“Classic Spoof of the Adventurers of the Forty-Niner”—Streeter
118. READ, J[ames] A. & D[onald] F. Read (illustrators). Journey to the Gold Diggins by Jeremiah Saddlebags. Illustrated by J. A. & D. F.Read. Cincinnati: U. P. James, 167 Walnut Street, . 63 [1, blank] pp., pictorial title, 112 engraved comic illustrations. Oblong 8vo, original gold pictorial wrappers with illustrations on both wraps, stitched. Spine mostly perished and reinforced with old translucent archival tape, upper wrapper slightly stained along top margins, fragile wraps slightly chipped along blank margins (both with a few archival reinforcements, mild browning to edges of very tops of first few leaves. Overall very fine, the interior clean and fresh. In a half brown levant morocco and terracotta cloth slipcase with matching cloth chemise.
First edition, the Cincinnati issue (an issue came out in New York simultaneously; the issue precedence not established). Byrd 45. Cowan II, p. 523. Graff 3432. Howell, California 50:203. Howes R92. Norris 539. Sabin 68157. Streeter Sale 2591: “Jeremiah Saddlebags underwent every possible mishap in this classic spoof of the adventurers of the Forty-Niner.” The illustrations by James A. and Donald F. Read are among the earliest caricatures in American literature of the forty-niners, rivalled by Outline History of an Expedition to California: Containing the Fate of the Get All You Can Mining Association. Designed and Engraved by XOX (see Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 474). This work, copyrighted May 20, 1849, is usually considered the best known of the Gold Rush comic book literature, although the illustrations lack the rough-and-ready character of those found in the XOX work and the story itself is not nearly so grim and pessimistic. Saddlebags, after numerous adventures involving capture by Native Americans, nearly being eaten by an alligator, and discovering a large chunk of fool’s gold, finally makes his way back home to recover his true love and his sanity.
Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 524a:
Hamilton, Early American Book Illustrators and Wood Engravers II, p. 130: “The Read brothers were wood engravers of New York City, but they were illustrators as well, working for a number of magazines”; #1902: “Shows the lamentable experiences of Mr. Saddlebags in search of gold ... 18 of the cuts are signed by Richardson as the wood engraver and 1 (p. 40) by Orr. The title-page cut is repeated on the front wrapper, and on the back wrapper is an elaborate wood engraving ... advertising Redstick: or, Scenes in the South, published by U. P. James.... Another edition of this book was published by Stringer and Townsend in New York. It is not dated but it may precede the Cincinnati edition. A comparison of the two editions shows in the Cincinnati edition some breaks in the thin lines surrounding the cuts, breaks which do not appear in the New York edition. Except for this there is not much to choose between the two editions in the quality of the impressions.” ($10,000-20,000)
Joseph Henry Jackson, in the introduction to the William P. Wreden edition, called the adventures of Jeremiah Saddlebags the best known of the American comic books on the Gold Rush. Norris added: “In its entirety the volume constitutes a newly found historical phase of the contemporary gold fever, and is without doubt the first record, in typical American caricature, of the immense national effect produced by the great discovery of 1849.” Saddlebags, in this amusing and satirical work, came to California via the Isthmus of Panama and returned overland (the opposite of most Argonauts. The Read brothers filed the copyright on May 20, 1849. Apparently, New York and Cincinnati editions appeared simultaneously. The wrapper advertisement for the New York imprint announced a new book: “California and Its Gold Region” at a price of 50 cents.
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