“Probably the outstanding book on the early Gold Rush in California”

Early Lithos of San Francisco, Sacramento, Monterey & Mining Sites

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533. TAYLOR, Bayard. Eldorado, or, Adventures in the Path of Empire: Comprising a Voyage to California, via Panama; Life in San Francisco and Monterey; Pictures of the Gold Region, and Experiences of Mexican Travel. By Bayard Taylor, Author of “Views A-Foot,” “Rhymes of Travel,” etc. With Illustrations by the Author. New York: [C. W. Benedict, Stereotyper and Printer, 201 William St., for] George P. Putnam, 155 Broadway, London: Richard Bentley, 1850. Vol. I: [i-vii] viii-xii, [1] 2-251 [1, blank] pp., 4 plates. Vol. II: [2], [1] 2-3 [4] [2, inserted list of illustrations, verso blank], [5]-247 [1, blank], 1-17, 17A, 18-43 [2] (publisher’s catalogue, this sequence not noted in BAL) pp., 4 plates. Total: 8 tinted lithograph plates, including 2 frontispieces, by Sarony & Major after author’s original artwork. 2 vols., 12mo (20 x 13.7 cm), original embossed green cloth, title stamped in gilt on backstrips. Both front free endpapers with ink gift inscriptions dated Boston, May 20, from J. Dutton Russell to his uncle Major General John Henry Russell, Sr. (1827-1897, DAB), grandfather of Brooke Astor, patron saint of philanthropy and society in New York. Vol. II with additional contemporary ink note: “Since this was written excellent coal has been discovered near St. Francisco.” Bindings lightly worn and stained, lower hinge of Vol. I clumsily repaired with adhesion and discoloration to endpaper. Interior very good except for scattered mild to moderate foxing to text and plates. Overall a very good, complete, untrimmed copy.

Plate List

[Frontispiece] San Francisco in November, 1848 [left side] From a Sketch by J.C. Ward, Esq. [right side] Lith. of Sarony & Major[below caption] New York, Geo. P. Putnam.

Lower Bar, Mokelumne River [left side] Bayard Taylor [right side] Lith. of Sarony & Major [below caption] New York, Geo. P. Putnam.

Monterey [left side] Bayard Taylor [right side] Lith. of Sarony & Major [below caption] New York, Geo. P. Putnam.

The Volcano Diggings [left side] Bayard Taylor [right side] Lith. of Sarony & Major, N.Y. [below caption] New York, Geo. P. Putnam.

[Frontispiece] San Francisco in November 1849 [left side] Bayard Taylor [right side] Lith. of Sarony & Major, N.Y. [below caption] New York, Geo. P. Putnam.

Sacramento City, from the South [left side] Bayard Taylor [right side] Lith. of Sarony & Major [below caption] New York, Geo. P. Putnam.

Portsmouth Square, San Francisco [left side] Bayard Taylor [right side] Lith of Sarony & Major [below caption] New York, Geo. P. Putnam.

Mazatlan [left side] Bayard Taylor [right side] Lith. of Sarony & Major. N.Y. [below caption] New York, Geo. P. Putnam.

     First edition, the American issue—Vol. II list of illustrations incorrectly cites Mazatlán plate at p. 8 rather than p. 80 (plate bound at p. 80 in this copy), lithographs with “New York, Geo. P. Putnam” below titles (as illustrated in plate 101, Peters, California on Stone). BAL 19638. Bennett, American Book Collecting, p. 106. Braislin 1762. Cowan I, p. 226. Cowan II, p. 630. Graff 4073. Gudde, California Gold Camps, pp. 423-424. Hill, I, p. 289: “The book met with great success, selling 10,000 copies in America and 30,000 in England within two weeks.” Hill II:1674. Howes T43. Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 618a. LC, California Centennial 176. Libros Californianos, pp. 40-41 (Powell commentary): “His chronicle of the voyage to California via Panama is the best in print, and his chapters dealing with the constitutional convention at Monterey in 1849 are unexcelled”; p. 67 (Hanna List). Norris 3874. Palau 328474. Peters, California on Stone, pp. 196-97. Rocq 16098. Sabin 94440. Streeter Sale 2654. Vail, Gold Fever, p. 23. Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 204. Zamorano 80 #73. See Van Nostrand, The First Hundred Years of Painting in California, pp. 30-31, 125-126; and Van Nostrand & Coulter, California Pictorial, pp. 122-123 (illustrating plate of “Lower Bar, Mokelumne River”). Notes by Kurutz in Volkmann Zamorano 80 catalogue:

Robert Glass Cleland, in the introduction to the Borzoi edition of this two-volume opus, wrote: “This work by an eminent writer and artist is probably the outstanding book on the early Gold Rush in California.” Dale Morgan provided this critique: “The chief defect of his narrative is its point of view, that of a detached observer rather than that of a participant.” While Morgan may be correct, Taylor’s command of the language and the scenes he witnessed make Eldorado one of California’s greatest books.... Attesting to the staying power of Eldorado, it is still in print and has probably been reprinted more times than any other book on California history.

Taylor, a successful author and correspondent with Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune, came to California to cover the most exciting story in the world, the Gold Rush. He left New York on the Falcon on June 28, 1849, crossed the Isthmus of Panama, boarded the Oregon and arrived in San Francisco on August 18. Ironically, Taylor noted that a New Yorker in San Francisco sold 1,500 copies of his newspaper (the Tribune) for a dollar apiece in two hours. Lieutenant Edward F. Beale (to whom the book is dedicated) accompanied Taylor on most of his travels. He visited the diggings between the Cosumnes and Mokelumne Rivers as well as the major towns and camps. The journalist’s portrayal of San Francisco and Sacramento are verbal masterpieces. He described San Francisco at night, dotted with campfires and transparent lantern-lit canvas houses, making the city gleam “like an amphitheatre of fire.” His imagery of Sacramento City with it earsplitting sounds, its gaudily decorated tent saloons, and the hilarious performances at California’s only theater, the Eagle, demonstrate his singular talent. In addition, Taylor visited Monterey and witnessed the state constitutional convention. He left San Francisco on January 1, 1850, on board the Oregon, along with a cargo of $2 million in gold and several distinguished passengers including the newly-elected Senators Frémont and Gwin and Congressmen Gilbert and Wright. T. Butler King, whose report of March 22, 1850 comprises the appendix, was also a passenger.

Reflecting on his short but kaleidoscopic visit, Taylor wrote, “The world’s history has no page so marvelous as that which has just been turned in California.” The remainder of Eldorado records his cross-country sojourn in Mexico and return trip to New York.


Sold. Hammer: $600.00; Price Realized: $735.00.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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