“As a piece of narrative writing about the American West, Bartlett’s book ranks alongside those of Frémont, Parkman, and Gregg as a classic”—Goetzmann

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25. BARTLETT, John Russell. Personal Narrative of Explorations and Incidents in Texas, New Mexico, California, Sonora, and Chihuahua, Connected with the United States and Mexican Boundary Commission, During the Years 1850, ‘51, ‘52, and ‘53. By John Russell Bartlett, United States Commissioner During that Period. In Two Volumes, With Map and Illustrations. New York: D. Appleton & Company, 346 & 348 Broadway, and 16 Little Britain, London, 1854. Vol. I: [2], [i-iii] iv-xxii, [1, blank], [1] 2-506, [6, ads] pp., 10 plates. Vol. II: [2], [i-iii] iv-xvii [1, blank], [1] 2-624 pp., 35 plates. Total: 45 plates, including 16 toned lithograph plates (2 of which are folded frontispieces), 29 uncolored engraved plates, numerous engraved text illustrations; plus one folded uncolored lithograph map (see below). 2 vols., 8vo (24 x 16 cm), publisher’s original dark olive green ribbed cloth, covers ruled in blind, gilt pictorial spines illustrating saguaro cacti. Binding lightly rubbed and worn (frayed and slightly chipped at extremities, corners lightly bumped). Offsetting to text from a few plates (affecting both title pages). Occasional mild foxing, overall a fine, complete copy. Increasingly difficult to find complete and in the original Southwestern pictorial bindings.


General Map Showing the Countries Explored & Surveyed by the United States & Mexican Boundary Commission, in the Years 1850, 51, 52, & 53, under the Direction of John R. Bartlett, U.S. Commissioner [between scale and neat line at lower left] J[oseph] H[utchins] Colton & Co. No. 172 William St. New York | D. McLellan Print, 26 Spruce St. Neat line to neat line. 38.8 x 49.3 cm; overall sheet size: 40 x 50.6 cm. Other than neat short mend at jucture with book block, very fine. Going to Texas: Five Centuries of Texas Maps, pp. 64-65. Wheat, Gold Regions 252. Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West, Vol. III:798, plate following p. 240, p. 237: “[The map] shows the whole Western Country south of the Oregon border. For that reason, if for no other, it must be accorded a place among the important Western maps.... All in all, this is an excellent map of the West, but it falls flat in its showing of the Mexican Boundary which was its primary business. One very enterprisng feature for so early a map is a dotted-line (if unlabeled) showing the Gadsden Purchase Boundary. Barlett’s book appeared in the late spring of 1854, before final agreement on the Gadsden Purchase. The Emory Papers at Yale indicate that the book came out early in June.” The Gadsden Purchase was approved by the United States on June 30, 1854, and by Mexico on July 20, 1854.

     First edition. Abbey, Travel in Aquatint and Lithography 1770-1860:658 (plate list). Basic Texas Books 12. Clark, Old South III:272. Cowan I, p. 13: “Bartlett’s work is the best of its period.” Cowan II, p. 36. Deák, Picturing America: 1497-1899, Vol. I:674 (citing the Tucson plate, Vol. II, facing p. 292): “We see the artist in the lithograph, at the left, where he has ‘ascended a rocky hill above the hacienda’ and busily prepares his drawing of Tucson.” Dobie, Life & Literature of the Southwest, p. 86: “For me very little rewritten history has the freshness and fascination of these strong, firsthand personal narratives.” Dykes, Western High Spots, p. 12. Flake 325. Garrett & Goodwin, Mexican-American War, pp. 191-92. Graff 198: “An essential book for the Southwest, and an interesting one, too.” Hamilton, Early American Book Illustrators and Wood Engravers I:872, p. 152 (August Hoppin): “It is strange to find the future illustrator of the doings of polite society here drawing scenes of Indian warfare and Western life.”; p. 200 (Theodore Rabuske); p. 213 (William H. Thwaites). Hill I, p. 18: “First thoroughly scholarly description of the Southwest.” Hill II:74. Howes B201. Kelsey, Engraved Prints of Texas: 1554-1900, p. 35: “Bartlett included his own images of San José Mission (Fig. 4.69) and Concepcion Mission (Fig. 4.70).”; p. 73: “Bartlett’s report contained some fine engravings of Texas subjects.”; pp. 84-86 (Figs. 4.70-4.84, including Guadalupe Mountain, Castle Mountain Pass, Prairie-Dog Town, Crossing the Pecos, Waco Mountain Pass). Munk (Alliot), p. 27. Palau 25085. Plains & Rockies IV:234:1. Powell, Southwestern Century 9. Rader 287. Raines, p. 22. Sabin 3746. Saunders 2721. Streeter Sale 173. See also: Paula Rebert, La Gran Línea: Mapping the United States-Mexico Boundary 1849-1857 (Austin: University of Texas Press).

