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Lot 56

56. EVANS, Albert S. Á la California. Sketches of Life in the Golden State. By. Col. Albert S. Evans. Author of “Our Sister Republic.” With an Introduction by Col. W. H. Barnes, and Illustrations from Original Drawings by Ernest Narjot. San Francisco: A. L. Bancroft & Company, Publishers, Booksellers and Stationers, 1873. 379 [1, blank] pp., 25 wood-engraved plates by Ernest Narjot. 8vo, publisher’s original red cloth with black ruled borders and gilt lettering and ornamentation (miner’s tools). Spinal extremities slightly frayed, otherwise a superb, bright, fresh copy. It would be difficult to find a better copy.

     First edition. Anderson Sale 1685:95: “Night scenes in San Francisco, opium dens, etc.” Bradford 1587. Cowan I, p. 80. Cowan II, p. 199. Cowan & Dunlap, Chinese Question 183: “Contains description of Chinese life and customs in San Francisco.” Howell, California 50:454: “Particularly striking are Evans’ descriptions of San Francisco, among them a Chinese funeral feast, the low life of the Barbary Coast, and the street panoramas and sounds of the city.” Rocq 15793. Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 68: "Refreshing Sketches, mostly of the later period, but with some significant material on Gold Rush days."

     Colonel Albert S. Evans (1831-1872), target of Mark Twain’s barbed wit, was a New Hampshire-born journalist associated with the Alta California, New York Tribute, and the Chicago Tribune. Evans wrote books like this one describing the colorful aspects of the local scene. Evans was a member of U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward’s visit to Mexico (1869-1870), the basis of his 1870 book on Mexico, Our Sister Republic.

     The lively illustrations are after the work of French artist Ernest Narjot (originally Etienne Narjot de Francheville) (1826-1898), who studied art in Paris before joining the Gold Rush to California in 1849. After three unsuccessful years in the Mother Lode area, he accompanied a mining expedition to Sonora, Mexico. For thirteen years he mined and painted scenes along the border of Mexico and Arizona, but returned in 1865 to San Francisco, where he became a leading California artist. His paintings are meticulously detailed and rendered in the traditional style of the mid-19th century French School. His work includes mining scenes, landscapes, portraits, and several murals in churches and public buildings of northern California. Narjot was commissioned to paint the ceiling of Leland Stanford's tomb at Stanford University. While working there, paint splashed in his eyes, blinding him. He died in poverty in San Francisco. His works are rare because most of his paintings were destroyed in the earthquake and fire of 1906. ($250-500)

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