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

Lots 36, 36A & 36B

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Item 36. Farnham’s Travels in the Californias, with a map locating the missions—“An important overview of Mexican California at a time of tremendous political instability and heightened covetousness by the expansionist-minded United States” (Kurutz).

36. FARNHAM, Thomas J[efferson] (1804-1848). Travels in the Californias, and Scenes in the Pacific Ocean. New York: Saxton & Miles, 1844. 416 pp., engraved frontispiece, folding cerographic map: Map of the Californias by T. J. Farnham...Entered According to Act of Congress in the Year 1845... (35.2 x 27.5 cm; 13-7/8 x 10-3/4 inches). 8vo, original blue blindstamped cloth, spine gilt-lettered. Spine a bit faded, extremities just a trifle worn, a few occasional inconsequential to mild foxmarks (mainly confined to frontispiece and endsheets), last eight leaves with light staining at very edges of blank margins, closed 8-cm tear in folding map at juncture of map with book block. Withal, this is a near fine to fine copy of a book very difficult to find in collector’s condition (we think it about as fine a copy as one might hope to acquire). Preserved in a half green levant morocco slipcase. We formerly thought this book to be uncommon, but experience in seeking a copy of this title for Mr. Volkmann during the past few years has convinced us that Farnham’s book is now very rare. Only five copies of this book have appeared at auction going back to 1975. The last copy to appear at auction was in 1994 (the Henry H. Clifford copy), and that copy was purchased by the Bancroft Library.
First edition. American Imprints 44:3320. Barrett, Baja California 829: “One chapter on Baja California.” Cowan I, p. 83. Cowan II, p. 203. Edwards, Enduring Desert, pp. 80-81. Forbes, Hawaiian National Bibliography 1464 (noting that the Hawaiian Mission Children’s Society Library in Honolulu holds a copy in parts): “An account of Farnham’s travels in the American West and including his visit to the Hawaiian Islands.... Although the author modestly does not mention it, the movement to obtain a formal recognition of the independence the Hawaiian kingdom was inaugurated in 1840 and grew out of Farnham’s visit, during which time he ‘gained entry into the society and to some extent into the confidence of the king and chiefs and their advisor William Richards’ (Kuykendall, pp. 187-188).” Graff 1293: “The success of Farnham’s earlier work encouraged him to write this sequel. It seems to have been issued first in four parts.” Holliday 360. Howes F49. Huntington Library, Zamorano 80...Exhibition of Famous and Notorious California Classics 36. Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 233n (citing the later editions, which contain added material relating to the California Gold Rush). Plains & Rockies IV:107:1.
Streeter Sale 2500: “The map is most interesting, recording as it does Farnham’s route given in his previous volume and Dr. Lyman’s route from Santa Fe to California.—TWS.” Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 73n; Mapping the Transmississippi West 494 (map illustrated in vol. II, opp. p. 189) & vol. II, pp. 192-93: “Farnham’s ‘Map of the Californias,’ though copyrighted in 1845, was—according to Wagner-Camp 107—included in his Travels in the Californias, and Scenes in the Pacific Ocean of 1844 (part 4, however, bearing the date 1845). Farnham claimed to have talked with the trapper Ewing Young, and he makes use of a letter from Dr. (John H.) Lyman of Buffalo, New York [see Rittenhouse 508].... The proposed route followed down to the Bay, which it skirted on the south, and finally arrived at the settlement of Yerba Buena, where San Francisco now stands. Farnham himself actually traveled this route only to Bear River, when enroute to Oregon in 1839. The rest is speculative. Farnham also shows ‘Dr. Lyman’s Route’ by the Old Spanish Trail (called here Road to New Mexico) from Santa Fe to the Pueblo de los Angeles. The far northeast corner of the map shows a faint hint of Frémont’s 1843 delineation”; Maps of the California Gold Region 20n (citing the appearance of the tinted version in Morse & Breese’s 1845 North American Atlas): “The twenty-one missions of Upper California are shown by small symbols denoting churches, and Branciforte (Santa Cruz) is denoted as the ‘Ville de Francfort.’” Zamorano 80 #36.
Jack Rittenhouse in his Santa Fe Trail bibliography speculated that Farnham may have been an agent for the U.S. government (see Rittenhouse 201, citing Farnham’s Travels in the Great Western Prairies). The frontispiece of a Native American of California is a reworking of an image by English artist Smyth that first appeared in Beechey (q.v.); however, Smyth’s modestly attired peasant here has been dramatically transformed to the Choris mode. ($10,000-20,000)


Item 36A. One of the many “Pictorial Editions” of Farnham, with added material on the Conquest of California and routes to California.

36A. FARNHAM, Thomas J[efferson]. Pictorial Edition!!! Life, Adventures, and Travels in California...to Which Are Added the Conquest of California, Travels in Oregon, and History of the Gold Regions. New York: Cornish, Lamport & Co., 267 Pearl-Street., 1851. iv [5]-475 [1, engraving of The Great Seal of the State of California] 479-514 pp. (complete), frontispiece, 52 text illustrations (all full-page). Thick 8vo, original black embossed cloth (rebacked in plain black cloth, new paper spine label and endpapers), marbled edges. A very good copy. Contemporary ink ownership inscription and later ink stamp on front flyleaf.
Pictorial Edition” with added illustrations and additional material (history of the conquest of California; California constitution; summary account of the author’s travels in Oregon; Gregory’s Guide for California Travellers via the Isthmus of Panama). The “Pictorial” edition first came out in 1849, and was quickly followed by several reprints and variants. The present variant is not recorded in the bibliographies, but appears to be an intermediate state between Kurutz (The California Gold Rush) 233c and 233d (with publisher’s address shown as above and hiatus in pagination between pages 476 and 479, although all of the text called for is present). The subsequent editions were “produced to take advantage of the public’s excited curiosity about California during the period 1849-1855...embellished with a remarkable array of printer’s cuts that were taken from stock and given more or less relevant captions. ‘The Old Trapper’ (opposite page 320)...more nearly resembles Robin Hood”—Plains & Rockies IV:107 (the present book is similar to Plains & Rockies IV:107:7 with slight variations). ($150-300)


Detail, cover of Item 36B.

