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October 26, 2007

“The complaints of the Texans are groundless”
Major Borderlands Report with Superb Maps

27. [BORDERLANDS]. MEXICO. COMISIÓN DE LA PESQUISIDORA DE LA FRONTERA DEL NORDESTE. Reports of the Committee of Investigation Sent in 1873 by the Mexican Government to the Frontier of Texas. Translated from the Official Edition Made in Mexico. New York: Baker & Goodwin, Printers, 1875. viii, [3]–443, [1 blank] pp. (p. 296 numbered 96), 3 folding lithograph maps with original color outlining or shading: [1] A Map of the Indian Territory Northern Texas and New Mexico Showing the reat [i.e., Great] Western Prairies by Josiah Gregg [below neat line] Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1844 by Sidney E. Morse and Samuel Breese in the Clerks Office of the Southern District of New York. Neat line to neat line: 31.2 x 38 cm, original maize shading; [2] Copiado del Mapa de S Mc. L. Staples, en 1828; del Mapa de Nigra de San Martin en quanto á las distancias respectivas, y de la carta general de la República Mexicana de García Cubas; y segun los informes fidedignos de personas que conocen el terreno, especialmente la parte mas al norte á la derecha del Rio Bravo.... Dibujado y extractado de los documentos y datos dichos, por F. L. Mier.—Monterey, Diciembre de 1873. Neat line to neat line: 39.3 x 25.8 cm, original outline coloring and shading; [3] Mapa del Rio Grande desde su desembocadura en el golfo hasta San Vicente, Presidio Antíguo. Mandado formar por el primer miembro de la Comisión Pesquisidora de la Frontera del Norte, conforme á las noticias recojidas en el Expediente 4o., Señalándose los ranchos que hay por ambas orillas del Rio Grande, y los pueblos que la Comisión ha visitado anotándose éstos con la línea roja...Monterey Diciembre 1[8]73 M. J. Martinez. Neat line to neat line: 80.4 x 72 cm, original outline shading with routes shown in red. 8vo (22.4 x 15 cm), original brown cloth spine over beige printed wrappers. Cloth spine has several voids, wrappers with uniform light browning, lower wrapper neatly reattached and moderately chipped with loss of one corner (neatly replaced), front free endpaper and title page backed (the latter consolidating three tears), large folded map ([3] above) with several expert repairs at folds (no losses). Armorial bookplate of R. G. Tithington. Several blind-embossed institutional stamps of Nardi Sportwear of Massachusetts (upper wrapper, title page, p. [iii]; one perforated stamp on title page, purple stamped number in lower blank margin of p. 3). Preserved in terracotta cloth box.

            First American edition and first edition in English of one of the most important borderlands reports (published the same year in Mexico, in Spanish). This report has been compared to the Pichardo treatise for its importance to Texas and borderlands history. Adams, Guns 1108. Adams, Herd 558 & 2264. Day, Maps of Texas, p. 87. Decker 37:340. Graff 2765. Eberstadt 122:97 (no mention of maps). Howes I32 (see also T143). Palau 119576–8. Tate, The Indians of Texas 2469.

            The chronic social and political unrest that existed along the Mexican northern borderlands had long been a source of controversy between Mexico and the United States. Charges were traded back and forth that Texans dressed as Native Americans were plundering Mexican settlements and that raiders from Mexico were stealing large numbers of cattle from Texas ranches. These problems grew so severe that they resulted in official accusations exchanged between the two governments. In one case, for example, the United States government made claims against Mexico for nearly 150,000 head of rustled cattle. On the other hand, Mexico accused the United States of failing to control its Native American population and perhaps of even encouraging them to raid into Mexico. The sad fate of the village of Mier, for example, which was raided by Native Americans twenty times in just a short while, is laid firmly at the feet of the United States because they will not control their own Native American populations. Such cases are multiplied here. On a darker, more conspiratorial note, the Mexican commission implies that these situations are encouraged by United States citizens who still harbored hopes of conquering Mexico itself.

            After the United States sent a commission to Texas to investigate its side of the case, the Mexican government formed a similar commission, who gathered evidence from their own countrymen. If nothing else demonstrates the extent of their work, the large map of the Rio Grande Valley here is a testament to their wide-ranging investigation. That commission’s reports were published between 1874 and 1877 in Mexico City and Monterey (see Howes I32–33). This publication is a translation of some of those reports, which vindicated the Mexican side, of course. Interestingly, this report was also sponsored by friends of Mexico, as the “Preface” makes clear, declaring in part: “It proves that the complaints of the Texans are groundless...” (p. [iii]). The two reports of which this work is a translation are those dated Monterey, May 15, 1873, and Monterey, December 7, 1873. Ironically, the problems covered here were eventually resolved by the gradual spread of law and order in Texas itself, which reduced cattle rustling, and by the eventual conquering by the United States of its own Native American population.

            This report can be found from time to time, but seldom with the important maps, particularly the superb large-scale folding map, which delineates the Rio Grande from its mouth to the Big Bend region, with portions of Texas, Nuevo Leon, Coahuila, and Tamaulipas. This exceedingly rare map is among the most important maps for Texas and borderlands history in the nineteenth century. The incredible detail includes Mexican and U.S. ranches along the Rio Grande, states, towns, villages, rivers, mountains, roads, forts, lakes, and landmarks.

            The first map is a most unusual printing of the landmark cerographic map found in Gregg’s classic Commerce of the Prairies, with an added legend in Spanish. M. J. Martínez created the second map, which delineates the routes of raiding parties in the Coahuila and Nuevo Leon region. Martínez chose his cartographical sources well, relying on the landmark Mexico map by Antonio Garcia Cubas (the father of scientific geography in Mexico) and a little known manuscript map by Stephen McLellan Staples (see Streeter 726, 735 & 1120A). Staples (1800–1832) graduated from Bowdoin College in Maine, and was active in the Texas-Mexico borderlands in the 1820s. Streeter owned Staples’ manuscript map (“A Map of Northern Part of Mexico including Exter and Wilson’s S. McL. Staples, A. M. Surveyor General of Chihuahua”). Staples received a concession from the state of Chihuahua in 1828 to navigate the Rio Grande by steam or horse powered vessels. Staples also wrote Gramatica completa de la lengua inglesa, para uso de los españoles (Philadelphia: Carey & Lea, 1825) and dedicated this work to Simon Bolivar. ($2,500-5,000)

Sold. Hammer: $3,800.00; Price Realized: $4,465.00

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