Farnham’s “Pictorial Edition!!!”
In Fancy Original Binding & with a “When-the-Eagle-Screamed” Map
58. FARNHAM, Thomas Jefferson. Pictorial Edition!!! Life, Adventures, and Travels in California. By T. J. Farnham. To Which are Added the Conquest of California, Travels in Oregon, and History of the Gold Regions. New York: Published by Nafis & Cornish; St. Louis: Van Dien & MacDonald, 1849. 468 pp. (text within line borders), 53 full-page woodcut text illustrations within line borders (including frontispiece and pictorial title within ornamental border of military and patriotic symbols), large folding colored map. 8vo, publisher’s original black extra gilt cloth with elaborate gilt-stamped design of pictorial vignettes within ornate floral surrounds and rule borders, spine with scrolling ornaments (skillfully rebacked, original spine preserved). This book, when found, is usually in deplorable condition. A very bright copy, text fresh, map with good color retention and professionally restored (occasional small losses at fold lines, cleaned, deacidified, and backed with Japanese tissue). On front free endpaper and last blank are ownership inscriptions of Edwin Slevin dated December 24, 1849, and early purple ink rubber stamp of P. R. Cain of St. Louis on front pastedown.
Map of the United States and Mexico including Oregon, Texas and the Californias. [ca. 1849]. Engraved map in full color with borders outlined in red, text with statistics within ornamental side bars, left bar topped by California device within circle illustrating a rider lassoing a cow at top, right bar topped with Oregon device within circle showing a stag in a landscape, outer border for entire map consisting of connected seals within circular borders for the then 30 states. Image size: approximately 45 x 56.5 cm.; 17-1/2 x 22-1/4 inches. Sheet size: 47.4 x 58 cm; 18-5/8 x 22-7/8 inches. Neither California nor Oregon were states at the time, but the former was admitted on September 9, 1850, and the latter in 1859.
First “Pictorial Edition” of Farnham’s Travels in California, originally published at New York in 1844 with one plate and 416 pages. During its long and intricate publishing history, Farnham’s book evolved to meet the changing times. In its first incarnation in 1844, the book was unapologetic Manifest Destiny boosterism urging the United States to secure California. Then the work changed to reflect developments on the Mexican-American War and U.S. acquisition of the Southwest. The present edition was the first to include the exciting news of the discovery of gold in California and a short essay on the Gold Region. Bradford 1630. Braislin 712. Cowan II, p. 203. Garrett, Mexican-American War 147. Forbes, Hawaiian National Bibliography 1737 (noting 5 Hawaiian plates; see also Forbes 1464 with an excellent discussion of Farnham’s 1839-1840 visit to Hawaii). Howes F49. Norris 1110. Plains & Rockies IV:107:6 (binding illustrated on p. 225; Becker notes the map was not seen in the copy he examined). Sabin 23868.
Farnham’s work, which struck a deep chord in the United States’ realization of its expansionist agenda, was a huge publishing success. The present “Pictorial Edition” was “produced to take advantage of the public’s excited curiosity about California during the period 1849-1855 [and] embellished with a remarkable array of printer’s cuts that were taken from stock and given more or less relevant captions. ‘The Old Trapper’ (opposite page 320)...more nearly resembles Robin Hood”—Plains & Rockies IV:107. The plates are among the more crude we have seen in a Western Americana book, although the frontispiece view of Pyramid Lake is decent enough.
The anonymous map is a large, popular production of the Phelps and Ensign genre, shouting “Manifest Destiny Realized.” The map presents no new information on the cartographic front, but in all likelihood the changing boundaries that reflected a coast-to-coast U.S. and a down-sized Mexico were what was meant to be imparted to the eager masses. Maps frequently have other goals than accurately reflecting geography.
Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 233a:
Although Farnham died in San Francisco in 1848, his books enjoyed great popularity during the Gold Rush. This title is a continuation of his earlier Travels in California (1844), but in 1849, the publisher added a short passage (pp. 431-432) on the gold discovery.
Kurutz, in Volkmann Zamorano 80 Catalogue:
Thomas Jefferson Farnham, an experienced traveler and entertaining writer, presented an important overview of Mexican California at a time of tremendous political instability and heightened covetousness by the expansionist-minded United States. Earlier, he had traveled to Oregon and to the Sandwich Islands before arriving in California in April 1841. The New England adventurer and lawyer toured the principal settlements of Upper California and wrote in the most glowing terms of its potential. Farnham saw in California a verdant land that was ripe for the plucking, a land waiting to be developed by a go-ahead, industrious people. His words on the beauty and prospects of California would have pleased the railroad boomers of the 1880s:
“California is an incomparable wilderness. This is a wilderness of groves and lawns, broken by deep and rich ravines, separated from each other by broad and wild wastes. Along the ocean is a world of vegetable beauty; on the sides of the mountains are the mightiest trees of the earth; on the heights are the eternal snows, lighted by volcanic fires” (p. 117). Later he wrote, “It may be confidently asserted that no country in the world possesses so fine a climate coupled with so productive a soil as the sea board portion of the Californias” (p. 344).
In contrast to California’s natural gifts, Farnham had much less enthusiasm for its residents noting that “its miserable people live unconscious of these things.” He reinforced Dana’s highly prejudicial stereotype of a sleepy, mañana-oriented people in a state of eternal bliss who failed to grasp the enormous opportunity of California.
Farnham, as so many other writers of his era, diluted much of his text with a generalized, lackluster history of the Californias based on earlier, well-known accounts. However, when writing about what he actually saw, this gifted observer excelled. He presented a superb synopsis of California’s geography, climate, cattle, crops, missions, presidios, harbors, and Indians. Sifting through his acrid contempt of the Hispanics, his reading audience gained an interesting glimpse of the Californio economy, amusements, and government. He predicted that “the grape will undoubtedly be the great staple product of the Californias.” Such effusive pictures of this Eden-like land no doubt attracted future waves of settlers from the United States.
Much of Farnham’s negative view of the Californios was tainted by poor timing. Leaving Hawaii on board the Don Quixote, he arrived in Monterey on April 18, 1840, at a time when the province was in a state of political turmoil culminating in what became known as the “Graham Affair.” He immediately met U.S. counsel Thomas Oliver Larkin and learned that over 150 Americans and Britons were “starving and thirsting in the prisons of the town, and destined to be sacrifice to Spanish malignity.” California Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado, he discovered, had imprisoned Isaac Graham and his band of roughnecks, charging them with plotting to overthrow the government. Farnham intervened and claimed credit for having gained the release of many of these prisoners. This direct experience with the local government, combined with his inherent New England suspicion of things Hispanic, poisoned his view of the Californios. He condemned them in the strongest possible terms using phrases like “worthless rabble of bastards” and “a blight of idiocy.”
Years later, when Bancroft consulted Farnham’s book in writing his History of California, the historian doubted his account of the Graham Affair and did not much care for Farnham’s opinions, especially when it came to the Californios. Bancroft in his Pioneer Register wrote, “Farnham was a lawyer of some ability, and a writer of somewhat fertile imagination. It must suffice to say that in all those parts resting on his own observation it is worthless trash, and in all that relates to the Californian people a tissue of falsehoods.” In the narrative text in his History of California, Bancroft said that Farnham had a “hatred and contempt for all that was Californian.” Bancroft did, however, make one concession by complimenting him on his writing saying that he had “an attractive way of expressing his ideas.”
With the discovery of gold in 1848, Farnham’s work assumed even more popularity and new and expanded pictorial editions were published.
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