The English Venegas

“The first book in English completely devoted to California”—Hill

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562. VENEGAS, Miguel [& Andrés Marcos Burriel]. A Natural and Civil History of California: Containing an Accurate Description of That Country, Its Soil, Mountains, Harbours, Lakes, Rivers, and Seas; Its Animals, Vegetables, Minerals, and famous Fishery for Pearls. The Customs of the Inhabitants. Their Religion, Government, and Manner of Living, before their Conversion to the Christian Religion by the missionary Jesuits, Together with Accounts of the Several Voyages and Attempts Made for Settling California, and taking actual Surveys of that Country, Its Gulf, and Coast of the South-Sea. Illustrated with Copper Plates, and an Accurate Map of the Country and the adjacent seas. Translated from the original Spanish of Miguel Venegas, a Mexican Jesuit, published at Madrid 1758 in Two Volumes. Vol. I [Vol. II]. London: Printed for James Rivington and James Fletcher, at the Oxford Theatre, in Pater-Noster-Row, 1759. Vol. I: [20], [1] 2-455 [1, verso blank]; Vol. II: [8], [1] 2-387 pp., folded copper-engraved map (see below); 8 copper-engraved plates on 4 leaves (Baja California natives, missionaries, mammals (see list below). 2 vols., 8vo (21.5 x 12.3 cm), contemporary full brown speckled calf, spine gilt ruled and with raised bands, brown gilt-lettered labels, edges sprinkled. Engraved armorial bookplates of William Cunningham on both front pastedowns. Binding neatly refurbished, hinges and joints weak or cracked, else fine, map and plates excellent.


[BURRIEL, Andrés Marcos (after Kino and Consag)]. [Title within small ornate cartouche at lower left] An Accurate Map of California Drawn by the Society of Jesuits and Dedicated to the King of Spain. 1757. [below lower neat line at right] J. Gibson Sculp: [above neat line at top left] Vol: I. page 13. Neat line to neat line: 31.2 x 20 cm; overall sheet size: 36.1 x 24 cm. Map of the Baja Peninsula of California, embouchure of the Colorado River and the Gulf of California; part of Mexico to slightly south of Sinaloa; and the Borderlands from slightly west of the Colorado River in Alta California to slightly east of Casa Grande, Arizona. Map faces p. 13, Vol. I. The map is a reworking of Map [1] in the Spanish Venegas, Mapa de la California su Golfo, y provincias fronteras en el Continente de Nueva España. Some place names have been translated into English, and to the right of the cartouche is a ship approaching land. The vignettes surrounding the map in the Madrid map have been removed. Lowery 437. Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast 587n. The map is Burriel’s interpretation of Kino’s 1701 map with Consag’s refinements. Small tear at juncture of book block, going slightly into border, but no loss; otherwise fine.


The plates in this edition are reworkings and enlargements of the vignettes which appeared on the first map of the original edition printed in Madrid in 1757, and here they are reversed. There are 8 images on four leaves. Cowan I, pp. 237-38: “The plates in Vol. I are: Women and men of California; and The coyote, or fox, and the taye or California deer. Those of Vol. II are: The manner of curing the sick and sorcerers of California; and, The martyrdom of Fathers Carranco and Tamaral. These four plates appear to have issued with but a few copies of the work, as two is the number usually found.”

[1] [Upper image] Women of California [above top line border at right] Frontispiece to Vol. I. [lower image] Men of California. Images from border to border: 14.3 x 8.5 cm. In a hilly landscape one woman sits and holds a small child, while two other women stand nearby, one of whom holds a pole and net with a baby resting in the net. The bare-breasted women wear pill-box hats with their long hair flowing down their backs and their simple skirts are open to the waist on the sides. The two practically nude men walk in a mountainscape carrying bows and arrow, one wearing a subdued feathered headdress and the other wearing an ornamented wreath.

[2] [Upper image] The Cayote or Fox. [above top line border at right] Vol. I, page 36. [lower image] The Taye or Californian Deer. Images from border to border: 14 x 8.3 cm. J.A. Allen (Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, Vol. XXXI, 1912, pp. 17-20) states that the “Taye” is actually the Lower California mountain sheep first described by Piccolo in the 1708 Philosophical Transactions, and that subsequent Jesuit missionaries simply paraphrased Piccolo.

[3] [Upper image] The Manner of curing the Sick in California. [above top line border at right] Front. to Vol. II. [lower image] Sorcerers of California. Images from border to border: 14.2 x 8.4 cm. In the top image two men sit on a prominence and another man lies before them. One of the men sucks or blows on a long tube (chacuaco) to remove the disease-causing substance. See Virgil J. Vogel, who speculates that the men are of the Cochimí tribe (p. 76, American Indian Medicine, University of Oklahoma Press, 1970). Vogel also discusses the sorcerers, again suggesting they are Cochimí (p. 82). In the image three male sorcerers wear feathered headdresses and carry palm fronds which they appear to be waving. One of the sorcerers holds a tabla, a wooden tablet with painted designs or drilled holes used in ceremonies.

[4] [Upper image] The Martyrdom of Father Carranco. [above top line border at right] Vol. II, p. 141. [lower image] The Martyrdom of Father Tamaral. Images from border to border: 14.2 x 8.4 cm. Gruesome scenes of the martyrdom of Father Lorenzo Carranco of Santiago and Father Nicolas Tamaral of Cabo San Lucas during the Pericú rebellion, which arose when Father Nicolás Tamaral refused to let one of the wives of a Pericú shaman return to him after her baptism. This strike against polygamy was disastrous to the mission, resulting in the torching of both missions and the Indians almost capturing the Manila galleon in 1735.

     First English edition (see preceding entry for first edition, Madrid, 1757), first translation into another language. This translation, as the preface makes clear, was published to whet English appetites to conquer the territory. The English edition has only five of the seven appendices that were in the Spanish edition (Ellis and Fonte are omitted). Barrett 2536. JCB III (1, 1700-1771) #1239. Brunet IV, col. 1119. Cowan II, p. 658. Farquhar, Books of the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon 5a. Field 1600: “The work of Father Venegas is undoubtedly the most faithful narration we possess regarding the original condition of the Indians of any part of North America.... With the habitual contempt for accuracy which distinguishes the English editors of the last century, this translator of Venegas has constructed a title for the good Father’s work to suit his own whimsical taste. It is, however, a fair synopsis of the contents of the work, though much extended, in comparison with the original.” Graff 4471. Hill I, p. 307: “This first translation gave the English-speaking world its earliest thorough account of the little-known areas of the west coast of North America. This work has been cited as the first book in English completely devoted to California.” Hill II:1768. Howell 50, California 247. Howes V69. Jones, Adventures in Americana 499. Medina, Hispano-Americana 3855n. Norris 4070. Palau 358390. Sabin 98845. Spamer, A Bibliography of the Grand Canyon and Lower Colorado River 1759 2.6591. Stevens, Historical Nuggets 2737. Streeter Sale 2435. Wagner, Spanish Southwest 132a: “The map was engraved by J. Gibson, and has most of the inscriptions in Spanish, only a few being Anglicized.” Zamorano 80 #78n.

     British geographer, engraver, and draughtsman John Gibson (active 1750-1792) produced thousands of maps, including the four-sheet map of North America after the Treaty of Paris, which he created in conjunction with Emanuel Bowen. See: Tooley’s Dictionary of Mapmakers (revised edition), Vol. II, p. 163.


Sold. Hammer: $2,200.00; Price Realized: $2,695.00.

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