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Auction 15: Fine Collection of Californiana Formed by Daniel G. Volkmann Jr.
167. RYAN, William Redmond. Personal Adventures in Upper and Lower California, in 1848-9; With the Author’s Experience at the Mines. Illustrated by Twenty-three Drawings, Taken on the Spot. London: William Shoberl, 1850. vi [1, list of illustrations] [1, blank] 347  +  413  pp., 2 frontispieces (lithographed scenes on toned grounds), 1 lithographed scene on toned ground, 20 woodcut plates. 2 vols., 8vo, original red gilt-pictorial blind-embossed cloth. Spines faded, chipped, and vol. 2 spine almost detached, shaken, text blocks split at vol. 1, pp. 24-25 and 72-73, and vol. 2, pp. 144-145, vol. 1 slightly shelf-worn, light uniform age toning. With printed John Howell labels on rear pastedowns.
First edition. Bradford 4767. Braislin 1599. Byrd 8. Cowan I, p. 197. Cowan II, p. 547: “The charming narrative of an artist and bohemian who left unrecorded but little that he saw. His descriptions are among the best of his time.” Eberstadt 125:191. Graff 3626. Hill 1508. Holliday 966. Howell 50, California 215. Howes R558: “Both the text and the illustrations are among the best of the period.” Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 548a (calling for the final page of vol. 2 to be blank). Norris 3340. Plath 925. Rocq 16037. Sabin 74532. Streeter Sale 2646: “Readable account of his travels and life in California, much of it being trivial but all adding up to a picture of the times.” Vail, Gold Fever, p. 22. Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 173.
The lovely plates are based on Ryan’s own drawings. The woodcuts were executed by E. V. Campbell, and the lithographs by Robert Jacob Hamerton (see Bénézit). For liveliness and freshness of both literary style and observation, this is a difficult book to surpass for the period.
Ryan was curious and for the most part open to the people and experiences he encountered. His emotional honesty with the reader is also unusual, and in some ways Ryan is far more candid than other Englishmen who made the same trip for the same purpose.
At vol. 2, pp. 35-37, is
an almost hilarious description of Ryan at one moment writhing in extended
self-doubts and in the next, after his companion finds a gold nugget,
concluding: “This was quite enough to drive all philosophy out of my
head, and I forthwith looked out for a likely place and began to dig
away as busily as the rest.”
168. [SAGE, Rufus
B.]. Scenes in the Rocky Mountains, and in Oregon, California,
New Mexico, Texas and the Grand Prairies; or, Notes by the Way, During
an Excursion of Three Years, with a Description of the Countries Passed
Through, Including Their Geography, Geology, Resources, Present Condition,
and the Different Nations Inhabiting Them. By a New Englander. Philadelphia:
Carey & Hart, 1846. xii -303 pp., folded lithographed map: Map
of Oregon, California, New Mexico, N.W. Texas & the Proposed Territory
of Ne-Bras-Ka By Rufus B. Sage. 1846. F. Michelin’s Lith. 111, Nassau
Street N.Y.; 45 x 60 cm; 17-3/4 x 23-5/8 inches). 12mo, original
blind-embossed brown cloth (inexpertly rebacked, original spine preserved),
spine gilt-lettered. Shelf-worn, missing several pieces at extremities
and along joints, gilt lettering worn, corners worn and bumped with
board exposed, front hinge starting, front pastedown abraded where library
pocket was removed, light offsetting to title page and old ink number
bleached out, mild uniform age toning to text. Map with minor splits
at folds and old closed tears at text block (no losses) and some browning
(mostly confined to verso), generally the map is very good to fine.
Littell (904) described Sage’s book as “rare in any condition” and “an
important source book of the early overland trails.”
