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

Lots 71, 71A & 71B

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Item 71. Thomas W. Streeter’s copy of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Silverado Squatters— “Volumes and libraries have been written about California, and yet none holds more essential truth than Stevenson’s few pages” (Powell).

71. STEVENSON, Robert Louis (1850-1894). The Silverado Squatters. London: Chatto & Windus, 1883. [8] 254 [2] 32 (publisher’s catalogue) pp., sepia frontispiece by Joseph Strong. 8vo, original sage green cloth decorated and lettered in sepia and gold. Light outer wear (most noticeably to corners with a bit of board exposed), front hinge cracked (frontispiece and free endpaper detached but present), interior fresh and clean, overall very good with bright gilt on binding. Preserved in a cloth chemise and half green morocco slipcase. Thomas W. Streeter’s copy with his printed book label. Engraved armorial bookplate of Charles Baxter. John Howell–Books pencil notes at back, including Warren R. Howell’s notation: “First edition [and cost code] soyg.”
First edition, first issue (with the word “His” omitted on next-to-last line of p. 140). Beinecke 231. Cowan I, p. 221n (citing the American edition). Cowan II, p. 615. Grolier Stevenson Exhibit 52. Holliday 1051. Howell 50, California 854. Howes S980. Huntington Library, Zamorano 80...Exhibition of Famous and Notorious California Classics 71. Powell, California Classics, pp. 163-74: “Volumes and libraries have been written about California, and yet none holds more essential truth than Stevenson’s few pages.” Prideaux, p. 24. Streeter Sale 2984 (this copy, tracing provenance back to 1949). Zamorano 80 #71 (Leslie E. Bliss): “Fourteen delightful essays resulting from the author’s dwelling high on the side of Mt. St. Helena by the entrance to an abandoned silver mine. It contains one of the author’s finest sketches, many times reprinted, ‘The Sea Fogs.’” ($300-600)

71A. STEVENSON, Robert Louis. The Silverado Squatters. San Francisco: The Grabhorn Press, 1952. [8] 181 [2] pp., text illustration (full-page reproduction in sepia tone of the frontispiece to the original edition), decorated title and chapter headings. 8vo, original white linen over blue patterned boards, printed grey paper spine label. Very fine.
Limited edition, the variant without Biobooks stamped on last leaf. Grabhorn (1940-1956) #521. ($50-100)

71B. STEVENSON, Robert Louis. Silverado Journal. San Francisco: [The Grabhorn Press for] The Book Club of California, 1954. lxxii, 95 [1, colophon] pp., facsimiles. 4to, original black cloth over rose patterned cloth, printed rose paper spine label. Very fine, publisher’s prospectus laid in.
First complete publication of Stevenson’s original journal, limited edition (400 copies). With notes and extended commentary by John E. Jordan. Grabhorn (1940-1956) #557. ($50-100)


The Silverado Squatters, a book of romance and travel, is one of the most beloved works of California literature and history. While providing a charming and endearing picture of life in the shadow of Mt. St. Helena, “the Mount Blanc of the California range,” Silverado Squatters marks an important turning point in Stevenson’s career. Ann Roller Issler, an authority on Stevenson’s Napa sojourn, explained: “As a writer, this summer at Silverado he left behind his fumbling youth. Silverado was the retreat that healed his soul and gave him back to the world.” Furthermore, the time spent in and around Monterey and “the long green valley” of Napa gave the celebrated writer rich literary material that he would later incorporate into future novels Treasure Island, Ollala, and The Wreckers.
As is well known, a smitten Robert Louis Stevenson came to California in poor health to pursue Fanny Van de Grift Osborne, a married woman. She obtained a divorce and the two married in May 1880. To restore his health and escape the fogs of San Francisco Bay, the couple, along with Fanny’s twelve-year-old son, Samuel Lloyd Osborne, honeymooned at the abandoned cabin of a silver mine on the shoulder of Mt. St. Helena. During the warm months of June and July, the honeymooners absorbed the charm of this bucolic setting and its picturesque people. They freely engaged stage drivers, muleteers, miners, hunters, innkeepers, and winemakers. Calistoga, the Petrified Forest, the Bale Mill, the Toll House, the cellars of Jacob Schram’s winery, and the shop of the conniving Jewish peddler, Morris Friedberg (called Kelvar by Stevenson) became their haunts. With the patient nursing of Fanny, Stevenson recorded these Arcadian experiences into a notebook that would lead to The Silverado Squatters. Powell, in his California Classics, beautifully summarized this interlude in the famous author’s life: “He gave the entire Silverado experience a pungent sensuality that reflects his joy at recovering his health, at least temporarily, and in winning the woman he loved.”
The writing of The Silverado Squatters, however, turned out to be more of task than Stevenson initially envisioned. Returning to San Francisco and then to Europe, he painstakingly began transforming his notebook into a full-length book. It took him three years to bring it into a shape that the fastidious writer could accept. At one point, in despair, he lamented: “Silverado is an example of stuff worried and pawed about, God knows how often, in poor health, and you can see for yourself the result: good pages, an imperfect fusion, a certain languor of the whole. Not, in short, art.” But, it was art! Finally Stevenson submitted his manuscript to The Century Magazine and happily they published it in their November and December 1883 issues. For his effort, Stevenson received $200. Significantly, these two articles introduced Stevenson to an American audience and paved the way for financial stability. Late that same year, Chatto and Windus of London published the first book-length collection of his Silverado stories in an edition of 1,000 copies. In addition to the Century material, the London imprint added much new material including such delightful chapters as “Calistoga,” “Napa Wine,” “The Toll House,” and “Episodes in the Story of a Mine.”
The first American edition of Silverado Squatters was published in 1884 by Roberts Brothers of Boston. Naturally, it has been the California scholars and collectors who have shown the most appreciation and devotion to this autobiographical work. Consequently, the text has been brought out in handsome California fine-press editions by John Henry Nash, Grabhorn Press, and Grace Hoper Press. Superb introductions and interpretations of Silverado Squatters have been written by the likes of James D. Hart and Oscar Lewis. Individual chapters like “The Sea Fogs” have likewise been published either as single monographs or as keepsakes by Paul Elder and the Bohemian Club. The ultimate statement of veneration may be the creation of the Stevenson Museum in beautiful St. Helena by Norman H. Strouse.

——Gary F. Kurutz

Additional sources consulted: Ann Roller Issler, Stevenson at Silverado: The Life and Writing of Robert Louis Stevenson in the Napa Valley, California, 1880 (Fresno: Valley Publishers, 1974); Oscar Lewis, Introduction to Robert Louis Stevenson: The Silverado Squatters (Ashland: Lewis Osborne, 1972); Lawrence Clark Powell, California Classics (Los Angeles: The Ward Ritchie Press, 1971), pp. 163-74.

Item 71.

Item 71. Frontispiece by Joseph Strong, for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Silverado Squatters.

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