer when he saw a friend open a bag filled with pieces of gold ranging in size from “a pea to hen’s eggs” all picked out with a knife. Overcome, Carson recalled his shivering reaction: “A frenzy seized my soul: unbidden, my legs performed some entirely new movements of polka steps. Piles of gold rose up before me at every step; castles of marble dazzling the eye with their rich appliances; thousands of slaves, bowing to my beck and call; myriads of fair virgins contending with each for my love, were among the fancies of my fevered imagination. In short, I had a very violent attack of Gold Fever.” This is the best description in Gold Rush literature of the metal-induced ague. It should be pointed out that Carson, with his partners, claimed to have made a discovery in Calaveras County near Angels Camp that netted each partner 180 ounces in just ten days. Appropriately, the rich find carried the name Carson’s Creek.
The second edition of his text and the first in book form is divided into three sections. The first section covers “Recollections of the California Mines” and features his own adventures as well as presenting a vivid history of the discovery and the initial rush. He followed this up with another segment entitled “Anecdotes and Sketches Illustrative of California, and Miner’s Life.” It touches on sailor diggers, a dandy in the mines, Judge Lynch, lawyers’ fees, the first steamer, gambling, ranchos, California Indians, African Americans, Jews, and the first legislature. Carson’s account of a miner’s funeral and the sudden discovery of gold at the burial site is one of the gems of Gold Rush writing. The book concludes with “A Description of the Great Tulare Valley” which consists of a resume of the valley’s soil, rivers, lakes, agricultural and mineral resources, wild horses, and irrigation.
The wrapper title states this was the second edition and its history is somewhat complex. Carson originally published his narrative in various issues of George Kerr’s San Joaquín Republican of Stockton. He led off with “Recollections of the Mines” that appeared in ten installments of the Republican from January 17 to February 14, 1852. Enthusiastically received, Carson then contributed his description of the Tulare Valley that was published in ten installments from February 25 to March 27, 1852. The same March 27 issue of the Republican included an announcement for the publication of Carson’s Early Recollections of the Mines in a separate form. It consisted of the Argonaut’s articles printed on three newspaper-size sheets. This “first edition” was an enormous success and sold out in three days. Carson then proceeded to complete a third series of thirteen articles called “Life in California.” The newspaper published these from March 31 to May 29, 1852. On May 22, 1852, the Republican announced a new and revised edition, and on September 8 promoted the publication of 3,000 copies of the second edition. The paper stated it would be “wrapped in a neat cover for transmission to the Atlantic States.” In printing the text in book format, however, the publisher did not completely replicate the newspaper articles or the first edition but deleted whole sections, reduced some, rearranged others, and made changes in wording. The second edition does not include, for example, Carson’s extensive material on Native Americans or his criticisms of California government. The publisher did, however, add a portion of the “Life in California” series and Charles Drayton Gibbes’s superb 1852 Map of the Southern Mines.
Such a valuable text was a natural for reprinting. In 1931, William Abbatt reprinted the second edition under the title “Life in California” as Extra Number 165 of his The Magazine of History with Notes and Queries. Joseph A. Sullivan of Biobooks likewise reprinted the second edition text in 1950 in an edition of 750 copies beautifully printed by The Plantin Press of Los Angeles. In 1991, Great West Books of Lafayette, California published Bright Gem of the Western Seas, edited by Peter H. Browning. It reprints the original newspaper text, and therefore contains much more material than the second edition.

——Gary F. Kurutz

Additional sources consulted: Douglas W. J. Pepin, “James H. Carson’s Early Recollections of the Mines,” The Book Club of California Quarterly News-Letter 62:3 (Summer 1997), pp. 67-78.

Item 16. One of the most important and rare Gold Rush maps, published in Carson’s Early Recollections of the Mines (Stockton, 1852).

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