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Lot 88

“One of the strongest stimulants in my scribbling, was the desire of gaining gold”

88. KELLY, William. An Excursion to California over the Prairie, Rocky Mountains, and Great Sierra Nevada. With a Stroll through the Diggings and Ranches of That Country. By William Kelly, J. P. In Two Volumes. London: [Whiting, Beaufort House, Strand] Chapman and Hall, 193, Piccadilly, 1851. Vol. I: x, 342 pp. Vol. II: viii, 334 [2] (ads) pp. 2 vols., 8vo, original blind embossed olive green cloth, spine lettered in gilt. Spines sunned, covers with minor spotting, both vols. slightly shelf slanted, lower hinge of Vol. I strengthened, hinges in Vol. II, but holding firmly, interiors fine, over all a very good set. Front free endpaper of Vol. I has a pencil inscription reading “R.M.R. to R.H.B. Feb. 1905.” With bookbinder’s tickets of London’s Bone & Son on rear pastedown of Vol. II. Brown cloth slipcase.

     First edition. Blumann & Thomas 5025. Bradford 2807. Braislin 1092. Byrd 27. Buck 453. Byrd 27. Cowan I, p. 129. Cowan II, pp. 325-326. Flake 4569. Graff 2298. Heckman, Overland on the California Trail 200. Howell, California 50:563. Howes K68. Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 370a. Mattes, Platte River Road Narratives 515. Mintz, The Trail 269. Plains & Rockies IV:200:1. Plath 648. Rocq 15895. Sabin 37231. Streeter Sale 2670. Vail, Gold Fever, p. 19. Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 115: “Lively, entertaining and worthwhile narrative.”

     The record of a three-month journey from Liverpool to the goldfields, where he arrived in late July 1849. Although Kelly has left a lively, interesting account of his experiences in the U.S. and in California, his first remark upon viewing the American coast was, “I was exceedingly disappointed by the low, flat, naked appearance of the shore as we approached the land, without a natural beauty to meet the eye in any direction” (Vol. I, p. 8). The narrative continues in much the same unflattering vein throughout its course. In some ways, he is more approving of the Native Americans than he is of the Anglo-American citizens. In Vol. 1, pp. 127-137, his encounter with the Sioux proves so satisfactory that he even practically falls in love with one woman of the tribe. Although he finds Sacramento charming, the way of life there appalls him, especially the “pandemoniums,” which he describes with some evenhandedness. Though profoundly disapproving of those who sacrifice so much to find gold, even he admits “that one of the strongest stimulants in my scribbling, was the desire of gaining gold” (Vol. 2, p. 334), meaning, of course, the respectable kind that publishers pay their authors.

Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 370a:

The first volume of Kelly’s narrative is devoted to his trip from Liverpool to New York and overland to California. He left Westport, England on April 6, 1849 and arrived at the diggings at Pleasant Valley on July 26, having spent 102 days traveling.

(2 vols.) ($1,500-3,000)

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