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

Lot 70

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Item 70. Soulé, Gihon & Nesbit, The Annals of San Francisco, profusely illustrated—“Almost anything that one wants to know of life in San Francisco in the middle of the nineteenth century” (Powell).

70. SOULÉ, Frank (1810-1875), John H. Gihon (1811-1875) & James Nisbet (1816-1865). The Annals of San Francisco; Containing a Summary of the History of the First Discovery, Settlement, Progress, and Present Condition of California, and a Complete History of All the Important Events Connected with Its Great City: To Which Are Added, Biographical Memoirs of Some Prominent Citizens.... New York, San Francisco & London: D. Appleton & Company, 1855. 824 pp., 2 engraved views, including frontispiece (“Montgomery Street, San Francisco, north, from California Street. June 1854” and “San Francisco in 1854 From the Head of Sacramento Street”), 4 engraved portraits (“Robert F. Stockton”; “Alexina F. Baker”; “Matilda Heron”; and “Col. John W. Geary Last Alcalde and First Mayor of San Francisco”), 154 engraved text illustrations (by leading artists and engravers of the day, some based on daguerreotypes by J. M. Ford), and 2 engraved maps: (1) Map of San Francisco (9.5 x 12.3 cm; 3-3/4 x 4-7/8 inches); (2) General Map Showing the Countries Explored & Surveyed by the United States & Mexican Boundary Commission in the Years 1850, 51, 52, & 53. Under the Direction of John R. Bartlett U.S. Commissioner (37 x 47.5 cm, 14-1/4 x 18-3/4 inches). Thick 8vo, original full black morocco stamped in gilt and blind, spine gilt-lettered and ruled and with raised bands (skillfully rebacked, original spine preserved, new endpapers). Offsetting from engraved plates, occasional foxing (mainly confined to first signature), short clean tear on folding map at juncture with book block, otherwise fine.
First edition. Barrett, Baja California 2301. Braislin 1707. Cowan I, p. 219. Cowan II, p. 601. Graff 3901. Hamilton, Early American Book Illustrators and Wood Engravers 710 & vol. 1, pp. 71, 149, 158, 182, 200, 213 (contains information on several artists and engravers, including Harrison Eastman). Holliday 1028. Howell 50, California 791. Howes S769. Huntington Library, Zamorano 80...Exhibition of Famous and Notorious California Classics 70: “Because the focus is on San Francisco, this has been called (by John B. Goodman III) the first California county history.” Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 594: “Supplies much information on mining and its impact on this instant city.” Libros Californianos, p. 39 (Powell commentary); pp. 64-65 (Hanna list): “Almost anything that one wants to know of life in San Francisco in the middle of the nineteenth century.... The book contains a number of valuable wood engravings and biographies of a group of pioneers—Samuel Brannan, Thomas O. Larkin, John A. Sutter, M. G. Vallejo, Joseph Folsom, et al. Extremely readable, but out of print and growing scarcer as its merits become better known.” Norris 3458. Rocq 7970. Walker, San Francisco’s Literary Frontier, pp. 22-23. Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 193; Mapping the Transmississippi West 798n: “Among the most important Western maps.... One very enterprising feature for so early a map is a dotted-line (if unlabeled) showing the Gadsden Purchase boundary.” Zamorano 80 #70. Included with the book is Charles Francis Griffin’s Index to the Annals of San Francisco (San Francisco: California Historical Society, 1935, original boards). (2 vols.) ($250-500)


Noted historian Richard H. Dillon, in the most recent edition of The Annals of San Francisco, states it is “not only the best single book ever written on the City, it has proven to be the most influential book ever set in type to concern itself with San Francisco.” Considering the number of times that it has been reprinted, it may be the most popular and consulted book on the City. Written by two newspapermen, Soulé and Nisbet, and one early settler, Gihon, the book has a liveliness and readability not found in the usual Victorian-era nineteenth-century city or county history. The Annals is also a remarkable testament to the explosive development of San Francisco and California. Just seven years after the discovery of gold, this instant city lived enough history to produce an 824-page book about itself.
This trio of authors divided the book into three sections: a general summary of Spanish California; the actual annals of the City; and a section devoted to individual topics such as the “Hounds,” fires, hotels, Vigilance Committee, Steamer-Day, and memoirs of noted California pioneers. For narrating the tumultuous years of 1846 to 1854, the authors relied on the City’s newspapers and their own personal knowledge. Consequently, it represents their most important and lasting contribution. Virtually every important event and personality receives their attention. The flood of Argonauts, the transformation of the city from a sea of tents to substantial brick buildings, the noisy gambling saloons, the fights, hangings, clipper ship arrivals, fires, high prices, etc., present ample evidence that San Francisco was the most interesting, jumping city on the face of the earth. While nostalgia buffs may concentrate on the rollicking side, a careful reading will demonstrate that the City was swiftly transforming itself from a brawling town to one of world-class restaurants, theaters, literary societies, newspapers, churches, schools, public gardens, and commercial institutions. The Annals includes much information on the daily impact of the diggings and the comings and goings of thousands of gold hunters.
Such a prodigious work was not without its critics. William Francis White, a crusty forty-niner, in his book A Picture of Pioneer Times (1881), leveled a full broadside attack on the Annals, writing that “it was written in a style of bold, immoral bravado.” A more serious and thoughtful criticism came from California’s philosopher prince, Josiah Royce (q.v.), who targeted the book in his chapter entitled “The Moral Insanities of the Golden Days.” While Royce roundly criticized the authors for publishing a nostalgia-filled “delirious history,” he did not give them their just due for documenting the growth of sound civic, cultural, benevolent, and economic institutions.
The authors provided a useful appendix that included a reproduction and explanation of the Great Seal of California, text of the state constitution and city charter, and a listing of the members of the Society of California Pioneers. One of the glories of The Annals is its text illustrations and plates, some based on daguerreotypes by J. M. Ford. They form one of the best pictorial records of Gold Rush California and have since been reproduced many times. A prospectus for the Annals appeared in the November 6, 1853, San Francisco Daily Alta California. It stated that the book would be published by subscription and sold for $5.00 per copy. Notice of the book’s issuance appeared in the Alta California for June 11, 1855, and The Pioneer (July 1855). An extensive summary appeared in The Edinburgh Review for April 1858. According to the Sacramento Daily Union, July 3, 1855, the royal octavo volume came “bound in cloth, roan, calf and morocco.”
The California Historical Society published an index to the Annals and Dorothy Huggins produced the Continuation of the Annals of San Francisco, June 1, 1854, to December 31, 1855, first for the Society’s quarterly (June 1936–June 1938) and as special publication Number 15 in 1939. In 1966, Lewis Osborne of Palo Alto produced a facsimile. Osborne included an introduction by Richard H. Dillon; “A Treatise on the Engravings” by Joseph A. Baird; and an index by Charles H. Goehring. Berkeley Hills Books in conjunction with The Society of California Pioneers published a facsimile edition with an introduction by Herbert Ely Garcia in 1998, and in 1999, Berkeley Hills Books produced the first paperback edition with a splendid updated introduction by Dillon.

——Gary F. Kurutz

Item 70. Engraved view of Montgomery Street, San Francisco, in 1854.

Item 70. Engraved map of San Francisco.

Item 70. Engraving of the seal of the Society of California Pioneers, founded in 1850 to preserve records of early California history.

Item 70. Engraved plate of “San Francisco in 1854 from the Head of Sacramento Street.”

Item 70. Text engraving of makeshift architecture in early San Francisco.

Item 70. Text engraving of San Francisco in April 1850.

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