Basic Yosemite Book & Z80 Title

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623. LEONARD, Zenas. Adventures of Zenas Leonard, Fur Trader and Trapper 1831-1836, Reprinted from the Rare Original of 1839. Edited by W.F. Wagner, M.D. With Maps and Illustrations. Cleveland: The Burrows Brothers Company, 1904. [1-7] 8-317 [1, blank] pp., frontispiece map, 2 plates. 8vo (23 x 16 cm), original navy blue cloth, spine gilt-lettered. Lacks d.j. Cloth lightly rubbed. Overall fine. With printed bookplate of Irvin J. Edelstein on front pastedown.

     Third edition, limited edition (520 copies); the first edition was published in 1839. Howes (L264) notes a second edition printed at Clearfield ca. 1885. The present edition was the first to contain critical notes. Currey & Kruska 235n . Graff 2461 (first edition). Howes L264. Malone, Wyomingiana, p. 6. Plains & Rockies IV:75n. Zamorano Eighty 50n. Quoting Gary Kurutz in the Volkmann Zamorano Eighty Auction:

Leonard’s original overland account is the rarest and most sought-after book associated with Yosemite, the sequoias, and the High Sierra. Further, it documents the first instance of non-Indians to look on that dramatic geologic chasm known as the Yosemite Valley and the first to encounter those regal botanical giants, the Sequoia gigantea. Bibliographer and historian Francis P. Farquhar lists the original as entry number one in his Yosemite, Big Trees, and High Sierra. In discussing the importance of this title, Farquhar writes: “Leonard’s narrative is the principal source of information about the expedition of Joseph Reddeford Walker, in 1833, from Great Salt Lake to California. Walker’s was the first party to use the Humboldt River route to California and the first known party of white men to cross the Sierra Nevada from east to west.” Reliable knowledge of the High Sierra begins with the Walker party. Leonard’s narrative also has the distinction of being the second printed account of an overland trip to California, preceded only by James Ohio Pattie’s Personal Narrative.

A fur trapper and mountain man, Leonard began his trip west in 1831 and in 1833 joined Captain B.L.E. Bonneville’s expedition to explore the Great Salt Lake. At the Green River rendezvous, Leonard became a member of a detachment led by J.R. Walker heading for California and the Pacific Ocean. He served as the expedition’s clerk. During the course of this odyssey, the mountain man “kept a minute journal of every incident that occurred.” One incident, in particular, proved memorable. He observed that “Some of the precipices appeared to us to be more than a mile high.” Those precipices, of course, turned out to be the Yosemite Valley. While producing a riveting account of the natural wonders, Leonard also provides an important and early impression of the settlements and missions along the California coast. The expedition reached the Pacific on November 30, 1833, and wintered in Monterey. Taking note of the Russian, British, and Mexican activities and thinking of the future, Leonard worried that the United States would not secure this promising land. The Walker expedition headed home on February 14, 1834, with “52 men, 315 horses, and for provisions 47 beef and 30 dogs,” making it to Independence, Missouri on August 28, 1835. Leonard had been “absent four years, four months, and five days.”

Once home in Clearfield County, friends besieged him for information about his western wayfaring. Not wishing to repeat the story over and over, he acceded to their request by agreeing to write out an account for publication in the newspapers. Leonard, however, faced one major problem: hostile Indians had stolen part of his journal. Not deterred, he consulted the journal of his commander and reconstructed the missing portion. Because of this missing manuscript, a few inaccuracies crept into his text. Farquhar and Lloyd W. Currey and Dennis G. Kruska in their respective bibliographies have delved into the publishing history of this overland trip. Part of Leonard’s narrative first appeared in the 1835 and 1836 issues of the Clearfield newspaper, the Pioneer and Banner. In 1839, D. W. Moore, using the same typeface as the newspaper and making a few editorial changes, published the narrative in book form in a double-column format.


Sold. Hammer: $50.00; Price Realized: $61.25.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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