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J[ohn] D[avid] (1858-1892). Three Years
in California...with Eight Illustrations by the Author. Edinburgh & London: William Blackwood and Sons, 1857.
vi  384, 16 (ads) pp., 8 lithographs on tinted grounds (from drawings
by author). 8vo, original red blindstamped cloth, spine gilt-lettered.
Light to moderate outer wear (spine and joints rubbed, a few short
splits to cloth, corners lightly bumped), a bit of very mild foxing
(mainly confined to versos and blank margins of plates and adjacent
leaves). Much better condition than this report would indicate, difficult
to find in collector’s condition, with bright, fresh plates like
this copy. Preserved in red cloth slipcase with paper spine label
and chemise. This copy was acquired from John Howell–Books and bears
Warren R. Howell’s pencil notes on rear pastedown: “$42.50 fine copy,
original binding.” Further pencil notes indicate that this copy was
a Huntington Library duplicate. Rear pastedown with small red and white
printed binders label: “Bound by Edmonds & Remnants London.”
J. D. Borthwick’s Three Years in California roars with excitement,
and for this reason, his book has universally been proclaimed as
one of the most important accounts of the Gold Rush. A gold seeker
blessed with remarkable reporting ability, Borthwick wrote with a
dynamism and sense of adventure that captured as well as humanly
possible the essence of that rough-and-tumble era. Gold Rush historian
Erwin G. Gudde calls it: “One of the best, if not the best book of
the period.” Collector T. W. Streeter states: “I do not know of another
story by an actual miner that is so well written and so true to that
wonderful life in the Days of Gold.” In short, this is the finest
narrative by one who had seen the elephant.
——Gary F. Kurutz
Additional sources consulted: R. E. Mather and F. E. Boswell, John David Borthwick: Artist of the Gold Rush (Salt Lake City, University of Utah Press, 1989).
Item 8. “The finest narrative by one who had seen the
elephant” with some of “the best-known and most appreciated views of life
in the mines” (Kurutz).
Item 8. Lithograph after Borthwick’s eye-witness original art, classic California Gold Rush iconography.
Item 8. “[Borthwick’s] ‘A Ball in the Mines,’ depicting a womanless dance, not only is hilarious but also demonstrates in one brilliant image the miner’s uncanny ability to improvise” (Kurutz).
Item 8. Lithograph of “Chinese Camp” from Borthwick’s Three Years in California.