Exceedingly Rare 1849 German California Gold Rush Guide & Map

Die Flugschrift, die Strömen von Auswanderern den Weg nach Kalifornien wies

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160. GERSTÄCKER, Fr[iedrich Wilhelm Christian]. [Cover title with map showing Gold Region] Preis 5 Sgr. Kaliforniens Gold- U. Quecksilber-District. Nach: the California-Herald von Fr. Gerstäcker. 1849. [below map border] Verlag v. Wilhelm Jurany in Leipzig. [printer’s imprint on p. 30, last page of text] Gedruckt bei E. Polz in Leipzig. Leipzig, [1849]. [2, cover title with map; verso blank], [1] 2-32 pp. (final 2 pages are publisher’s ads, the latest of which are dated 1849 and January 20, 1849). 8vo (22.4 x 15.5 cm), original white printed upper wrapper, as issued, illustrated with map (see below). Light soiling and marginal age-toning; upper wrapper trimmed close on right side into neat line; a few minor short tears to blank margins of last few leaves mended. Overall a very good copy of a very rare Gold Rush guide and map, professionally and sympathetically conserved.


Kaliforniens Gold- U. Quecksilber-District. Nach: the California-Herald von Fr. Gerstäcker. 1849. [table of distances below title and date] Entfernungen v. Monterey: Nach Murphys...Forbes Mine...San Jose...San Francisco...Sousalito (Wasser)...San Rafael...Bodega...Sonoma...Napa...Suisun...Untere Minen...Obere Minen...Waber’s (Laden).... [below lower neat line] Verlag v. Wilhelm Jurany in Leipzig. Wood-engraved map of Northern California and the Gold Region showing as far north as Antelope River (north of Sacramento), above which is the notation “Gold”, and south to below the Almaden Quicksilver site, including San Francisco Bay. Neat line to neat line: 19.2 x 14.7 cm. Relief by hachures, shows drainage, mines, Sierra Nevada, California coast below San Francisco. Wheat, Maps of the California Gold Region 90.

     First edition. At least three so-called editions came out in 1849 and all are exceedingly rare. The second had the final page of text partly reset. The third had portions of the final few pages reset, with new text. Other than those changes and the edition statements on the wrapper, all are from the same setting of type. Gary Kurutz’s California Gold Rush bibliography lists an editionwith the following phrase after the imprint on wrapper: “Dritte verbesserte Auflage” (third revised edition). We sold a copy of that edition in our Auction 16 in 2006 (Lot 71, price realized $11,500). The present copy has no such statement regarding issue or edition. Howes (G138) lists only an 1849 edition and states that three other “editions” came out the same year. Sabin (10017) records three editions in 1849 (the first listed without notation regarding edition, followed by two more editions: “Zweite” and “Dritte”). This item was not noted by Edwin G. Gudde in “F.G. World Traveller and Author, 1816-1872” in Journal of the West, Vol. VII (1968) and Friedrich Gerstaecker: World Traveller and Author, 1816-1872 (Los Angeles, 1968); nor is this title noted by Robert E. Ward (A Bio-Bibliography of German-American Writers, New York: Kraus, 1985). Of the copies located by OCLC, the following holdings have no edition statement (not that one would expect such detail to be in OCLC records): Claremont University Consortium in California; Newberry Library in Chicago; Syracuse University in New York; and Yale University. Copies designated as “Zweite” are located at University of California at Los Angeles; University of Basel; and Berlin State Library. The Bancroft copy is “Dritte.” Additional references cited: Bancroft, History of California, 1884, Vol. 1 (“Authorities Cited”), p. li. Cowan I, p. 96. Cowan II, p. 234. Englemann, Bibliotheca Geographica, p. 199.

     Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 269:

This pamphlet by the German traveler is based on an issue of the California Herald published on December 26, 1848, and is essentially a guidebook. Gerstäcker provided information on crossing the Isthmus but recommended the Cape Horn route. He also warned Germans against the overland route. In addition to giving travel advice, the author described San Francisco and the gold region and provided quotations from various newspapers.

