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52. MARRYAT, Frank [Samuel Francis] (1826-1855). Mountains and
Molehills; or, Recollections of a Burnt Journal...with Illustrations
by the Author. London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1855.
x  443 pp., engraved illustrated title, 8 tinted lithographic
plates drawn on stone by Messrs. Hanhart from artwork by Marryat,
18 engraved text illustrations. 8vo, early three-quarter smooth red
calf over red cloth, spine with green gilt-lettered label, restrained
gilt ornamentation, and raised bands, marbled edges. Spine a bit
dark, joints rubbed, and few spots to covers, front endpaper with
light adhesive residue where bookplate or other matter was removed, text
fine; the wonderful plates are fresh and bright. Newspaper clipping
from 1879 affixed to back flyleaves, with historical material on early
San Francisco emphasizing Vigilance Committee activities. Old ink
note on back endpaper “Standard 1879.” Laid in is Dawson’s invoice
to Beatrice Simpson Volkmann for $22.50 dated November 17, 1934.
British writer, artist, and sailor Frank Marryat must be credited
with writing one of the most entertaining, fast-moving, humorous,
and colorful descriptions of Gold Rush California. Mountains and
Molehills is one of the real showpieces of California literature.
His powers of description are utterly entrancing and can only be matched
by Bayard Taylor (q.v.) and John D. Borthwick (q.v.). Unlike reporter
Taylor, he was not an observer but a full participant in this cauldron
of chaos. Brilliantly written and illustrated, his book, along with
a handful of others, forever shaped the perception of the greatest
gold rush in world history.
——Gary F. Kurutz
Additional sources consulted: Bruce Le Roy, “Frank Marryat’s ‘Mountains and Molehills,’” The Book Club of California Quarterly News-Letter 38:3 (Summer 1973), pp. 51-62; Marguerite Eyer Wilbur, Introduction to Mountains and Molehills; or, Recollections of a Burnt Journal (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1952).