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

Lots 56 & 56A

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Item 56. John Muir’s The Mountains of California—“As the pressure of land use and development increases in the nation’s most populous state, The Mountains of California will become increasingly meaningful and precious. It is one man’s testament to the glory of the Sierra Nevada, that radiant Range of Light. By the act of reading, book and range become ours. Such is the power of a classic” (Powell).

56. MUIR, John (1838-1914). The Mountains of California. New York: Century Co., 1894. [iii]-xiii [3] 381 pp. (complete, including frontispiece), numerous halftone illustrations (some full-page), 2 maps. 12mo, original tan pictorial cloth decorated in gilt and green, gilt-lettering on spine and upper cover, t.e.g. Light shelf wear, a few small red spots to covers, spine darkened, text edges moderately foxed, mild intermittent foxing to text (especially near endpapers), a few pencil notations to front free endpapers, overall a very good copy.
First edition, first issue, of author’s first major book. BAL 14746: “The copies first printed, not necessarily the copies first circulated, have folio I present on the first page of text.” Cowan II, p. 446. Currey & Kruska, Yosemite 258. Holliday 800. Howell 50, California 658: “This first book of one of the greatest and most influential environmentalists is considered by many to be his finest.” Howes M880. Huntington Library, Zamorano 80...Exhibition of Famous and Notorious California Classics 56. Kimes & Kimes, Muir 189. Neate, Mountaineering and Its Literature 545. Norris 2627. Powell, California Classics, pp. 142-50; Land of Fact 19: “Muir’s mountains are the Sierra Nevada he called the Range of Light. His book also includes chapters on the Central Valley, the foothills, passes, glaciers, trees, and birds, all in the virile prose of this tough Scot, who could walk all day on bread and cold tea.” Walker, San Francisco’s Literary Frontier, pp. 290-93. Zamorano 80 #56. ($300-600)


56A. MUIR, John. The Mountains of California. New York: Century Co., 1894. [iii]-xiii [3] 381 pp. (complete, including frontispiece), numerous halftone illustrations (some full-page), 2 maps. 12mo, original tan pictorial cloth decorated in gilt and green, gilt-lettering on spine and upper cover, t.e.g. Top corners of binding bumped, old rust stains from paperclip on front endpapers and half-title that match rust stain on envelope of Muir’s letter, otherwise a very fine, bright copy. Laid in is Muir’s lengthy original autograph letter signed, with superb content, to Charles F. Lummis (2 pp., 4to, written at Martinez, August 22, 1907, original pale blue mailing envelope embossed with red two-cent stamp, addressed in ink by Muir), in which Muir writes: “...Have you noticed the efforts being made by San Francisco dollar schemers as well as the misled honest ones to beguile the government to let them invade the new Yosemite National Park for a City water supply?... Nothing more destructive to the scenery and usefulness of the Park could be done except damming Yosemite Valley itself....” Recipient Lummis founded the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles, served as city editor for the Los Angeles Times, organized the Sequoyah League, and was very sympathetic to Native American rights (Hart, Companion to California, p. 148).
First edition, second issue, without “I” on first page of text. Powell, California Classics, pp. 144-45: "No man was more influential than John Muir in preserving the Sierra's integrity. If I were to choose a single Californian to occupy the Hall of Fame, it would be this tenacious Scot... John Muir lost only one conservation battle, that with the city of San Francisco over the damming of the Tuolumne River and the subsequent flooding of Hetch-Hetchy, a Sierran glacial valley nearly as remarkable as its neighboring Yosemite." ($2,000-4,000)


Item 56A. Superb original autograph letter from John Muir—“Have you noticed the efforts being made by San Francisco dollar schemers as well as the misled honest ones to beguile the government to let them invade the new Yosemite National Park for a City water supply?”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