36B. FARNHAM, Thomas J[efferson]. Pictorial Edition!! Life, Adventures, and Travels in California...to Which Are Added the Conquest of California, Travels in Oregon. New York: Sheldon, Blakeman & Co., 1857. iv [5]-448 [451]-466 [467]-468 pp. (complete), frontispiece, 43 text illustrations (all full-page). Thick 8vo, original brown blindstamped cloth with embossed gilt and red design with bears on upper and lower covers, spine gilt-decorated. Moderate shelf wear, corners bumped and frayed, mild to moderate foxing (mainly confined to preliminary and terminal leaves), generally a very good, tight copy in an unusual binding. Front pastedown with bookplate of Jennie A. Crocker and contemporary ink ownership stamp of N. Poland of San Francisco on front free endpaper.
Yet another version of the oft-reprinted Pictorial Edition. ($100-200)


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Item 36. Engraving reworked in Choris’s style from an image by English artist William Smyth.

Thomas Jefferson Farnham, an experienced traveler and entertaining writer, presented an important overview of Mexican California at a time of tremendous political instability and heightened covetousness by the expansionist-minded United States. Earlier, he had traveled to Oregon and to the Sandwich Islands before arriving in California in April 1841. The New England adventurer and lawyer toured the principal settlements of Upper California and wrote in the most glowing terms of its potential. Farnham saw in California a verdant land that was ripe for the plucking, a land waiting to be developed by a go-ahead, industrious people. His words on the beauty and prospects of California would have pleased the railroad boomers of the 1880s:
“California is an incomparable wilderness. This is a wilderness of groves and lawns, broken by deep and rich ravines, separated from each other by broad and wild wastes. Along the ocean is a world of vegetable beauty; on the sides of the mountains are the mightiest trees of the earth; on the heights are the eternal snows, lighted by volcanic fires” (p. 117). Later he wrote, “It may be confidently asserted that no country in the world possesses so fine a climate coupled with so productive a soil as the sea board portion of the Californias” (p. 344).
In contrast to California’s natural gifts, Farnham had much less enthusiasm for its residents noting that “its miserable people live unconscious of these things.” He reinforced Dana’s (q.v.) highly prejudicial stereotype of a sleepy, mañana-oriented people in a state of eternal bliss who failed to grasp the enormous opportunity of California.
Farnham, as so many other writers of his era, diluted much of his text with a generalized, lackluster history of the Californias based on earlier, well-known accounts. However, when writing about what he actually saw, this gifted observer excelled. He presented a superb synopsis of California’s geography, climate, cattle, crops, missions, presidios, harbors, and Indians. Sifting through his acrid contempt of the Hispanics, his reading audience gained an interesting glimpse of the Californio economy, amusements, and government. He predicted that “the grape will undoubtedly be the great staple product of the Californias.” Such effusive pictures of this Eden-like land no doubt attracted future waves of settlers from the United States.
Much of Farnham’s negative view of the Californios was tainted by poor timing. Leaving Hawaii on board the Don Quixote, he arrived in Monterey on April 18, 1840, at a time when the province was in a state of political turmoil culminating in what became known as the “Graham Affair.” He immediately met U.S. counsel Thomas Oliver Larkin and learned that over 150 Americans and Britons were “starving and thirsting in the prisons of the town, and destined to be sacrifice to Spanish malignity.” California Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado, he discovered, had imprisoned Isaac Graham and his band of roughnecks, charging them with plotting to overthrow the government. Farnham intervened and claimed credit for having gained the release of many of these prisoners. This direct experience with the local government, combined with his inherent New England suspicion of things Hispanic, poisoned his view of the Californios. He condemned them in the strongest possible terms using phrases like “worthless rabble of bastards” and “a blight of idiocy.”
Years later, when Bancroft consulted Farnham’s book in writing his History of California, the historian doubted his account of the Graham Affair and did not much care for Farnham’s opinions, especially when it came to the Californios. Bancroft in his Pioneer Register wrote, “Farnham was a lawyer of some ability, and a writer of somewhat fertile imagination. It must suffice to say that in all those parts resting on his own observation it is worthless trash, and in all that relates to the Californian people a tissue of falsehoods.” In the narrative text in his History of California, Bancroft said that Farnham had a “hatred and contempt for all that was Californian.” Bancroft did, however, make one concession by complimenting him on his writing saying that he had “an attractive way of expressing his ideas.”
With the discovery of gold in 1848, Farnham’s work assumed even more popularity and new and expanded pictorial editions were published. Farnham died in San Francisco in 1848. He was survived by his wife, Eliza, and their three children. Eliza, a pioneer feminist, went on to become an even more famous person of letters, writing one of the most important books of the Gold Rush and 1850s, California Indoors and Out (1856).

——Gary F. Kurutz

Additional sources consulted: Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of California (San Francisco: The History Company, 1886), vol. 4, pp. 25, 156-57 and vol. 3, p. 734; Biographical Files, California State Library; Robert Glass Cleland, A History of California: The American Period (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1939), pp. 98-99.



Item 36. Cerographic map locating the twenty-one missions of Upper California—“The map is most interesting, recording...Farnham’s route given in his previous volume and Dr. Lyman’s route from Santa Fe to California”


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