Zamorano Select

Diseños of California Ranchos and Their Makers

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402. [MAP REFERENCE]. BECKER, Robert H. Designs on the Land. Diseños of California Ranchos and Their Makers with Text by Robert H. Becker. San Francisco: [Grabhorn-Hoyem for] The Book Club of California, 1969. [143] pp., 65 sepia-tone and full-color maps of ranchos, two of which are folded. Oblong folio (36.2 x 46.7 cm), original half tan suede over brown cloth, title branded on spine. A superb copy.

     First edition, limited edition (500 copies). Book Club of California 133. Grabhorn-Hoyem (1966-1973) 29. Reese, Six Score 9: “This book depicts contemporary maps of ranchos in California from the Mexican period. A beautiful book, designed by the Grabhorns and printed in an edition of 500.” Zamorano Select 7:

Understanding how California was mapped is crucial to fully grasping the history of the state. Significant publications contributing to our knowledge of the state’s cartographic history include The Maps of the California Gold Region and Mapping the Transmississippi West by Carl I. Wheat [see herein], and Neal Harlow’s works on maps of San Francisco Bay, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

Of equal importance are Robert H. Becker’s two books on the early diseños relating to Mexican and Spanish land grants, based on the Bancroft Library’s collections of records of the United States District Court in San Francisco. These unsophisticated but charming hand-drawn maps recall the era of Mexican California before the onslaught of American immigration. In the first book [not in this lot] Becker selects 37 disputed tracts of land and gives the background on each applicant. The Grabhorn Press beautifully reproduced the diseños in facsimile and included a sketch map outlining the location of each original rancho claim. The second publication [present lot], a larger oblong volume printed by Grabhorn-Hoyem, has another 64 maps of disputed ranchos from around the state and provides much additional information on the mapmakers.

     David Hornbeck, “Patenting of California’s Private Land Claims, 1851-1885” in Geographical Review, Vol. 69, No. 4, October, 1979, pp. 434-435:

The acquisition of California by the United States in 1848 and the subsequent rapid immigration of American settlers and miners provide an example of a contact situation in which the incoming group quickly assumed political and economic dominance. Although there were marked differences between Hispanic and American institutions, the difference in their land-tenure systems and the distribution and ownership of land became the primary points of contention and the centers of controversy. The conflict was further exacerbated because of the proviso in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, in which the United States agreed to protect property rights of Mexican citizens. With that pledge the United States could not easily dismiss twenty-five years of settlement under a Mexican land-tenure system and impose its own. Instead, the new sovereignty faced the task of introducing its land system and creating order out of hundreds of large, private land grants (ranchos) held under Mexican title. Many of these grants were procedurally incomplete, inaccurately surveyed, rarely fenced, and often incorrectly located on maps. The most pressing problem was to distinguish Mexican land grants from public domain. The resolution of that controversy was of paramount importance to the settlement and the economic growth of California after 1850.


Sold. Hammer: $225.00; Price Realized: $275.63.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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