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

Lots 79 & 79A

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Item 79. Bancroft duplicate of Wierzbicki’s California As It Is—“The first book of an orignal nature in English printed in California...probably the most important book that was ever printed in California” (Wagner).

79. WIERZBICKI, F[elix] P[aul] (1815-1860). California As It Is, and As It May Be; or, A Guide to the Gold Region.... First Edition. San Francisco: Printed by Washington Bartlett, 1849. [1]-4 [2, inserted leaf “Preface to the Second Edition”] [5]-60 [1, errata] pp. 8vo, original glazed lilac upper wrapper (as in the Graff copy), stitched (appears to be resewn). Wrapper worn (rubbed, a few chips and voids, one tape reinforcement on verso) and two light stains, very light crease throughout at center, overall a remarkably clean and fresh copy of an exceptionally fragile item. An exceedingly rare and important book, and an uncanny survivor in this condition. The Bancroft duplicate with their small discreet purple ink stamp on p. 53. The inserted leaf after p. 4 has an old pencil notation: “extra leaf.” Preserved in a chemise and half blue levant morocco slipcase (spine faded).
First edition of “the first book written and printed in English, in California, that describes the territory. As such it is a work of great historical importance as well as a ‘landmark’ in the development of the California press.... One of the essential California books” (Richard B. Reed in Howell’s Anniversary Catalogue 120; illustrated at p. 187). American Imprints Inventory, Check-List of California Non-Documentary Imprints, 1833-1855 #114. Blumann & Thomas 3914. Braislin 1889. Cowan I, p. 248. Cowan II, p. 682. Fahey 125. Graff 4650. Greenwood 154 (illustrated at p. 80): “Probably the most important book that was ever printed in California.” Gudde, California Gold Camps, p. 428. Hill, p. 615. Howes W405: “The most important and prized of all books printed [in California], with the possible exception of Figueroa’s Manifiesto [q.v.].” Huntington Library, Zamorano 80...Exhibition of Famous and Notorious California Classics 79. Jones 1222 & vol. 2, p. 251 (illustrated at p. 252). Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 678a. Libros Californianos (Wagner list), p. 26. Norris 4216 (illustrated at p. 213): “Extremely rare.” Rocq 16153. Sloan, Auction 8:69. Streeter, Americana-Beginnings,78: “The scarcity of paper in California at that time is shown by the fact that many of the leaves were obviously extracted from some blank book.” Streeter Sale 2605. Vail, Gold Fever, p. 29. Wagner, California Imprints 44. Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 227: “Earliest descriptive work of its kind to be printed in California. A guide to the gold region, and the observations of a remarkable man.” Zamorano 80 #79. ($40,000-80,000)

79A. WIERZBICKI, F[elix] P[aul]. California As It Is and As It May Be; or, A Guide to the Gold Region. San Francisco: The Grabhorn Press, 1933. xxix [3] 100 [1] [3, bibliography] pp., pictorial title and text drawings by Valenti Angelo. 8vo, original black buckram over green boards with illustration by Valenti Angelo. Very fine in slightly worn d.j. Original prospectus laid in.
Limited edition (500 copies). Angelo, et al., Valenti Angelo: Author, Illustrator, Printer, p. 53. Grabhorn (1915-1940) #186. Holliday 1191. Howes W405.Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 678d. Rocq 16155. ($100-200)


Dr. Felix Paul Wierzbicki prefaced his slender book by noting that he had spent several years in this “land o’cakes” and more than four months rambling through the gold region. Wierzbicki, in writing this guide, emphasized straightforward factual reporting rather than creating a master work of literature. The first part of this celebrated book is an overall description of California, its history, and its resources. “California,” he enthused, “holds in its bosom resources that no other country can boast of comprised in so small a territory—its mineral wealth, its agricultural capacity, its geographical position, conspire to make it in time one of the most favored lands.” Predicting a bright commercial future with its strategic location on the Pacific Rim, he wrote: “To swell this commercial tide beating against the shores of California comes the railroad that must inevitably be built across the territory of the Union, and whose terminus must be on the Bay of San Francisco.” The Polish doctor then went on to give a general discourse on the mines and sage advice to miners covering such practical subjects as a miner’s outfit, the rocker, provisions, mining companies, horses, prospecting methods, health, winter in the mines, and descriptions of the mining camps. Thereafter, the physician continued with a description of San Francisco, lack of women, entrance to San Francisco harbor, and harbor regulations. California’s waning Hispanic culture attracted his attention and he presented a fine portrayal of Californio virtues and vices, horsemanship, dress, and manners and customs. The physician concluded his book with an analysis of the region’s medical condition focusing on the negative effects of coffee, tea, and mercury.
In addition to serving as a factual guide, this book has the distinction of being the first book of an original nature published in English in California. Robert Greenwood states: “From this fact, and the interesting character of the contents, it is probably the most important book that was ever printed in California.” Even though the preface is dated September 30, there may have been some delays in its publication. The San Francisco Alta California for October 4, 1849, included two columns of extracts from “a forth-coming work in California by Dr. F. P. Wierzbicki.” The December 21 Alta mentions receiving the book and the newspaper carried an advertisement for the book, stating that it was for sale at the Alta’s office and at Wilson’s and Spaulding’s Book Store for the handsome price of $5.00. The Alta praised the author: “Dr. W. is a scholar who has acquired not only a professional name, but is a clever writer, a scientific gentleman, and a keen observer, as his book fully testifies.”
San Francisco responded so well to this local imprint that a second and expanded edition soon followed. Rushed into print, Washington Bartlett apparently did not have the time to correct the errata but appended new text featuring “The Natives of California” and “Medical Observations upon the People & Country.” Henry Wagner remarked that although the second edition bears an 1849 date, it more than likely was published in 1850 since the new preface is dated December 30, 1849. For this preface, the printer merely inserted a new leaf following the preface for the first edition. The Sacramento Transcript of June 22, 1850, carried an advertisement for the new edition stating that it was available through Still & Conner and priced at only $1.00.
In 1850 an edition combining Edwin Bryant’s text (q.v.) with that of Dr. Wierzbicki was also printed in Launceston, Tasmania. William Abbatt reprinted the second edition of Wierzbicki in The Magazine of History 32:2, Extra Number 126 (1927). In 1933, Dr. George D. Lyman wrote a short, privately printed monograph concerning Wierzbicki called The Book and the Doctor. The Grabhorn Press printed fifty copies. That same year, the Grabhorn Press printed Lyman’s text as the introduction to a new edition of Wierzbicki as Number 8 of its Rare Americana series; this edition was limited to 500 copies and illustrated by Valenti Angelo. In 1970, Burt Franklin of New York produced a facsimile of the Grabhorn Press edition.

——Gary F. Kurutz

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