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

Lots 26, 26A, 26B & 26C

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Item 26. Dana’s Two Years before the Mast—“The best American description of Hispanic California’s pastoral society and the flourishing hide and tallow trade that was the bedrock of its rancho economy [and] the first classic of American literature to feature California” (Kurutz).

26. [DANA, Richard Henry, Jr. (1815-1882)]. Two Years before the Mast: A Personal Narrative of Life at Sea. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1840. 483 pp. 16mo, original tan muslin printed in black. Mild to moderate foxing to exterior and interior, binding somewhat worn (cloth split at joints, some fraying to binding, a few very small losses to cloth at lower spine, but no loss of spine lettering), overall a very good copy of a fragile book, with contemporary ink ownership inscription of F. C. Lowell. Preserved in a tan cloth slipcase. Typed letter from Maggs Bros. to Leon Gelber at Gelber Lilienthal dated July 14, 1941: “Many thanks for your letter of July 1st. It rather looks as if the DANA has been lost through enemy action, as we lost one or two parcels about the same date.... Evidently our letter to Mr. Dawson has also gone to Davy Jones’ locker....”
First edition of author’s first book, first issue (copyright notice—letter “i” in “in” dotted, unbroken running head on p. 9), BAL binding 2 (121 titles from Family Library series). Adams, Herd 642: “The book contains much material on the hide and tallow industry of California, which was the reason for the cattle industry of that state in its early years.... The first state is very difficult to come by.” American Imprints 40:1837. BAL 4434. Bennett, American Book Collecting, pp. 86-87. Cowan I, p. 62. Cowan II, p. 156. Forbes, Hawaiian National Bibliography 1196. Graff 998. Grolier American Hundred 46. Hill, pp. 78-79: “Invaluable for its descriptions of California ranching and social life in Mexican times, including San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Monterey.” Holliday 262. Howell 50, California 53. Howes D49. Huntington Library, Zamorano 80...Exhibition of Famous and Notorious California Classics 26. Johnson, High Spots of American Literature, pp. 26-27. LC, California Centennial 173. Libros Californianos, pp. 38-40 (Powell commentary); p. 65 (Hanna list). Merrill, Aristocrats of the Cow Country, p. 8. Powell, California Classics, pp. 151-62; Land of Fact 8: “The classic of coastal California, describing the land in language so clear and precise that it is seen in perfect register. Its creation by a young Bostonian, who never wrote anything else to approach it, is one of those miracles that cannot be foretold or accounted for.” Reese, Six Score 28: “This classic of American literature contains the best account of the early hide trade of California.” Streeter Sale 2943. Walker, A Literary History of Southern California, pp. 22-33: “The most influential report of California life to appear before the American conquest”; San Francisco’s Literary Frontier, pp. 17-18. Zamorano 80 #26. ($2,500-5,000)

Dana signature from Item 26A.

26A. DANA, Richard Henry, Jr. Two Years before the Mast.... New Edition, with Subsequent Matter by the Author. Boston: Fields, Osgood & Co., 1869. vii [1] 470 pp., text engraving. 12mo, original plum cloth. Binding slightly faded and stained, spine tips lightly frayed, upper hinge cracked, related newspaper clipping affixed to front pastedown, text lightly browned. Contemporary pencil inscription on front flyleaf: “W. E. Sedgwick Jr. From his Governor[?] Sept. 15, 1869.” Fragment of letter in ink affixed to front blank: “With true affection, Your faithful kinsman, Rich Henry Dana/Wm. Ellery Sedgwick, Esq.” Penciled on title is: “Elly boy, from Pops. Stockbridge. Sept. 15, 1869.” The Henry H. Clifford copy.
First expanded edition, with new preface, added chapter, and numerous corrections. BAL 4471. Cowan I, p. 62. Cowan II, p. 156n. Hill, p. 79. Howell 50, California 1512: “Described by Dana as the first ‘author’s edition’ containing an account of his second visit to California twenty-four years after the first, with additional information on the events described in the original account.” Powell, Land of Fact 8n: “Dana returned to the coast in 1869 for a view of what he had first seen in the 1820s. A new edition holds his supplemental chapter.” ($300-600)

26B. DANA, Richard Henry, Jr. Two Years before the Mast.... New York: [Edwin and Robert Grabhorn for] Random House, 1936. [2] xiii [1] 464 [1, colophon] pp., portrait of Dana, 14 plates (portraits, views, facsimiles). Large, thick 8vo, original cream leather over tan linen, spine lettered in brown. Very fine in chipped d.j.
Limited edition. Grabhorn (1915-1940) #257. Introduction by James D. Hart. ($100-200)

26C. DANA, Richard Henry, Jr. Two Years before the Mast.... With an Introduction by William McFee. New York: Limited Editions Club, 1947. 351 [1, colophon, signed and numbered] pp., colored woodcuts by Hans Mueller. Large 8vo, original white cloth, navy blue gilt leather label, top edges stained blue. Very fine in publisher’s slipcase. Bookplate of Dr. Roger K. Larson on front pastedown.
Limited edition. Striking illustrations by German woodcut and engraving master Hans Mueller (1888-1962). ($50-150)


James D. Hart in his American Images of Spanish California rightly praised Richard Henry Dana for creating “the best account of California before the conquest.” Dana certainly produced the best American description of Hispanic California’s pastoral society and the flourishing hide and tallow trade that was the bedrock of its rancho economy. Two Years before the Mast is the first best-seller and the first classic of American literature to feature California.
Belonging to a distinguished New England family, Dana, while a sophomore at Harvard, came down with measles and headed to sea to restore his health. He shipped on the brig Pilgrim as a common seaman working for the well-known New England merchant firm of Bryant, Sturgis and Company. During his sojourn along the California coast from January 1835 to May 1836, he took careful note of what he saw and recorded it with a singular accuracy and directness. Unlike his fellow sailors and employers, Dana was an enthusiastic tourist, taking long horseback rides through the California countryside, visiting prominent Californio families and enjoying the easy hospitality of their spacious haciendas, and, of course, taking in the picturesque missions. His account of Alfred Robinson’s wedding to Anna María de la Guerra in Santa Barbara is memorable for its encapsulation of California’s Hidalgo culture. This New Englander, however, displayed typical Yankee prejudice against his hosts calling the Californios an “idle thriftless people.” At the same time, he enthusiastically described the potential of California, writing: “In the hands of an enterprising people, what a country this might be!”
Although intended to call attention to the cruel conditions endured by the typical sailor, Two Years before the Mast achieved immediate popularity because of its realistic descriptions of life at sea and glowing picture of California. Within a year, a pirated edition appeared in England, and shortly thereafter, Dutch, German, and French translations rolled off the presses. During its first decade over 20,000 copies were sold. Noted maritime historian John Haskell Kemble in the introduction for the Ward Ritchie Press edition (1964) estimated that there have been at least 91 U.S. and 40 English editions ranging from elegant fine press productions to cheap paperbacks distributed to high school literature classes. It is still in print today. The success of Dana’s book inspired fellow Yankee Alfred Robinson to publish his own experiences in his 1846 classic Life in California (q.v.) and it influenced other writers such as Gertrude Atherton (q.v.) in their efforts to describe California during the “Days of the Dons.”

——Gary F. Kurutz

Item 26B. Richard Henry Dana Jr. (1815-1882)

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