First edition, second issue (with page numbers 77-88, 270-271, and 302 correctly placed in outer margin). Bauer 429. Bradford 4774. Cowan I, p. 197. Cowan II, p. 548. Field 1345. Fifty Texas Rarities 30. Graff 3633: “The first hundred copies were issued in wrappers.” Cf. Howell 50, California 216 (1st issue): “One of the most important source books of the overland.” Howes S16: “An intelligent narrative of extensive travels from the Platte to the Arkansas.” Mattes, Platte River Road Narratives 68. Mintz, The Trail 402. Pilling 3438. Plains & Rockies IV:123:1. Rader 2870. Raines, p. 181. Rittenhouse 502. Sabin 74892. Saunders 3141. Smith 8929. Streeter Sale 3409. Vandale 148. Wheat, Maps of the California Gold Region 30. Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West 527 (illustrated on p. 40): “Most copies lack...the map...one of the earliest to depict the finally-determined Oregon boundary...one of the earliest attempts to show on a map the ever-more-heavily traveled emigrant road to California.” Despite such conventional wisdom regarding the rarity of the map, cloth-bound copies with maps are actually common in commerce. The wrappers issue came out first (supposedly limited to 100 copies), and it is in the wrappers issue that the map is not found, probably because it was never issued with it. However, we have handled a copy in wrappers with the map loosely inserted (as was the case with the Siebert copy).
John Allen states: “While the maps by the U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers are inarguably the most important maps of the decade of the forties for the West in general, many other distinctive maps were produced during that period, particularly for the area of the plains.... Among the...migrant and traveler maps...the cartographic efforts of Rufus B. Sage are both representative and among the finest examples of the genre. Sage’s map of 1846, drawn to accompany his Scenes in the Rocky Mountains, is outstanding in its portrayal of the territory east of the Rocky Mountains. From the Missouri on the north to the Canadian River on the south, Sage drew as accurate a map of the plains as any mid-nineteenth-century cartographer’s, except for the maps of the topographical engineers. His delineation of the courses of virtually all the major plains streams and their tributaries is nearly without fault; he identified both the Oregon and California trails with care and precision; he located, as accurately as any, the territories of the major plains tribal groups. Like other cartographers of the period, Sage did not have the Black Hills correctly, showing them as a linear chain running northwest from the Sweetwater to the Missouri. In a concession to both the patterns of promise and the pessimism that were evident among mappers of the Plains, Sage’s ‘Great American Desert’ sprawls in flourishing letters across the plains south of the Arkansas, while in the heart of ‘proposed Ne-Bras-Ka Territory,’ straddling the Platte and identified in even more florid style, are the ‘Grand Prairies’” (“Patterns of Promise” in Mapping the North American Plains, p. 53, & Fig. 3.8).
Ellis, Colorado Mapology, p. 41 (illustrated): “It is interesting to note the two broken lines, one running due north from the headwaters of the Arkansas River to the 42nd parallel and the other from the headwaters of the Rio Grande to the same parallel. This is reminiscent of the boundaries of the Republic of Texas, but the significance of the line from the headwaters of the Arkansas had faded in 1845.” Apparently the map was prepared later at the author’s insistence and not included in all copies. Not only is it the first to show the new Oregon boundary, it emphasizes the increasingly used emigrant roads to California. As indicated by the number of distributors’ names present on copies in the wrappers, the book had a wide distribution, from Philadelphia to Mobile and practically everywhere between.
Sage began his journey out of a desire to see new climes and freely admits that all along he intended to write a book, thereby being refreshingly honest, as opposed to others who publicly adopted an “Aw, shucks” attitude, insisting that their writings would never have seen the light of day except for the importuning of their friends, neighbors, clergymen, or whomever. Although capable of being a steely eyed, almost detached observer, Sage is thoroughly steeped in Romanticism and repressed Victorian sexuality, as well. His florid description of the area around Westport, Missouri, is typical: “The blushing strawberry, scarce yet divested of its rich burden of fruit, kissed my every step” (p. 15). In his description of the Beer-Herring duel, however, he recounts events as if he were deadpanning, although he claims to have known both men personally and states he was “much interested” in the event (p. 161).
Also an amateur sociologist, Sage, in a twist on the Welsh Indians theory, suggests that the Munchie Indians were descendents of a colony of ancient Romans (pp. 199-200). He is also perfectly capable of anthropomorphism, which he demonstrates in rapid succession in his description of wolves and ravens (pp. 236-237). Although long known to be important for the historical materials he brings to light, Sage is also worth study as an author and observer steeped in the personal and sometimes whimsical traditions of his era, in which both writers and the general public grappled to understand the vastness and newness of the western continent that lay before them.