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Lot 108

“Highly prized for its eight hand-colored lithographs”—(Kurutz)

108. MARRYAT, Frank [Samuel Francis]. Mountains and Molehills; or, Recollections of a Burnt Journal...with Illustrations by the Author. London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1855. x, [2], 443 [1, blank] pp., engraved illustrated title, 8 tinted lithographic plates drawn on stone by Messrs. Hanhart from artwork by Marryat, 18 engraved text illustrations. 8vo, original publisher’s embossed red cloth (neatly rebacked, most of original gilt-lettered spine preserved, wanting lower quarter and small piece at headcap, original endpapers retained). Spine slightly darkened, moderate shelf wear, corners bumped with some board exposed, front hinge cracked with title page detached and next leaf weak, paper somewhat brittle (occasional light chipping at blank edges), plates very fine and bright. Bookplate removed from front pastedown (remains of adhesive). Blindstamp of Maryland Historical Society on title page and a few text leaves. Printed binder’s ticket on rear pastedown (Westley’s & Co. London). Increasingly difficult to find in original cloth.

     First edition. Cf. Adams, Herd 1445 (citing the New York edition, 1855). Braislin 1281. Cowan I, pp. 150-51: “An entertaining work, and greatly superior to the New York edition of the same year. The colored lithographs...depicting California life and scenes, are the most attractive prints of that period.” Cowan II, p. 416. Graff 2685. Gudde, California Gold Camps, p. 410. Hamilton, Early American Book Illustrators and Wood Engravers 1823 & vol. 2, pp. 113-14 (citing the New York 1855 edition, assigning the present English edition priority, comparing the iconography in both editions, and concluding that the inferior full-page engravings in the U.S. edition were recut and reduced in size and that the text illustrations in the U.S. edition were also redone). Holliday 756. Howell, California 50:619: “One of the best descriptions of life at the mines in the 1850s and of San Francisco and the Ranchos.” Howes M299. Huntington Library, Zamorano 80...Exhibition of Famous and Notorious California Classics 52. Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 429a. Norris 2422. Peters, California on Stone, pp. 161-62. Plath 719. Streeter Sale 2788 (noting that the book is “one of the twelve important books on the Gold Rush picked out by J. Gregg Layne and listed in the Book Club of California Quarterly News Letter, Autumn 1948”). Van Nostrand, The First Hundred Years of Painting in California, pp. 32-33: “Marryat’s vivid watercolors and his book, Mountains and Molehills, constitute an important contribution to the art and literature of the Gold Rush.” Van Nostrand & Coulter, California Pictorial, pp. 148-49: “Marryat used his inheritance to outfit himself for a hunting trip to California, accompanied by a servant and three bloodhounds. He arrived in California in the late fall of 49.” Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 137. Zamorano 80 #52. See also Samuels, Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West, pp. 304.

     The inspired colored plates after artwork by English artist and author Marryat are justly celebrated. The plates are: “Where the Gold Comes From” (frontispiece); “High and Dry” (op. p. 37, a view of a street scene on the waterfront as it appeared in 1849, including a lithography and printing establishment and an old, beached ship used as a storehouse, illustrated in Tyler, Prints of the West, p. 121); “Chagres River” (op. p. 92); “Winter of 1849” (op. p. 162, depicting the muddy streets of San Francisco); “Bar Room of Sonora” (op. p. 224); “Horse Auction” (op. p. 274); “San Francisco—A Fireman’s Funeral” (op. p. 344); “Crossing the Isthmus” (op. p. 406). One of the most technically accomplished lithographic firms of Victorian England, M. & N. Hanhart of London, transformed Marryat’s original artwork to lithographic plates that are bold yet delicate. Founded by Michael Hanhart, the firm had a long and successful history, published its first prints in 1840, and continued to produce work beyond 1888. Hanhart published everything from book illustrations to lithographic sheet music covers to large individual prints, and excelled in complex layering of tint stones unique for their coloration and tonal values.

     Includes ranching (Spanish grants, vaqueros, saddles, California horses, horse-breaking, etc.). Gary F. Kurutz’s notes (Volkmann Zamorano 80 #52): are worth repeating:

British writer, artist, and sailor Frank Marryat must be credited with writing one of the most entertaining, fast-moving, humorous, and colorful descriptions of Gold Rush California. Mountains and Molehills is one of the real showpieces of California literature. His powers of description are utterly entrancing and can only be matched by Bayard Taylor and John D. Borthwick. Unlike reporter Taylor, he was not an observer but a full participant in this cauldron of chaos. Brilliantly written and illustrated, his book, along with a handful of others, forever shaped the perception of the greatest gold rush in world history.

      Marryat, the son of popular novelist Frederick Marryat, began his narrative in April 1850, as he approached Chagres on the eastern side of the Isthmus of Panama. On June 14, 1850, he arrived in San Francisco to see the city recovering from one of its great fires. Despite this setback, he found the place in a “feverish state of excitement,” and encountered that most famous of all Gold Rush institutions, the gambling saloon. “On entering one of these saloons,” Marryat wrote, “the eye is dazzled almost by the brilliancy of chandeliers and mirrors. The roof, rich with giltwork, is supported by pillars of glass; and the walls are hung with French paintings of great merit, but of which female nudity form alone the subject. The centres of the tables are covered with gold ounces and rich specimens from the diggings.” Such magnetic descriptions no doubt shocked Victorian sensibilities and lured young men by the thousands.

      Marryat did come to California to find riches, and in the summer and fall of 1851 engaged in backbreaking quartz mining near Tuttletown, Tuolumne County. During his California adventure, Marryat jotted down incredible and vivid descriptions of saloons, fires, claim jumpers, bears, fleas, mining techniques, mining camps, Chinese and French miners, theaters, ranchos, and señoritas. In short, every conceivable subject of interest seemed to touch his ever-alert mind. Even with a few economic setbacks, he experienced more in a few short months than most of his contemporaries did in a lifetime. Having seen and done enough, the Britisher left California in the spring of 1852 promising to return. Taking a steamer, he headed to New York via the Isthmus. After getting married, the Marryats headed to California but, while making the Panama crossing, the new bridegroom contracted yellow or “Chagres” fever, a condition that severely compromised his health. He stayed long enough in San Francisco to see the city completely transformed.

      Marryat returned to England to prepare his book for publication. Demonstrating his good-natured ability to bounce back, he wrote in his preface that his journal and drawings had been destroyed in one of San Francisco’s many fires, resulting in his tongue-in-check subtitle. Possessed of a remarkable memory, he recreated his journal and sketches. Early in 1855, the book was published in London and New York and a positive review appeared in Harper’s Magazine for June 1855, accurately calling it a “fresh, racy, good-humored book.” Sadly, before the talented writer could receive the proper acclaim due him, he died on August 12, 1855, not yet thirty.

      In addition to being a writer of uncommon skill, Marryat was an artist with an abundance of talent. The subject matter he encountered readily inspired his creative instincts and provided memorable illustrative material. When the English edition was published, it featured eight exquisite colored lithographs based on his drawings. These plates not only graphically show the hardships everyone faced, but also reveal the Englishman’s wry sense of humor. His “High and Dry,” “Winter of 1849,” and “Bar Room of Sonora” rank among the most memorable and oft-reproduced views of the Gold Rush. The lithographs are supplemented by eighteen black-and-white wood engravings that provide a truly wonderful caricature of life in California. The American edition, published in New York by Harper & Brothers, lacks the colored lithographs and instead came with the same number of illustrations, all reproduced as wood engravings.


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