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Lot 150

“One of the most remarkable ‘imaginary voyages’ since Defoe”—Howes

150. [VIZETELLY, Henry]. Four Months among the Gold-Finders in Alta California: Being the Diary of an Expedition from San Francisco to the Gold Districts. By J. Tyrwhitt Brooks, M. D. London: [London: Vizetelly Brothers and Co., Printers and Engravers, Peterborough Court, Fleet Street, for] David Bogue, Fleet Street, 1849. xviii, 207 [1, blank] pp., lithographed map with gold regions outlined in yellow: The Gold Districts of Alta California (16.4 x 11.1 cm; 6-1/2 x 4-3/8 inches). 8vo, rebound in modern red cloth, with portion of spine with gilt-lettered title preserved and mounted. Slightly cocked, some signatures loose, uniform light browning and age-toning.

     First edition. Byrd 34. Cowan I, p. 25. Cowan II, p. 75. Gaer, California Literature, p. 50: “A plausible as well as entertaining work.” Graff 4494. Howes V134: “One of the most remarkable ‘imaginary voyages’ since Defoe.” Norris 403. Rocq 16125. Sabin 8350. Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 217. Wheat, Maps of the California Gold Region 60. A fabrication so convincingly told that it was widely published in Europe and believed for decades. Given the incredibly skillful and imaginative weaving of detail, dialogue, and incident that the author brings to the work, it is easy to see why many readers were fooled. A singular work that belongs in any fiction collection worthy the name. Vizetelly (1820-1894) was a distinguished and sometimes controversial English author and printer who was also a wine expert.

Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 653a:

While Vizetelly had never been to California, he fabricated this convincing account based on other publications and reports. As Graff points out, this fascinating narrative was accepted as fact well into the twentieth century. Vizetelly eventually confessed that this was a work of fiction. Cowan states that Vizetelly, with the assistance of David Bogue, wrote the book in about ten days. D. S. Watson in California Historical Society Quarterly, March 1932, p. 65, tells of this spurious title. See also: Erwin G. Gudde, "The Vizetelly Hoax" in Pacific Historical Review, XXVII, pp. 233 ff.


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