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Lot 17

“The most elaborate and accurate single record of an overland journey for 1849 or for any other year”—Mattes

17. BRUFF, J. Goldsborough. Gold Rush: The Journals, Drawings, and Other Papers of J. Goldsborough Bruff, Captain, Washington City and California Mining Association April 2, 1849-July 20, 1851 Edited by Georgia Willis Read and Ruth Gaines, with a Foreword by F. W. Hodge. Volume 1: Washington City to Bruff’s Camp. [and] ...Volume 2: Bruff’s Camp to Washington City. New York: Columbia University Press, 1944. lxxxviii, 630 + viii [631]-1404 pp., frontispieces, numerous plates (3 folding), text illustrations, facsimiles, maps. 2 vols., 8vo, original half black cloth over grey boards. Very fine, fresh set. Publisher’s box not present.

     First edition. Edwards, Enduring Desert, p. 36: “Death Valley material of primary importance.” Heckman 56. Howell, California 50:1473. Howes R91. Libros Californianos, p. 75. Mattes, Platte River Road Narratives 377. Mintz, The Trail 64. Norris 424. Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 25. This original edition is considered superior to later reprints because of the quality of paper and printing.

Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 93a:

Howes calls this the “most elaborate of overland narratives” and Mattes calls this two-volume diary with its sketches, maps, and appendices “the most elaborate and accurate single record of an overland journey for 1849 or for any other year.” Bruff went to California with the intention of writing an overland guidebook. West Point trained, Bruff was the draftsman of the U.S. Bureau of Topographical Engineers. Bruff organized and commanded a party of sixty-six men called the Washington City and California Mining Association. His company left Washington, D.C. on April 2, 1849, and reached St. Joseph on April 27. From that point, they traveled to Fort Kearny and Emigrant’s Pass. In Nevada, the company elected to follow the Lassen Trail and reached the Feather River on November 1. While recording what he saw in his journal in eloquent detail, Bruff also produced a series of sketches, diagrams, and maps unequaled in overland travel.
      The second volume is devoted to his experiences in the mines. The prospectus for this two-volume work offers this summary: “In the summer of 1850 he accompanied Peter Lassen and others in search of the fabulous Gold Lake. They discovered and named Honey lake, visited October 4-5 of that year by Bruff, who also claims for the party the discovery of Eagle Lake. In December, 1850, he visited Sacramento City and in January, 1851, reached San Francisco, sailing soon for Gold Bluffs, another mining sensation. He returned to San Francisco in March and sailed for home, via Panama, June 14.” In a letter dated December 14, 1869, Bruff recalled how he was offered $10,000 for his pencil drawings while he was in San Francisco. His “memoirs” and drawings were reworked upon his return.
      Editors Read and Gaines spent over fifteen years editing Bruff’s journals, assembling the extensive critical notes and elaborate appendices. Their introduction is a masterpiece. They wrote: “We know of no record of the route comparable to his for length and historical fact.” The notes by Bruff for his proposed overland guidebook and his notes on other guidebooks and waybills provide a unique insight. The appendices include a wealth of supplementary data. The editors also included the journals of two of Bruff’s fellow travelers on the Lassen Trail: Dr. [T. G.?] Caldwell from May 25 to October 23, 1849 and Dr. Allen McClane from September 5 to September 15, 1849. Bruff’s journals and original drawings are preserved in the Henry E. Huntington Library. According to the prospectus for 1944: “Edition limited to one printing of not more than 1250 copies, after which type will be destroyed.” In 1949, Columbia University published the Bruff journals in an abridged edition known as the California Centennial Edition. While it did not include all the drawings and earlier diaries and eliminated the appendices, it provided “fresh information on persons and routes.”

(2 vols.) ($250-500)


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