California Gold Rush through a Teutonic Lens

“Spectacular Plates” (Kurutz)

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576. [VOLLMER, Carl Gottfried Wilhelm]. [First title page] Kalifornien Och Guldfebern. Guldgräfvarnes, Mormonernas och Indianernas. Seder Och Bruk, Antecknade under en Resa i Vestra Nordamerika af Dr. W.F.A. Zimmermann. Öfversatt och Bearbetadt af J.E. Thimgren. Med 8 Litografierade planscher i tontryck och 50 träsnitt. Stockholm. C.H. Fahlstedts Bokhandel, Hörnet of Storkyrkobrinken och Stadssmedjegatan. [verso of title page] Stockholm. Tryckt Hos C.M. Thimgren, 1862. [second title page] Kalifornien Och Guldfebern. [woodcut of people attending to man on a bed] Guldgräfvarnes, Mormonernas och Indianernas. Seder Och Bruk, Skildrade Under En Resa Genom Vestra Nordamerika, af Dr. W.F.A. Zimmermann. Med 8 planscher och talrika träsnitt. Stockholm. C.H. Fahlstedts Förlag. [verso of title page] Stockholm. Tryckt Hos C.M. Thimgren, 1862. Stockholm, [1862]. [10], [1] 2-662 pp., 8 lithograph plates of views in the West and California (6 on toned grounds, 2 chromolithographs), 2 woodcut engravings on title and wrapper), many text illustrations (mostly of mining processes and equipment). 8vo (20.5 x 14 cm), original upper pictorial wrapper: Elfte—Fjortonde—Haftet. (Slutet.) Kalifornien Och Guldfebern. [woodcut of overland party in a vast landscape opening a grave beside which are a skull and partial skeleton] Guldgräfvarnes, Mormonernas och Indianernas Seder Och Bruk, Skildrade Under En Resa Genom Vestra Nordamerika Af Dr. W. F. A. Zimmermann.  Med 8 plascher och talrika träsnitt.  Stockholm.  Hos C. H. Fahlstedt.  Pris: för Subskribenter 50 öre haftet >> för [trimmed away]. Bound in three-quarter modern half dark brown calf over contemporary dark green patterned boards, spine gilt lettered; upper wrapper chipped with some text loss at bottom and reinforced, text age-toned due to paper quality, the lithographs excellent. Overall a very good copy.  Very rare with the wrapper and both title pages.

Lithograph Plates

[1]  Buffeljagt hos infödingarne i Nordamerika. Tinted. Wild scene of Native Americans hunting Buffalo.

[2]  Den Willis’ska expeditionens läger. Tinted. Busy overland scene with emigrants and covered wagons in a cirle.

[3]  Indianernas hämnd. Tinted. Emigrants on the run from Natives on a high cliff above, one rider careening with his horse to the ground.

[4]  En prairiebrand. Full color. Fiery scene of horses trying to outrun a blazing prairie fire.

[5]  En nordamerikansk krigarstam. Tinted. Ceremonial scene of Native Americans in full regalia and teepees at sides.

[6]  Folkjustisen eller Lynch lagen. Full color. San Francisco scene of Vigilance Committee hanging with hellish light, fires, and full moon.

[7]  Franklins skepp Erebus och Terror i Ishafvet. Tinted. Franklin expedition entrapped in ice with walruses and penguins looking on.

[8]  Ett bröllops-kalas i Kalifornien. Tinted. Men and women busy drinking in a rude room with a low ceiling.

     First edition. Cowan I, p. 255. Cowan II, p. 900. Flake 9491 (listing the Berlin 1863 edition as first). Howes V140. Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 238 (erroneously listing the Berlin 1863 edition as first). Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 655a: “This work served as part of the author’s ‘novels of natural science’ series. ‘Zimmermann’ was his nom-de-plume. The title translates as ‘California and the Gold Fever. Travels in the West of North America; Life and Customs of the Argonauts, Mormons and Indians.’ The chromolithograph plates are sensational.” Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 238n. Zimmermann was the pseudonym used by Carl Gottfried Wilhelm Vollmer (1794-1864). German author Vollmer wrote prolifically on popular science, of which this title was part of the series. The present copy retains the original upper pictorial wrapper with the morbid vignette; we found no other copies with wrappers. Plates vary in copies as to placement and subject matter. In the present copy is an incongruous plate from the Franklin Expedition. The various editions of Vollmer’s Gold Rush book merits an overdue bibliographical exploration.

     The California Gold Rush excited the imagination of people all over the world for years after the discovery. Guidebooks and accounts of the trip by land or sea were published in many languages in many countries. Vollmer’s work appeared in this 1862 Swedish edition, and also in German (1863) and Dutch (1864). Besides the California Gold Rush, the author describes Mormon settlements, Native American tribes (including Comanche, Cherokee, Kiowa, Navajo, Cree), etc. Although the somewhat fanciful color plates appear to have been fashioned after earlier images by others, the unearthly lighting of them is like no others. The Vigilance Committee scene looks like a scene from Dante’s Inferno, which may not be too far off track. The large number of text engravings, however, are for the most part precise and accurate. The chromolithograph of the prairie fire may be a Texas lithograph (possibly a reworking of the plate reproduced by Del Weniger in The Explorer’s Texas, Austin, 1984, p. 195).


Sold. Hammer: $250.00; Price Realized: $306.25.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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