Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2003 Issue

Oregon Trail</i> Part II Finding Gems Along the Trail

May.m2

Image from the AE Database


Now that we’ve discovered this title, we do a specific “Primary Search” and come up with 28 records just for Palmer. With these, we learn a lot about Joel Palmer and his book. Particularly helpful are Edward Eberstadt’s and Ernest Wessen’s (Midland Notes) descriptions. We find that Palmer provided the only contemporary narrative among the 3,000 sojourners who traveled to Oregon in 1845, thereby doubling the settler population of that territory. Palmer later returned east to write and publish his book. He intended that it be available as a guide for immigrants in 1847, but he received only a few dozen copies in time. The rest came for 1848, and some of those copies have the 1847 crossed out and 1848 entered by hand. The hand was Palmer’s as he wanted buyers to know it was up-to-date.

Unfortunately, this was such a useful guide that most copies were worn out. Few survive. First editions are considered exceedingly rare. Howes, in his USiana, rates it a “d,” the second highest classification behind “dd,” which is used for such items as The Declaration of Independence. This is clearly a valuable book, more so than Parkman’s Oregon Trail (a “c” for Howes). An outstanding copy was being offered for $650 all the way back in 1939. By 1986, a not quite so outstanding copy was priced at $3,250.

We went to Abebooks.com to see what’s available today. There were 18 copies, but 17 of them are recent reprints, all priced for reading. But number 18 appears to be a gem. It is offered for $2,800 by Old West Books of Arlington, Texas. However, the date is confusing. It is described as 1848. According to our AED record from H.V.Jones, this 1847 first edition was reprinted in 1850, 1851, and 1852. Nowhere in our records does an 1848 edition appear. Is this one of those hand-written “1848’s?” More investigation with the seller to resolve this discrepancy is recommended before making a purchase.

Now it’s back to our list to see what else predates 1860. Next up comes something called Nebraska and Kansas… by J.H. Colton. Turns out it’s a map, and what a map. Eberstadt describes it as the first separate map of Kansas and Nebraska, probably one of the earliest with detailed depictions of Montana-Wyoming-Colorado, and delineates many early routes, including the Oregon Trail. I’d love to own this map, but we’re looking for books, so we move on.

The next listing is for Emerson Bennett’s 1847 Prairie Flower. Our entry (from Peter Decker’s catalog of the Soliday collection) doesn’t tell us much about this book other than it has something to do with the Oregon Trail. So, we look up Emerson Bennett, and what we find is a fiction writer, whose titles include Mike Fink. Interestingly, when we look up Howes’ reference to the Prairie Flower, he says that it was “probably written by Sidney W. Moss, who accompanied Hastings to California in 1842, so some of the incidents may be factual.” Compare this to Howes’ comments about Bennett’s next book, Leni-Leoti. Described as a sequel to Prairie Flower in which the hero’s adventures are continued, Howes adds “Written by Bennett himself, hence undiluted fiction.” Is it just me, or does Howes sound less than impressed by Bennett’s writing? As to whether Prairie Flower belongs in an Oregon Trail collection, you can be the judge.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, wallpaper sample book, circa 1919. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Archive from a late office of the Breuer & Smith architectural team, New York, 1960-70s. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> William Morris, <i>The Story of the Glittering Plain or the Land of Living Men,</i> illustrated by Walter Crane, Kelmscott Press, Hammersmith, 1894. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustave Doré, <i>La Sainte Bible selon la Vulgate,</i> Tours, 1866. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustav Klimt & Max Eisler, <i>Eine Nachlese,</i> complete set, Vienna, 1931. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>Eric Allatini & Gerda Wegener, <i>Sur Talons Rouges,</i> with original watercolor by Wegener, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>C.P. Cavafy, <i>Fourteen Poems,</i> illustrated & signed by David Hockney, London, 1966. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jean Midolle, <i>Spécimen des Écritures Modernes...</i>, Strasbourg, 1834-35. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>E.A. Seguy, <i>Floréal: Dessins & Coloris Nouveaux,</i> Paris, 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. SOLD for $131,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. SOLD for $516,500
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. SOLD for $106,250
    <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. SOLD for $16,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. SOLD for $275,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. SOLD for $118,750
  • <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> E.H. SHEPARD, Original drawing for A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner.<br>$40,000-60,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> BERNARD RATZER, Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767. $80,000-100,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph letter signed comparing Logan, Tecumseh, and Little Turtle to the Spartans. Monticello: 15 February 1821. $14,000-18,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN C. FREMONT, Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in the Year 1842.. Abridged edition, the only one containing the folding map From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ZANE GREY, Album containing 94 large format photographs of Grey and party at Catalina Island, Arizona, and fishing in the Pacific. From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $5,000-$8,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> WILLIAM COMBE, A History of Madeira ... illustrative of the Costumes, Manners, and Occupations of the Inhabitants. produced by Ackermann in 1821; From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ERIC TAVERNER, Salmon Fishing... One of 275 copies signed by Taverner, published in 1931,From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN WHITEHEAD, Exploration of Mount Kina Balu, North Borneo. Whitehead reached the high point of Kinabalu in 1888. Part of a major group of travel books from the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN LONG, Voyages and Travels of an Indian Interpreter and Trader, describing the Manners and Customs of the North American Indians... The first edition of 1791. $3,000-$5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> SAMUEL BECKETT, Stirrings Still. This, Beckett’s last work of fiction with original lithographs by Le Brocquy, limited to 200 copies signed by the author and the artist. From the Estate of Howard Kaminsky.. $1,500-$2,500

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