The Elusive Zamorano 80 Captured Again: The Volkmann Zamorano 80 under the Hammer in February
By Everett Wilkie
Although there have been four known complete collections of first editions of the so-called Zamorano 80, only one has ever been sold publicly as an entire collection. The second such collection will be brought under the hammer in California in February, proving once again the enduring appeal of this list compiled over fifty years ago by a few members of the Zamorano Club as an historical contribution to California's history.
The Zamorano Club has a long, distinguished history. No book club that includes a person so accustomed to hard reality as a cement manufacturer among its founding members can go wrong. Named after Agustín Vicente Zamorano, the first printer in Alta California, the Club was created on 25 January 1928 after the founding group, which included cement manufacturer Garner A. Beckett, had held several preliminary meetings. Ironically, the group had no name at that meeting; it was not until the 29 March 1928 meeting that the present name was agreed upon. Limited to eighty regular members, the Club had as its primary purpose "to establish contact and encourage exchange of thought among its members, who shall be men interested in fine books." Secondary purposes included encouraging book arts, building a collection to support that aim, and occasionally printing items sympathetic to the club’s goals. Practically since its founding, it has been exerting influence on collectors and librarians, many of whom have comprised its membership over the years. Those members have, in turn, influenced the collecting world at large, especially through the Club's publications, of which The Zamorano 80 has been by far the most influential. The Club's own publications, usually fine press works printed in limited numbers, have also become rare and desirable. Even the Club's ephemera, such as menus and invitations, have some market value.
Unlike some things designed by committee, The Zamorano 80 came out looking like a thoroughbred instead of the legendary camel. As recounted in Homer D. Crotty’s introduction to the original 1945 publication, winnowing the list of potential significant California books to the eighty presented was the result of "discussion and struggle," some second thoughts, some retractions, some additions, and perhaps such things as "duckling à l'orange or the Bombe Waikiki, or other ingredients" served at the two dinners at which the compilers also chewed on their final selections. The result of their deliberations, published as The Zamorano 80: A Selection of Distinguished California Books Made by the Members of the Zamorano Club (Los Angeles: The Zamorano Club, 1945), has become one of the holy grails of book collecting. Many individuals and institutions have attempted, with varying degrees of success, to collect all eighty books listed therein. (All of them no doubt are grateful that the committee did not agree on more books.)