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Utopian Jesuit Missionary in the Northwest—Excellent Map & Lithos

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163.     DE SMET, P[ierre] J[ean] de. Oregon Missions and Travels over the Rocky Mountains, in 1845-46. By Father P.J. De Smet, of the Society of Jesus. New York: Published by Edward Dunigan, 151 Fulton-Street, 1847. [i-xi] xii, [13] 14-408, [4] pp., 14 lithograph plates on maize tinted grounds (including frontispiece and added illustrated title), plus folded lithograph map: Oregon Territory, 1846, neat line to neat line: 21 x 26.6. 12mo (17.8 x 11.5 cm), original brown embossed cloth, spine decorated and lettered in gilt (neatly re-backed, original spine preserved, new endpapers at front). Mild staining to binding and scattered light foxing to interior. Very good copy.

     First edition (several editions followed, including three in French; the second edition of the present American edition did not have the plates). Bradford 1301. Cowan I, p. 217. Field 1424. Flake 7767: “Encounters Mormons on Niobrara River and at Winter Quarters while descending the Missouri River, 1846.” Graff 3829. Howes D286. Jones, Adventures in Americana 1159. Pilling 3624 (includes linguistic material on Flathead, Cree, Blackfoot, Potawatomie, etc.). Plains & Rockies IV:141. Sabin 82268. Smith 9556. Streeter Sale 2099. Streit III:2339. Tweney, Washington 89: “Father De Smet was Superior of the Indian Missions of the Oregon country. In this book he describes his travels through the central Columbia River plateau, as well as a trip up that river to its source. He then continued on to the Athabasca River, returning to Fort Vancouver by way of Fort Colville early in 1846.” Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West #535 & Vol. III, p. 44:

After his return to the States late in 1846, Father De Smet published several maps, the best known of which is his “Oregon Territory of 1846,” a great improvement over his previous maps. The original drawing of this map, doubtless in De Smet’s own hand, is preserved at the Huntington Library, along with the manuscript of his book Oregon Missions and Travels over the Rocky Mountains, in 1845-1846 (New York, 1847). The printed map is an exact copy of the drawing, even to the placing of a number of names upside down. On it the Roman Catholic missions and churches of the area are carefully shown, as are the “Press” (Presbyterians) Missions near Fort Walla Walla and on the Salmon River. East of the Rockies, the Blackfeet Range and Buffalo Plains appear, and the “Main Chain of the Rocky Mountains” is represented by two parallel lines running through the map, which extends north to beyond the 54th parallel. This is an excellent map and discloses the travels and careful studies made by De Smet, though the main chain of the Rockies still remains vague and undefined.

     The attractive lithographs include portraits of Native Americans, many scenes relating to the buffalo hunt, and mission encampments (one of which is a utopian view of the missionaries supervising the building of a complex church and village as the Sacred Heart of Jesus above radiates its blessing upon the scene). According to the author’s text, the original art work for the plates was created by Rev. Nicholas Point, S.J., but the lithographs are otherwise unsigned. The images are evocative of the sympathy and respect the missionaries felt toward those they served and De Smet’s fascination with the grandeur of the landscape of the Far West.

     Belgian Pierre Jean De Smet (1801–1873) served as a missionary to the U.S. Pacific Northwest and emigrated to the United States in 1821, where he served his novitiate in Missouri and was ordained in 1827. His long career as a missionary commenced in 1838 with his work at the site of what later became Council Bluffs, Iowa. He also served in Montana, Idaho, and later in the Pacific Northwest. He was a peacemaker and negotiated between Natives and settlers, notably in the council at Fort Laramie in 1851, in the Yakima War of 1858–1859, and the Mormon War. His vision of the Jesuit mission was utopian, and he referred to the project as "The New Paraguay." Robert C. Carriker, in his biography of Father De Smet, remarks: “The life of Father De Smet is, in many ways, the simple story of a man who fell in love with America and its Native inhabitants…. Six Jesuit historians have examined the life of Father De Smet in the twentieth century, and all of them have concluded, by one line of reasoning or the other that De Smet’s contribution was absolutely essential to the success of the nineteenth-century Jesuit Indian missions in America.” (Father Peter John De Smet: Jesuit in the West, University of Oklahoma Press, 1995, pp. xv, xvii).


Sold. Hammer: $1,000.00; Price Realized: $1,200.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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