     Kurutz, “California as We Saw It”: Exploring the California Gold Rush, Section VII, Pt. 1 (“The World Rushed In”) describes the rare map: “Gerstäcker’s slender guide is open to a beautiful untitled map of Northern California showing the gold district. The German traveler gave information on recommended routes and what to expect upon arriving in San Francisco and the mines.”

     According to the text of the present work, the map was prepared by an American Army officer, Artillery Lt. Loeser, who bore Mason’s famous dispatch to Washington announcing the discovery of gold in California. Wheat gives the source of the map as Lieutenant Ord’s 1848 map, Topographical Sketch of the Gold & Quicksilver District of California, July 25th 1848 (Maps of the California Gold Region 54: “This was the first map to make any pretense at cartographical accuracy after the gold discoveries”). As noted in the title of the present work, Gerstäcker’s map was based on the map that appeared in the December 26, 1848, issue of the short-lived California Herald, which was a special issue of the New York Herald with up-to-moment dispatches of the exciting California news. The 1848 California Herald map was entitled Gold and Quicksilver District of California and measured 34.3 x 25.5 cm, and it was based on Ord’s map. Wheat describes the California Herald 1848 map as: “An important map of exceptional rarity” (Maps of the California Gold Region 44). Gerstäcker’s map, closely based on the California Herald map, incorporates all the geographical features, but in reduced format. The same map was used in all editions of Gerstäcker’s guide. Richard T. Stillson, Spreading the Word: A History of Information in the California Gold Rush (University of Nebraska Press, 2008) includes an illustration of the map that appeared in the California Herald (p. 20) and comments generally on the importance of maps in the media during the Gold Rush: “Maps became one of the most important types of publications that conveyed information to goldrushers, and this one was the first detailed map of the gold region published on newspapers.”

     Adventurer, traveller, and schlockspinner Friedrich Gerstäcker (1816-1872), a native of Hamburg and the son of two opera singers, left Germany in 1837 for a six-year stay in the United States. After his return to Germany, he began publishing accounts of life there. He returned to the recently reconfigured United States in 1849, which resulted in this guide to the California Gold Rush. Although the present work is simply a reworked German version of the Herald account, Gerstäcker would go on to write his own first-hand, lengthy account of California, which he visited between September 1849 and November 1850. He prospected for gold and set up a store at Feather River. The third and last of the author’s work on the United States was on California, entitled Gold (1858). In the American edition, he declared with his usual verve and insight:

This California is unique in the history of the world–I myself could not have chosen a more favorable land, no more propitious time in which to collect material for a lifetime than California. Gold, Gold, is the slogan.

     He wrote prolifically and convincingly in the genre of popular travel and adventure, basing his stories on his own wanderlust experiences in North and South America, the South Seas and the Middle East, charming his readers with electrifying prose, thrilling plots, and insightful social and political observations. In his works on the United States, he was a true purveyor of The American Dream.

     In the present work, we find our author in a rare nuts-and-bolts perspective on one of the most incredible events of the nineteenth century. Even without his customary verbal coloratura, there is little doubt that this basic guide gleaned from the Herald launched many a Teutonic gold-seeker toward California. The work had the advantage of employing actual, accurate information from California in the early stage of the Gold Rush, the size was right, and the cost of the guide at the time was inexpensive (5 Sgr., i.e., five Silbergroschen, corresponding to about a sixth of the Thaler). Surely one reason for the rarity and number of editions of the guide is that it was literally used up by armchair and real travellers who joined the California Gold Rush frenzy in reality or voyeuristically.

     Of Gerstäcker’s immense output of publications, the present Gold Rush guide is the rarest and, perhaps, the most influential in respect to American emigration.


Sold. Hammer: $6,000.00; Price Realized: $7,350.00.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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