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Item 73. Bayard Taylor’s Eldorado— “Probably the
outstanding book on the early Gold Rush in California” (Cleland), “with gorgeous
colored plates of California scenes” (Hanna).
|73. TAYLOR, Bayard
(1825-1878). Eldorado; or, Adventures in the Path of
Empire: Comprising a Voyage to California, via Panama; Life in San
Francisco and Monterey; Pictures of the Gold Region, and Experiences
of Mexican Travel...with Illustrations by the Author. New York:
George P. Putnam; London: Richard Bentley, 1850. xii, 251 +  -
[2, list of illustrations, verso blank] -247 [1, blank] 45 (publisher’s
catalogue, signed as in BAL pagination sequence A) pp., 8 tinted lithographic
plates by Sarony & Major (including 2 frontispieces). 2 vols.,
12mo, original green blindstamped cloth, title stamped in gilt on backstrips.
Bindings slightly worn and shelf-slanted, spines light, upper hinge
of vol. 1 weak, generally a very good set, the plates fine. Contemporary
ink inscriptions on front free endpapers: “Sarah Wistar for her nephews
1850 Oakland” (inscription in second vol. partially defaced). The
First edition, the American issue—vol. 2 list of illustrations incorrectly cites Mazatlán plate at p. 8 rather than p. 80 (plate bound at p. 80 in this copy), lithographs with “New York, Geo. P. Putnam” below titles (as illustrated in plate 101, Peters, California on Stone). Text block 19.2 cm tall, as trimmed by publisher for binding. BAL 19638. Bennett, American Book Collecting, p. 106. Braislin 1762. Cowan I, p. 226. Cowan II, p. 630. Graff 4073. Gudde, California Gold Camps, pp. 423-24. Hill, p. 289: “The book met with great success, selling 10,000 copies in America and 30,000 in England within two weeks.” Holliday 1076. Howes T43. Huntington Library, Zamorano 80...Exhibition of Famous and Notorious California Classics 73. Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 618a. LC, California Centennial 176. Libros Californianos, pp. 40-41 (Powell commentary): “His chronicle of the voyage to California via Panama is the best in print, and his chapters dealing with the constitutional convention at Monterey in 1849 are unexcelled”; p. 67 (Hanna List). Norris 3874. Peters, California on Stone, pp. 196-97. Rocq 16098. Streeter Sale 2654. Vail, Gold Fever, p. 23. Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 204. Zamorano 80 #73.
The tinted plates are lithographs after the author’s original artwork. The plates are: (1) “San Francisco in November, 1848. From a Sketch by J. C. Ward, Esq.”; (2) “Lower Bar, Mokelumne River”; (3) “Monterey”; (4) “The Volcano Diggings”; (5) “San Francisco in November 1849” (illustrated in Peters, plate 101); (6) “Sacramento City, from the South”; (7) “Portsmouth Square, San Francisco”; and (8) “Mazatlan.” See Van Nostrand, The First Hundred Years of Painting in California, pp. 28, 30-31, 125-26; and Van Nostrand & Coulter, California Pictorial, pp. 122-23 (illustrating plate of “Lower Bar, Mokelumne River”). (2 vols.) ($600-1,200)
Robert Glass Cleland, in the introduction to the Borzoi edition of
this two-volume opus, wrote: “This work by an eminent writer and artist
is probably the outstanding book on the early Gold Rush in California.”
Dale Morgan provided this critique: “The chief defect of his narrative
is its point of view, that of a detached observer rather than that
of a participant.” While Morgan may be correct, Taylor’s command of
the language and the scenes he witnessed make Eldorado one
of California’s greatest books. Only J. D. Borthwick’s Three Years
in California (q.v.) exceeds this as a Gold Rush narrative and
only because the Scotsman actually worked a claim. Attesting to the
staying power of Eldorado, it is still in print and has probably
been reprinted more times than any other book on California history.
——Gary F. Kurutz
Item 73. Early lithographed view of Sacramento from Bayard Taylor’s original sketches.
Item 73. Lithograph of Portsmouth Square, from Bayard Taylor’s original sketches.
Item 73. Early lithographed view of mining from Bayard Taylor’s original sketches.
Item 73. Views of San Francisco in 1848 and 1849 showing the remarkable growth due to the Gold Rush, from Bayard Taylor’s Eldorado.