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Lot 54

Rare, privately printed 1849 voyage from Boston to San Francisco

A Riverside Rarity

54. DRAPER, Seth. Voyage of the Bark Orion from Boston around Cape Horn to San Francisco, Cal., in the Year 1849, Touching at Rio de Janeiro and Juan Fernandez by Seth Draper. Providence: [Privately printed by H. O. Houghton and Company and Riverside Press at Cambridge], 1870. 80 pp. 12mo, original grey printed wrappers, title within ruled border on upper cover. Covers lightly scuffed and browned, interior very fine. Blue cloth slipcase with black gilt-lettered spine label, matching chemise. Privately printed in a small edition. Very rare.

     First edition. Cowan I, p. 73. Cowan II, p. 184. Howell, California 50:441. Howes D488. Not in Borba de Moraes, Cox, Hill, National Maritime Museum Catalogue, Palau, etc. This sparse pamphlet was published by Riverside Press and printed by Henry O. Houghton, a collaboration commencing in 1852 and evolving into publishing giant Houghton-Mifflin. The book is a Riverside rarity.

     Draper’s account includes a stop at Juan Fernandez Island, where he visited Robinson Crusoe’s cave. He gives many interesting details, both mundane and otherwise, about his passage around South America on the Orion. In one bizarre incident a Mr. Ward, who was travelling with his sons, conceived that he was going to die, strolled past the captain to the rear of the ship, and cast himself into the sea. Once retrieved, however, he declared that he could walk on water and was sanguine about his possibilities in the gold fields. Draper sardonically concludes, “I think it very doubtful if he lives to terminate the voyage” (p. 75).

Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 206:

Seth Draper, aged twenty-nine, hailed from South Attleboro, Massachusetts. He sailed on the barque Orion from the port of Boston on November 12, 1849. When in Rio de Janeiro, Draper recorded the arrival of other California-bound vessels and wrote in some detail about what he saw at this great port city. He also provided fine accounts of his trip around Cape Horn and a four-day visit to Juan Fernandez Island. He arrived in San Francisco on May 6, 1850 or 175 days out from Boston.


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