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October 26, 2007

First U.S. Juvenile on the Lewis & Clark Expedition, with Map

236. [SNELLING, William Joseph]. Tales of Travels West of the Mississippi. By Solomon Bell [pseudonym], Late Keeper of the Traveller’s Library, Province-House Court, Boston...With a Map, and Numerous Engravings. Boston: Gray and Bowen—Washington Street, 1830. xvi, 162 pp. (including many woodcut text illustrations, some full page), folded engraved woodcut map inserted at front: United States West of the Mississippi. [Below neat line] Copy Right Secured by S. G. Goodrich 1830. Geo. Boynton Sc. (neat line to neat line, approximately 15.4 x 12.9 cm). 12mo (15 x 9.5 cm.), contemporary black roan over marbled boards, gilt-lettered spine. Roan somewhat scuffed, small piece missing at foot of spine, skillfully rebacked (original spine preserved), endpapers darkened, first few leaves lightly water stained, text with scattered light to moderate browning and foxing, a few small tears in margins (not affecting text).

            First edition of the first children’s book printed in the United States concerning the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the first such book set in the Transmississippi West. The book includes the prefatory leaf announcing this series of children’s books, of which this work is the first (another edition came out in 1836). American Imprints (1830) 3535. BAL 18411. Brinley Sale 4451. Graff 3875. Hamilton, Early American Book Illustrators (Supplement) 1538. Howes S739: “First American juvenile book on the trans-Mississippi region, giving account of its early explorers, wild tribes, etc.” Littell 966. Plains & Rockies III:13n: “This a version of the Lewis and Clark, the Long, and the Jewitt narratives, rewritten in juvenile fashion.” Strathern 514. Streeter Sale 3129. Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West 394: “A copy (much simplified) of 1822 Tanner....”; Vol. II, p. 97: “Samuel G. Goodrich made a small map of the United States west of the Mississippi to illustrate Solomon Bell’s Tales of Travels West of the Mississippi.... The geography is highly simplified Lewis and Clark, with Long’s data. Los Mongos and Timpanogos rivers flow from Timpanogos Lake, and farther south the Rio Buen Aventure flows westerly.” Not in Wright, although other works by Snelling are listed.

            The work is generally attributed to Bostonian William Joseph Snelling (1804-1848; see DAB), an explorer, trapper, fur trader, author, satirist, and social critic whose virulent and often brilliant attacks on his enemies eventually led to his early death, apparently from excessive drinking and exhaustion. He is generally considered a capable writer who never had an opportunity to realize his potential. Among the quixotic turns his pen took were an attack on the 1829 plan of Hall J. Kelley to organize an emigration party to Oregon, which Snelling denounced as impractical in part because he did not believe women and children would survive the trip, a belief that may have arisen from his own experiences of five years in the West. Other works by the author in this series include Polar Regions of the Western Continent (1830), Tales of Travels in Central Africa (1831), and Tales of Travels in the North of Europe (1831). He also wrote some moralistic works, including Exposé of the Vice of Gaming (1833), and an autobiographical work with title The Rat-Trap; Or Cogitations of a Convict (1837).

            Hamilton cites the book and identifies four of the engravers of the illustrations: Abel Bowen, George Loring Brown, J. Downes, and Alonso Hartwell. Brown (1790-1850) introduced wood engraving to Boston, and the other three engravers were his students. Hamilton does not note the work of David Claypool Johnston in this book, but he is cited by the American Antiquarian Society as an illustrator of this volume. Hamilton notes that Johnston is sometimes referred to as “the American Cruikshank.” Among the images is the earliest known printed image of Fort Clatsop (near Astoria), which is also located on the map. ($500-1,000)

Sold. Hammer: $500.00; Price Realized: $587.50

Auction 21 Abstracts

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