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October 26, 2007

Among the First Books in English on New Mexico
With Early Eyewitness Art Work of New Mexico, Texas & Arizona

45. DAVIS, W[illiam] W[atts] H[art]. El Gringo; or, New Mexico and Her People. New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, Franklin Square, 1857. 432 pp., 13 wood-engraved plates (including frontispiece) consisting of views after original art work by Brevet Lieut.-Col. Eaton and F. A. Percey). 8vo (19.8 x 13.3 cm), original brown blind-embossed cloth, gilt-lettered spine. Spine tips slightly frayed, a few spots on covers, lightly shelf worn, a few minor stains to first leaves, light scattered foxing, library markings, including small ink stamp of Newton Library on title (deaccession stamp on front free endpaper) and old paper label on spine, overall very good, tight and clean.

            First edition of one of the earliest full-length books on New Mexico in English (the copyright notice on title verso is dated 1856, but this 1857 imprint is the first edition). Alliott, p. 63. Campbell, p. 104. Dobie, p. 76: “Excellent on manners and customs.” Dykes, Western High Spots, p. 12 (“Western Movement—Its Literature”). Graff 1021. Howes D139. Laird, Hopi 536. Larned 2026: “Few narratives of any period are more interestingly written.” Plains & Rockies IV:289: “Davis traveled the Santa Fe Trail from Independence to Santa Fe in 1853 and made an excursion to the Navajo country in 1855.” Rader 1073. Raines, p. 64: “Touches somewhat on the early exploration of the Rio Grande region of Texas.” Rittenhouse 153. Saunders 4013. Streeter Sale 437.

            Davis (1820-1910), a U.S. Attorney and later acting governor of New Mexico, was one of the first writers to gain access to the archives in Santa Fe. His account of early New Mexico includes much incidental information on sheep grazing and cattle raising across the region, and chapter 8 (“Manners and Customs of the People—Continued”) describes skills and sports of the vaqueros (e.g., el coleo, the lazo, etc.); minute description of the costume of the mounted caballero, saddles, horse equipage, horsemanship, brands and branding; upland grazing grounds (“the pasturage of New Mexico excels every other branch of agriculture”); and local practices with cattle, sheep, and goats. Davis describes various ranches he visited on his law circuit, such as the Crabb Ranch near Las Cruces, whose stock had just been stolen by Mescalero Apaches. At the end is a Navajo-English vocabulary.

            The illustrations are one of the important features of the book, being very early views of the region executed on the spot by a trained artist. All but one are the work of Joseph Horace Eaton, one of the few trained artists who worked in the Southwest U.S. and Mexico during two decades of pivotal changes in the Borderlands. After graduating from West Point in 1835, Eaton served on the frontier, assisted in the survey of the eastern boundary of Texas (1838), and fought in the Mexican-American War, where he served as General Zachary Taylor’s aide-de-camp. During the Civil War he was a paymaster and was brevetted Brigadier General. See The West Explored: The Gerald Peters Collection of Western American Art (1988). The view of Fort Bliss is by Frederic Augustus Percy, about whom little is known, except that he was an Englishman living in the El Paso region in the-mid 1850s and published a handwritten illustrated newsletter, El Sabio Sembrador, of which only a single copy survives. Other examples of Percy’s work can be found in Rex W. Strickland, El Paso in 1854 (El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1969). Percy’s Fort Bliss view is noted by Kelsey (Engraved Prints of Texas, 1554-1900, p. 5, illustrated as Figure 4.140, p. 95). ($125-250)

Sold. Hammer: $125.00; Price Realized: $146.88

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