     “Bartlett’s Personal Narrative [is] a travel book obviously modeled after the successful work of his friend John Lloyd Stephens, Incidents of Travel in Central Amnerica, Chiapas and Yucatan [see Stephens herein]. Bartlett’s book included a running account of his extensive travels over northern Mexico, California, and the southwestern United States.... As a piece of narrative writing about the American West, Bartlett’s book ranks alongside those of Frémont, Parkman, and Gregg as a classic. Within its pages is contained a panoramic view of the way of life of an entire region previously known only to a few. It was to be of little use to scientists, but for many a hammock reader at Saratoga or Newport it opened up an exciting America and helped create an image of the exotic West” (Goetzmann, Army Exploration, pp. 205-206). Despite Bartlett’s successes, he made some monumental blunders, the most significant of which was agreeing with García Conde to run the boundary line too far north, thus depriving the U.S. of its southern railroad route to California and necessitating the Gadsden Purchase. See Bartlett-García Conde Compromise (Handbook of Texas Online) and Paula Rebert, La Gran Línea: Mapping the U.S.-Mexico Boundary 1849-1857 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001).

     The lithographs and engravings depict scenes along the border and the route of the author’s journey, including Sonora, Chihuahua, Acapulco, Manzanillo, New Mexico, Saltillo, California, and Texas. One litho is a Texas scene: Camp in Snow Storm on Delaware Creek, Texas. Ron Tyler discusses this lithograph in the preliminary version of Texas Lithographs of the Nineteenth Century:

The two volumes contain ninety-four woodcuts and sixteen lithographs, including a number of Texas views. The only lithograph relating to Texas, however, is of a wash that Bartlett made that first winter, while on his way to El Paso. Acquaintances had warned him of the terrible weather that he risked if he pushed on to El Paso during the winter months, but the new commissioner felt that the timeliness of his task required that he make the effort, and it resulted in one of his most striking pictures. On November 6, he and his party camped at Delaware Creek, just sixteen miles from the Pecos River in present-day Culbertson County near the Texas-New Mexico border. There, Bartlett recalled, “The dreaded Norther that I had so much feared when near the Pecos, had now come upon us with all its fury and in its very worst shape, accompanied with snow.” The animals suffered more than the men, as the blizzard closed in on the camp. Bartlett went hunting as an alternative to “roasting and freezing alternately by the fire,” then spent the remainder of the “long day in reading Erman’s Travels in Siberia, a proper book for the occasion” and sketched the picture from which this print was made. That evening, “The sharp wind found its way through the openings in the carriage, which all the blankets I could pile on would not keep out,” he recalled. “The young gentlemen crowded themselves in their tents, and lay as close as possible; while the teamsters, laborers, etc., stowed themselves in the wagons.” Bartlett painted Camp in Snow Storm on Delaware Creek, Texas, which does not convey the bitter cold of that evening as well as his verbal description. The expedition continued slowly on its way the next morning, because the weather and lack of grazing had taken its toll on the mules. Henry Hillyard drew Camp in Snow Storm on Delaware Creek, Texas on the stone, and Sarony & Company in New York lithographed it for Bartlett’s book.

     The excellent illustrations in this book include the work of the author, Seth Eastman, Henry Cheever Pratt, and Henry Hillyard. Original works by these artists are found in the Albuquerque Museum publication, Drawing the Borderline: Artist-Explorers of the U.S. Boundary Survey (Albuquerque, 1996). The lithographs were executed by the firm of Sarony & Company, one of the major firms of the nineteenth century (see Peters, California on Stone, p. 186, and America on Stone, pp. 350-352). Many of the lithos and engravings include members of the expedition at work and the people of the regions they encountered. Included are early views of such Western cities as Tucson, San Diego, and Monterey. At the end of Vol. II are “Remarks on the introduction of Camels as a means of transportation on the prairies and deserts of the interior.”


Sold. Hammer: $1,000.00; Price Realized: $1,225.00.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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