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

Lots 65, 65A & 65B

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Item 65. Robinson’s Life in California, a wonderful companion book to Dana’s Two Years before the Mast—“The first book in English written by a resident of the province” (Streeter).

65. [ROBINSON, Alfred (1807-1895)]. Life in California: During a Residence of Several Years in That Territory, Comprising a Description of the Country and the Missionary Establishments, with Incidents, Observations, Etc., Etc. Illustrated with Numerous Engravings by an American. To Which Is Annexed a Historical Account of the Origin, Customs, and Traditions, of the Indians of Alta-California. Translated from the Original Spanish Manuscript. [With:] BOSCANA, Gerónimo (1775-1831). Chinigchinich; a Historical Account of the Origin, Customs, and Traditions of the Indians at the Missionary Establishment of St. Juan Capistrano, Alta California: Called the Acagchemem Nation; Collected with the Greatest Care, from the Most Intelligent and Best Instructed in the Matter...Translated from the Original Spanish Manuscript, by One Who Was Many Years a Resident of Alta California. New York: Wiley & Putnam, 1846. xii [2] 341 pp. (2 works in one vol. with continuous pagination), 9 lithographic plates (views, portraits) by G. W. Endicott after Robinson’s original artwork. 12mo, original dark brown blindstamped cloth, title in gilt on backstrip, orange and cream patterned endpapers. Binding moderately worn (frayed and slightly chipped at spinal extremities, lower portion of rear joint with small split at foot of spine), some spotting and mild to moderate foxing to interior, generally a very good copy. Contemporary ink ownership inscription of Stephen Strong, Washington, D.C., March 5, 1846, on front flyleaf.
First edition of “the first book in English about California which was written by a resident” (Huntington Library, Zamorano 80...Exhibition of Famous and Notorious California Classics 65). American Imprints 46:6084. Blumann & Thomas 5091. Cowan I, pp. 193 & 276: “These two works were issued together, being paged continuously.... One of the most useful sources of authority of its time.” Cowan II, pp. 536-37. Graff 3525. Hill, p. 256. Holliday 940. Howell 50, California 211. Howes R363. LC, California Centennial 43. Libros Californianos (Wagner & Hanna lists), pp. 25, 68; pp. 47-49 (Powell commentary): “Both [William Heath] Davis [q.v.] and Robinson were traders, buying hides and tallow and selling manufactured products of New England from the Boston ships in their charge. The traders played an important role in bringing California beneath the Stars and Stripes. California had become ‘gringo-minded’ as the result of the infiltration of American commodities...and its subjugation was practically complete long before the wily Frémont crossed the Sierra, or Sloat sailed into Monterey. Had it not been for this placid commercial invasion, the conquest, with the pitifully small military and naval force then available, would have been greatly delayed.... Curiously, Richard Henry Dana was a common seaman on the Alert, chartered to Bryant, Sturgis and Company of Boston, whose agent in California was Alfred Robinson. The two came into contact frequently.” Norris 3289. Rocq 17121, 6226. Streeter Sale 2512. Walker, A Literary History of Southern California, pp. 32-36: “Robinson’s purpose in translating and illustrating Boscana was the same as his purpose in writing his account of life in California—to tell the truth as accurately as he could. Because he did so with both grace and imagination his book is one of the most reliable and interesting documents dealing with Spanish California.” Zamorano 80 #65 (J. Gregg Layne): “Without doubt the most important book for the period it treats.” Dana’s Two Years before the Mast makes it into every bibliography on the history of the cattle trade, but Robinson is totally ignored. In 1828 Robinson made his first voyage to California in search of hides and tallow. He helped develop the area of La Playa, known as “Hide Park,” for curing hides and selling goods from New England. Robinson’s business in the hide trade was booming by the time Dana arrived on the Pilgrim in 1835. Robinson left us one of the important accounts of California rancho life and the hide and tallow trade.
The lovely lithographic plates after the author’s original artwork illustrate Mission San Luis Rey, Mission San Gabriel, Mission Buenaventura, Yerba Buena, and Santa Barbara (three views) and portray a Native American of California and Father Boscana. Peters, California on Stone, p. 82 & plate 59. Samuels & Samuels, Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West, pp. 402-403. Van Nostrand, The First Hundred Years of Painting in California, pp. 11-12, 119: “[Robinson’s drawings] are of interest as the earliest known views by one who became a long-term resident of the state.” Van Nostrand & Coulter, California Pictorial, pp. 36-37 (reproducing the frontispiece of Santa Barbara). See also Nancy Dustin Wall Moure, Loners, Mavericks & Dreamers: Art in Los Angeles before 1900 (Laguna Art Museum, 1993). ($400-800)

65A. ROBINSON, Alfred. Life in California before the Conquest: Hispano-Californians, Léperos and Indians, Franciscan Misioneros and Misiones, American and English Comerciantes, Puertos, Presidios, Castillos, Sailors and Backwoodsmen, Revolutions and Strife.... San Francisco: The Private Press of Thomas C. Russell, 1925. xxvii [1] 316 [2, colophon, verso blank] [2, ads] pp., 7 mezzotint plates (pulled directly from lithographs in the original edition), text illustrations, decorated chapter headings, vignettes. 8vo, original natural linen over drab grey boards, printed paper spine label. Very fine in near fine d.j. (a few tears and light creases).
Limited edition (#224 of 250 copies, signed by Russell). Reprinted from the first edition, edited and corrected, and with added synopses of chapters, foreword, and notes by Thomas C. Russell. Hill, p. 556. Norris 3290. ($150-300)

