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Zamorano Eighty: Gold Rush History & Humor

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144.     COLTON, Walter. Three Years in California. By Rev. Walter Colton, U.S.N. Late Alcalde of Monterey; Author of “Deck and Port,” etc., etc. With Illustrations. New York: [Stereotyped by Richard C. Valentine, New York., F.C. Gutierrez, Printer, No. 51 John-street, corner of Dutch, for] A.S. Barnes & Co., No. 51 John-Street; Cincinnati: H.W. Derby & Co., 1850. [1-5] 6-456 pp., 13 engraved plates, folding plate (Declaration of Rights in the Constitution of California), map, text illustrations, ads on front endpapers. 8vo (19 x 14.2 cm), publisher’s original red blind-embossed cloth, gilt-lettered spine, gilt vignette of the Great Seal of California on upper cover (re-backed, retaining most of original spine, corners renewed, new endpapers). Light foxing, original tissue guards (first one torn), folding plate professionally backed consolidating one tear at text block (no losses), overall a good copy, with contemporary pencil signature of N.K. Baker, August, 1850, and contemporary newspaper clipping on front free endpaper.

     First edition. Byrd 6. Cowan I, pp. 52-53: “The facsimile…‘Declaration of Rights’…is often missing.” Cowan II, p. 137. Graff 839. Hill II:343. Howell 50, California 45. Howes C625. Huntington Library, Zamorano Eighty…Exhibition of Famous and Notorious California Classics 20. Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 151a. LC, California Centennial 239. Norris 827. Rocq 5644. Sabin 14800. Walker, San Francisco’s Literary Frontier, p. 21. Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush #46: “Colton’s entries graphically depict the news and results of the gold discovery in the coastal towns. Excellent engraved portraits of Sutter and other pioneers.” Wheat, Maps of the California Gold Region #146. Zamorano Eighty 20.

     The lively plates tinged with sardonic humor are the work of wood engraver William Orr (1815-1887), who came to the United States at an early age and studied with William Redfield in New York City. Orr established studios in Buffalo (1837) and New York City (1844). “He was one of the best known wood engravers of his generation” (Hamilton, Early American Book Illustrators and Wood Engravers, Vol. II, p. 127). Gary Kurutz in Volkmann Zamorano Eighty catalogue:

Walter Colton, the former editor of the North American in Philadelphia and first American alcalde at Monterey, wrote one of the most colorful, breezy, and fact-filled accounts of the conquest of California and the early days of the gold discovery. It is an essential work documenting the transition of California from a remote Mexican province to a pulsating, gold-driven American state….. Colton left a breathtaking account of the placers in 1848 and early 1849 before the waves of gold seekers swamped the Sierra. His description of the first news of the gold discovery is unsurpassed….. Throughout his text are electric descriptions of those heady early days when gold could be simply picked off the ground. Demonstrating his rhythmic prose style, Colton made the following observation of the Argonauts on November 8, 1848: “Such a mixed and motley crowd—such a restless, roving, rummaging, ragged multitude, never before roared in the rockeries of man.”


Sold. Hammer: $200.00; Price Realized: $240.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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