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Auction 15: Fine Collection of Californiana Formed by Daniel G. Volkmann Jr.

Lots 154 & 155: On the Trail, Discovering Gold

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Parkman’s First Book

154. PARKMAN, Francis. The California and Oregon Trail: Being Sketches of Prairie and Rocky Mountain Life. New York: George P. Putnam; London: Putnam’s American Agency...J. Chapman, 1849. 448 [4, ads] pp., tinted lithographed frontispiece and title, both by F. O. C. Darley. 8vo, original brown blind-embossed cloth, title gilt on spine (expertly recased). Lightly rubbed and faded, scattered light to mild foxing to interior (including frontispiece and title page), overall fine. In a half tan morocco slipcase and brown cloth chemise and brown cloth dust jacket with red gilt-lettered morocco spine label.

    First edition, first book printing, terminal catalogue A, binding B (no priority). BAL 15446. Cowan I, p. 173: “First edition, much prized by collectors and superior to subsequent issues.” Cowan II, p. 474. Field 1177. Flake 3277. Cf. Graff 3201. Grolier American Hundred 58: “Parkman’s most popular work.... The classic account of the immigrant journey to the Rockies.” Holliday 853. Howell 50, California 184 (second issue). Howes P97. Hubach, p. 100: “One of the most famous of all Midwestern travel books.... No other contains a more graphic presentation of the panorama of Western migration during this period: the wagon trains met along the way, the emigrant camps, the Indians, the trappers, and the buffalo hunters.” Mintz, The Trail 359. Plains & Rockies IV:170. Printing and the Mind of Man 327: “Parkman joined a band of Sioux, living and travelling with them into the Laramie Mountains.” Rader 2608. Rittenhouse 450. Sabin 58801. Smith 7904. Cf. Streeter Sale 1815 & 1816.

    The text first appeared in installments in Knickerbocker’s Magazine (1847-1849). This controversial text has remained a classic of the American West despite criticism directed at it. In part enthusiastic and in part pessimistic, the work offers a microcosm of the changes then taking place at the far western reaches of U.S. expansion. Particularly debated since its publication has been Parkman’s view of Native Americans. Although he apparently successfully lived with a tribe of Sioux, he pronounced Native Americans a doomed people. In any case, this is the opening chapter of a highly successful literary career.

155. PARSONS, George Frederic. Life and Adventures of James W. Marshall, the Discoverer of Gold in California. Sacramento: James W. Marshall & W. Burke, 1870. 188 pp., engraved frontispiece portrait of Marshall by Butler. 12mo, original beige printed wrappers. Wrappers soiled, minor losses to spine, upper left blank corner of lower wrapper chipped, scattered light foxing and staining. Overall, a good copy of a fragile item, preserved in a red morocco over red cloth slipcase with chemise, spine gilt. Uncommon in wraps.
    First edition. Blumann & Thomas 806. Byrd 3. Camp 487. Cowan I, p. 173. Cowan II, p. 475. Graff 3204. Holliday 856. Howell 50, California 688. Howes P105. Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 483a: “One of the most important works on California history.” Norris 3013. Rocq 1821. Sabin 58882. Streeter Sale 2927: “This book is essential to a study of the Bear Flag Revolution and the gold discovery.” Vail, Gold Fever, p. 22. Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 153. Here the wrapper imprint reads “Sacramento: E. G. Jefferis” as noted by Kurutz (no priority). Marshall’s life as told here is the story of unintended consequences on the order of Greek tragedy. Reduced by circumstances to working for Sutter in mill construction, Marshall discovered the first nugget of the Gold Rush while deepening the mill raceway; unfortunately, none of those who knew of his discovery could keep silent and thereby set off a national mania and ensured the ruin of Sutter and of Marshall. Marshall considered himself under a curse and lived the remainder of his life a tortured man. The nugget he discovered, now in the Bancroft Library, is, in a final twist of fate, called the Wimmer Nugget after the man whose wife tested it by boiling it in lye. In what is probably a very early plea for historic preservation, Parsons laments that Sutter’s Mill has been destroyed and Marshall can barely recognize now exactly where he found the nugget; he urges that monuments be erected before all memory of the exact locales is lost (pp. 88-89). The portrait of Marshall with a rueful expression on his face sitting on a rock in a stream holding a gold nugget was engraved by Warren C. Butler (see Groce & Wallace, p. 101).

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