65B. ROBINSON, Alfred (translator) & Gerónimo Boscana. Chinigchinich (Chi-ñích-ñich): A Revised and Annotated Version of Alfred Robinson’s Translation of Father Gerónimo Boscana’s Historical Account of the Belief, Usages, Customs and Extravagancies of the Indians of This Mission of San Juan Capistrano Called the Acagchemem Tribe [annotations by John Peabody Harrington]. Santa Ana: Fine Arts Press, 1933. 247 [2] pp., 11 plates and maps (5 vivid full-color linoleum-cut plates printed in oil paint by Jean Goodwin; other plates are black-and-white or on maize grounds), text illustrations, decorated and colored initials. Small folio, original tan cloth over brown boards stamped with gilt design, paper spine label printed in gilt. Other than light offsetting on title from frontispiece, very fine.
Limited edition of the primary treatise on the Acagchemem tribe of Mission San Juan Capistrano (present-day Orange County), originally written by Father Boscana in the 1820s, translated and first published by Alfred Robinson in 1846. Zamorano 80 #65 (J. Gregg Layne, referring to this edition): “A magnificent folio...edited by Phil T. Hanna, annotated by J. P. Harrington, with 157 pages of notes.” Father Boscana served as pastor to the Juaneño at Mission San Juan Capistrano from 1814 to 1826. Although Europeans observed and briefly described tribal groups of Southern California as early as the Cabrillo expedition (1542), the reports of Boscana and Hugo Reid (1852) were the first in-depth ethnological observations of these peoples. Boscana’s account and Harrington’s annotations, by way of comparison, contain valuable documentation on various other California tribes of the region, especially the Gabrieleño, with whom the Juaneño shared the jimson weed cult associated with the Chinigchinich religion.
This highly unusual press book is more than a mere colorful reprint of Boscana’s essay containing the standard view of California’s native peoples. What makes this edition so valuable are the lavish annotations and revisions by John Peabody Harrington, the extraordinary ethnographer and linguist employed in the 1930s by the Bureau of American Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institution to travel throughout California and document languages, narratives, and customs of the rapidly vanishing California tribes. Harrington worked extensively with the few remaining native speakers of Juaneño, the language of the San Juan Capistrano Mission group, and his research is one of the most immediate sources on Native American culture in California. (In recent years, members of the Juaneño band have been using Harrington’s documentation to help regain their traditional culture and language.) Father Boscana’s original treatise was influenced by his perception and standards as applied to a complex social group with a belief system profoundly different from his own. Harrington’s annotations bring balance to a primary source, making this version of Boscana’s narrative the most valuable from a scholarly viewpoint. See “John P. Harrington and His Legacy,” edited by Victor Golla, Anthropological Linguistics 33:4 (winter 1991). ($200-400)


Robinson’s California classic has been acclaimed as the most important published account of pre–Gold Rush California by an actual resident. It had a tremendous impact on the Americanization of California. Like Richard Henry Dana, Robinson came to California from New England, but unlike the more famous author, he settled permanently in this remote Mexican province in 1829 and had a more accepting view of Hispanic culture. He worked as the resident agent for the Boston firm of Bryant, Sturgis and Company and was active in the famed hide and tallow trade, exchanging Yankee-manufactured goods for California “banknotes” (cow hides). “Alfredo” Robinson, similar to several of his transplanted American contemporaries, embraced his new home by marrying into a prominent family (de la Guerra), converting to Catholicism, and becoming a person of influence in Californio society. Robinson not only described his own personal activities but also recorded in some detail the constant political machinations that beset Alta California. Foreshadowing the future, the merchant took the first shipment of California gold to the United States in 1842. His narrative is further enhanced by detailing everyday life and capturing the flavor of Mexican California through its amusements, festivals, and religious services. The personalities of the leading Californio grandees and their stylish ways particularly caught his attention. Robinson also included historical background along with extensive descriptions of the ranchos, pueblos, and missions. Because of this, he is an oft-quoted and frequently cited authority.
Published anonymously in 1846, Life in California covered the period 1829 to 1842. It enjoyed a wide readership and further stimulated the flood tide of immigration from the United States. When James Marshall discovered gold in 1848, anxious gold seekers snapped up copies of Robinson’s book to learn all they could about this new El Dorado. An English edition was published in 1851. Bancroft, although mildly criticizing the work in his History of California (vol. 4, p. 344), wrote “the book is worthy of much praise.” Robinson originally intended his narrative to serve as an introduction to the translation of Fr. Gerónimo Boscana’s Chinigchinich: A Historical Account of the Origins, Customs, and Traditions of the Indians of...Alta-California. By itself, Boscana’s history represents an important and early contribution to the ethnology of the native Californians.

——Gary F. Kurutz

Additional sources consulted: Andrew Rolle, Introduction to Life in California (Santa Barbara & Salt Lake City: Peregrine Publishers, Inc., 1970); James D. Hart, American Images of Spanish California (Berkeley: The Friends of the Bancroft Library, 1960).

Item 65. Lithograph of Mission San Buena Ventura after author’s original art.

Item 65. Lithograh of Santa Barbara after author’s original art.

Item 65. Lithograph from Alfred Robinson’s Life in California (1846).

Item 65. Lithograph from Alfred Robinson’s Life in California (1846).

Item 65. Lithograph after Robinson’s original art—“Earliest known views [of California] by one who became a long-term resident of the state” (Jeanne Van Nostrand).

Item 65. Lithograph of Alfred Robinson’s view of Yerba Buena (1846).

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