John Muir, California’s most famous naturalist and environmentalist, has been widely applauded for his efforts to save the state’s natural wonders. Indeed, the California Historical Society proclaimed the native of Dunbar, Scotland, as the outstanding man in the state’s history. The founder of the Sierra Club and savior of the Yosemite Valley certainly must be regarded as one of the finest writers ever to grace the Golden State. His artfully written books and articles are celebrations of California’s beauty and bounty. The Mountains of California is his first book and has been designated by Muir scholars as his finest work. When first published, it elicited the kudos of the press, and more than a century later, this nature study still receives widespread adulation.
The Mountains of California consists of previously published articles from several magazines and one newspaper, assembled and edited by Muir. He prefaced the whole with a lyric portrait of the Sierra Nevada. William Kimes, the distinguished Muir bibliographer, noted, “The book contains much of Muir’s finest writing between 1875 and 1882.” Upon publication, the attractively designed volume received critical acclaim. The San Francisco Call declared that “no man since Thoreau ever had keener sympathy with nature, a quicker vision of her mysteries, or a surer speech for their interpretation than Mr. Muir.” In October 1895, the reviewer for the Overland Monthly offered this ringing endorsement: “The book should not only be in every school library in California, but it should be in every home within the entire range of the grand old Sierra Nevada. It is the most valuable work of its kind that has ever been penned by a Californian.” Charles Lummis, in his July 1895 issue of The Land of Sunshine, could not contain his enthusiasm: “A book which an educated Californian should be ashamed not to possess and to know is John Muir’s Mountains of California. People everywhere of brains and heart will read this book and love its author.”
Muir wrote with such power and passion that his text reads more like a pantheistic ode than a dull nature study smothered by endless botanical names. An awe and respect for his physical surroundings permeates his poetic words as well as a deep, driven desire for its preservation. While his friends William Keith and Thomas Hill painted masterpieces on canvas, Muir created a symphony with words. He takes the reader with him on his long walks and mountain climbs, marveling at nature’s grandeur. Despite the sweeping title, the book’s true focus is on the Sierra with a gentle bow to the Coast Range and a polite nod to the mountains of southern California. In his opening chapter, the naturalist offered this paean to the great range: “Along its eastern margin [of the Central Valley] rises the mighty Sierra, miles of height, reposing like a smooth, cumulus cloud in the sunny sky, and so gloriously colored, and so luminous, it seems to be not clothed with light but wholly composed of it, like the wall of some celestial city.” He went on to say, “Then it seemed to me the Sierra should be called not the Nevada, or Snowy Range, but the Range of Light.”
In this magnificent work, the lean, bearded “mountain man” wrote incomparable descriptions of glaciers, snowy passes, lakes, meadows, forests, storms, and flowers. His studies of the Douglas squirrel, water ouzel, wild sheep, and bee pastures are beguiling. The exhilarating ascent up Mount Ritter imparts to the reader the thrill of standing on top of the world. When describing a Sierra windstorm, he magically captured nature’s vibrations: “The sounds of the storm corresponded gloriously with this wild exuberance of light and motion. The profound bass of the naked branches and boles booming like waterfalls; the quick tense vibrations of the pine-needles, now rising to a shrill, whistling hiss, now falling to a silky murmur; the rustling of laurel groves in the dells, and the keen metallic click of leaf on leaf—this was heard in easy analysis when the attention was calmly bent.”
Such a beautiful, touching, inspiring book as The Mountains of California enjoyed immense popularity generating several reprint editions. Kimes in his bibliography noted that the 1911 edition was the ninth. In 1988, Fulcrum published a new edition in honor of the 150th anniversary of Muir’s birth. The 1990s saw several new editions including a Penguin Nature Classics in 1997. The latest edition was published in 2001 by Random House in their Modern Library Classic series with an introduction by Bill McKibben.

——Gary F. Kurutz

Additional sources consulted: Robert C. Baron, Introduction to The Mountains of California (Golden, Colorado: Fulcrum Inc., 1988); Biographical Files, California State Library; Sally M. Miller, editor, John Muir: Life and Work (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1993); Lawrence Clark Powell, California Classics (Los Angeles: The Ward Ritchie Press, 1971), pp. 142-50.




Item 56. Detail from pictorial binding of Muir’s Mountains of California—“the first book of one of the greatest and most influential environmentalists” (Howell).


Item 56. Illustration from Muir’s classic nature study of the Sierra Nevada, “the Range of Light.”


Item 56. Illustration from Muir’s Mountains of California.



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