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Lot 62

“The hand-colored plates are of exceptional quality and the engraved frontispiece is one of the glories of Gold Rush literature”—Kurutz

62. [FLEMING, G. A.]. California: Its Past History; Its Present Position; Its Future Prospects: Containing a History of the Country from its Colonization by the Spaniards to the Present Time; a Sketch of its Geographical and Physical Features and a Minute and Authentic Account of the Discovery of the Gold Region, and the Subsequent Important Proceedings. Including a History of the Rise, Progress, and Present Condition of the Mormon Settlements. With an Appendix, Containing the Official Reports Made to the Government of the United States. London: [M’Gowan and Co., Printers, 16 Great Windmill Street, London] Printed for the Proprietors, 1850. viii, 270 pp., 4 leaves of engraved plates (3 plates & 1 map), all vividly hand colored and with gum arabic highlights. 8vo, original blind-embossed terracotta cloth (neatly recased, original spine preserved. Spine faded and with some losses at extremities, corners lightly bumped, otherwise fine. With printed bookplate of Charles H. Segerstrom on front pastedown. Maroon cloth slipcase. Scarce.

Plates & Map

Frontispiece: Emigrant Party on the Road to California.

Pictorial title: California Its Past History Its Present Position Its Future Prospects [mining scene on a river] Scene on a Branch of the Sacramento. London. Printed for the Booksellers 1850. The pictorial title varies from the one in the next entry, which commences: The Emigrant’s Guide to the Golden Land.... The illustration and all else is the same.

Plate: Encampment in the Valley of the Sacramento. This scene, which is specific to California, also appears in the next work. It is one of the more beautiful nineteenth-century plates of California.

Map: Untitled map showing the Transmississippi West from the 42nd to the 32nd parallels (full color, gold regions in yellow; 13 x 20.9 cm; 5-1/8 x 8-1/8 inches).

     First edition. Byrd 23. Cowan I, p. 33. Cowan II, p. 93. Flake 1085: “Written when Utah was considered part of California.” Graff 1347. Holliday 159. Howes F178: “One of the fullest and most interesting of the contemporary accounts.” Norris 536. Sabin 9973. Streeter Sale 2623. Vail, Gold Fever, p. 17. Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 4: “Exceptionally complete and interesting compendium of California material, with important colored plates.” Wheat, Maps of the California Gold Region 144 (noting that not all copies have the Gold Regions colored in yellow, as in this copy).

     This guide is a perfectly serious one intended to be of actual use to an English emigrant. Opening with a review of English law and regulations concerning ships carrying emigrants, it soon moves to a general description of the area and its history, mostly drawn from secondary sources, such as Frémont and Vizetelly. Written principally for the poor—those for whom “the mind succumbs to the stomach”—the author puts forth the proposition that those who can successfully practice a trade in California will ultimately prosper more than those who merely seek gold.

Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 242:

Graff notes on the front free endpaper of his copy: “G. A. Fleming is the author, according to a presentation copy owned by B. E. Waters.” The author opens this detailed volume with sage advice to the English gold seeker on such matters as the arrival at port, fares, outfits, and conduct on board ship. The rest of the volume is a scissors and paste creation compiled from the writings of Americans such as John C. Fremont and Bayard Taylor and excerpts taken from English eyewitnesses published in English newspapers. Like many of his contemporaries, Fleming also packed into the book geographical and historical data on the Spanish-Mexican period. He gives a history of the gold discovery and a description of life in the mines by condensing Dr. Tyrwhitt Brooks’ (Henry Vizetelly) fictional work which Fleming calls “The only complete and reliable account of the actual life of a Gold Seeker.” Fleming warned his readers of the hardships of California and preached: “The steady tradesman will, in the end, prove the true gold-finder.”

      The hand-colored plates are of exceptional quality and the engraved frontispiece is one of the glories of Gold Rush literature. In most copies examined or cited, the volume is illustrated with three plates. The Bancroft, Beinecke, University of California at San Diego, and Lilly Libraries possess copies with additional plates related to New Zealand. Randall listed a copy with seven plates and Decker with nine uncolored views. Byrd states that this variation: “would appear to attest to ignorance in gathering the book for the binding rather than design of the publisher.”


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