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Texas, California, the Southwest U.S., Mexico & the Borderlands:
Interesting books, broadsides, maps & ephemera

Lot 8

Zamorano 80

8. BREWER, William H[enry]. Up and Down California in 1860-1864.... Edited by Francis P. Farquhar.... New Haven: Yale University Press, 1930. xxx, 601 [1, blank] pp., 32 plates (including photographic frontispiece; many halftones from contemporary navy blue cloth, folding map, text illustrations. 8vo, original navy blue cloth, spine gilt-lettered. Fine in d.j. (price clipped and spine of d.j. sun faded). Laid in is publication information.

     First edition. Cowan II, p. 70. Edwards, Enduring Desert, pp. 32-33. Hill, pp. 362-63. Howell 50, California 322. Howes B754. Huntington Library, Zamorano 80...Exhibition of Famous and Notorious California Classics 9. Libros Californianos, p. 55 (Powell commentary). Neate, Mountaineering and Its Literature 106. Norris 391. Powell, California Classics, pp. 115-27: “Brewer was the field leader of the first California Geological Survey.... His description of California in the early 1860s is unmatched by any other in its variety, fidelity, and human interest.” Rocq 16701. Zamorano 80 #9.

Gary F. Kurutz in Volkmann Zamorano 80 catalogue:

William Henry Brewer, who served as Josiah D. Whitney’s principal assistant and field leader of the California Geological Survey in the early 1860s, wrote a series of journal-like letters that form one of the best travel accounts describing the totality of California. Skillfully assembled and edited by that great historian and bibliographer of the High Sierra, Francis P. Farquhar, Brewer’s detailed letters cover virtually every aspect of the state from Los Angeles to Crescent City and from San Francisco to the mines of the Comstock Lode. In four years, this New York–born scientist had traveled over 14,000 miles from one end of the state to the other. Probably no one before or since had tramped over so much territory. Kevin Starr calls his letters “the founding statement of California mountaineering...they put on record the exact extent of California’s alpine heritage.” Although written for family and friends, they superbly chronicle the first systematic scientific survey of the Golden State.

     By foot, mule, and stage, the Yale-trained Brewer and his colleagues Clarence King (also a Yale graduate), Charles F. Hoffman, and James T. Gardiner traversed over hill and dale to learn all they could about California’s post–Gold Rush natural resources and its geologic past. In so doing, Brewer saw just about every notable natural wonder that graced the state from its majestic coastline to the towering peaks of the Sierra. The Yosemite Valley, the giant sequoias, geysers, lakes, rivers, and mountain peaks all came under his scrutiny. This book of letters, however, is much more than an alpine adventure or nature study; it also encompasses California’s human environment of instant cities, mines, farms, ranches, lumber mills, roads, and waterways. His visits to Los Angeles, the “decadent” town of Santa Barbara, San Francisco (the “best governed city in the United States”), and once-booming mining camps provide a fresh perspective and entertaining reading.

     Brewer sent these letters back home to his brother Edgar with instructions that they be shared with family and friends and be saved for his return. The scientist, however, never intended them to be published but, as brought out by Lawrence Clark Powell, he was “an unwitting literary artist, capable of writing a vigorous, flowing prose.” His epistles are marked by their clarity and immediacy and are not bogged down in turgid technical writing. Farquhar noted that “When he came to write out his impressions for the benefit of others, he clothed the bare bones of his statistics and created something pulsing with life. Yet he never altered his facts to make an impression.”

     As demonstrated by these reports to his family, Brewer seemingly never rested. Carrying delicate scientific instruments, he collected geologic and botanical specimens of all kinds, made complex observations and measurements, packed and repacked, tended to the needs of his colleagues and mules, kept statistics, maintained detailed notebooks, and yet found time to sit around a campfire to write. During a lengthy Los Angeles rain, for example, he confided that he had written thirteen letters or about eighty pages.

     Credit must be given to Farquhar for a masterful job of documenting Brewer’s California peregrinations. In addition to extensive notes, the volume includes an itinerary and a map illustrating his travels.


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