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Lot 81

“The worst and unromantic side of life in the state”—Cowan

81. HOLBROOK, Samuel F. Threescore Years: An Autobiography, Containing Incidents of Voyages and Travels, including Six Years in a Man-of-War. Details of the War between the United States and the Algerine Government, Bombardment of Algiers by Lord Exmouth, and Its Subjugation by the French. Also, Two Years in California, a Visit to the Crimea during the Bombardment and Capture of Sebastopol, Journey through Asia Minor, Syria, Palestine and Egypt. With Illustrations. Boston: [Press of S. Chism, Franklin Printing House, Boston, for] James French and Company, 1857. 504 pp., woodcut text illustrations, 13 of which are full page (primarily sinking ships and sea battles). 8vo, publisher’s original blindstamped brown cloth, upper cover with gilt-pictorial illustration of Saladin, spine gilt-lettered and with illustration of anchor. A few signatures starting and spine a bit faded, but generally a fine, fresh copy, the gilt pictorial illustration on upper cover bright. With the 1864 inscription of J. B. Coyle, Jr., Boston on front free endpaper. Quarter indigo blue cloth over marbled boards, matching chemise.

     First edition. Braislin 960. Cowan II, p. 288: “His descriptions of the worst and unromantic side of life in the state are nevertheless interesting.” Howell, California 50:524. Howes H576. Rocq 9834. Sabin 32547. Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 102.

Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 336:

Holbrook, in this adventure book, went to California in 1849 via the Isthmus of Panama. Pages 451-492 cover his California experience. As Cowan notes, the author had little regard for the state and its inhabitants. “San Francisco,” he wrote, “was filled with gamblers, rogues of every species, cutthroats, highway robbers, Sydney convicts, villainous commission merchants and bankers, fraudulent auctioneers, hypocrites, apologies for courts, and some of the most miserable and contemptible pettifoggers that could be scraped together from every section of the country.” While in the Gold Rush port, he described the workings of the Vigilantes and the execution of John Jenkins. He purchased a steamboat for traffic between San Francisco and Sacramento. Holbrook took a tour of the mines around Oregon Gulch, but because so much had already been written, he decided not to provide any detail. He was, however, quick to point out the negative.

     Samuel F. Holbrook, a Navy carpenter, offers examples of the harshness of Navy discipline, e.g., on flogging: “I fancy that those editors and legislators who sit in their cozy armchairs, in office or congressional hall, and talk wisely about the necessity of flogging for sailors, need only once to witness the infliction of the punishment they think so needful, and experience with their own breasts the feeling of dark humiliation which falls upon the soul at seeing the manhood being scourged out of a fellow creature, to alter their convictions as to the expediency of flogging.” Holbrook was the first president of the Washington Temperance Society of Baltimore. ($2,000-3,000)

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