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

Lot 73

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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] [1]-[4] [2, list of illustrations, verso blank] [5]-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 Clifford copy.
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.
Taylor, a successful author and correspondent with Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune, came to California to cover the most exciting story in the world, the Gold Rush. He left New York on the Falcon on June 28, 1849, crossed the Isthmus of Panama, boarded the Oregon and arrived in San Francisco on August 18. Ironically, Taylor noted that a New Yorker in San Francisco sold 1,500 copies of his newspaper (the Tribune) for a dollar a piece in two hours. Lieutenant Edward F. Beale (to whom the book is dedicated) accompanied Taylor on most of his travels. He visited the diggings between the Cosumnes and Mokelumne Rivers as well as the major towns and camps. The journalist’s portrayal of San Francisco and Sacramento are verbal masterpieces. He described San Francisco at night, dotted with campfires and transparent lantern-lit canvas houses, making the city gleam “like an amphitheatre of fire.” His imagery of Sacramento City with it earsplitting sounds, its gaudily decorated tent saloons, and the hilarious performances at California’s only theater, the Eagle, demonstrate his singular talent. In addition, Taylor visited Monterey and witnessed the state constitutional convention. He left San Francisco on January 1, 1850, on board the Oregon, along with a cargo of $2 million in gold and several distinguished passengers including the newly-elected Senators Frémont and Gwin and Congressmen Gilbert and Wright. T. Butler King, whose report of March 22, 1850 comprises the appendix, was also a passenger. Reflecting on his short but kaleidoscopic visit, Taylor wrote, “The world’s history has no page so marvellous as that which has just been turned in California.” The remainder of Eldorado records his cross-country sojourn in Mexico and return trip to New York.
Eldorado was simultaneously published by Putnam’s in New York and Richard Bentley in London. The exclusive English edition of that year is identical except for a newly printed title page. Portions of the text appeared earlier in the New York Tribune. Prior to publication, Taylor wrote Putnam, saying: “I have quite a number of illustrative sketches, to be engraved, all of which will greatly increase the interest of the book. By managing the thing properly, 10,000 copies can be sold in a year.” In another letter, dated May 10, 1850, Taylor stated: “Putnam has orders for near two thousand copies, and can’t get the books bound fast enough.” Taylor wrote in June 30, 1850: “I must also tell you that there are now three reprints of ‘El Dorado’ in London.” A popular work, several pirated editions also appeared in 1850 and, by 1859, the “eighteenth” edition was published. However, there is no evidence of the ninth through seventeenth editions. In 1882, the copyright changed to Marie Taylor.
Information pertaining to Taylor’s California trip and the publication of Eldorado may be found in Life and Letters of Bayard Taylor, edited by Marie Hansen-Taylor and Horace E. Scudder (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1884) and The Unpublished Letters of Bayard Taylor, edited by John R. Schultz (San Marino: Huntington Library, 1937). Robert Glass Cleland wrote the introduction for the Borzoi edition (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1949), and Richard H. Dillon provided a biographical introduction for the Lewis Osborne edition (Palo Alto, 1968). In 1988, the University of Nebraska Press reprinted the Borzoi edition. Eldorado was also reprinted by Rio Grande Press (Glorieta, New Mexico, 1967). In 2000, Santa Clara University, in partnership with Heyday Books of Berkeley, published a new edition with a foreword by James D. Houston and an afterword by Roger Kahn.

——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.

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