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:</b> Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> first edition of the earliest extant manual on modern chess, Salamanca, circa 1496-97. Sold for $68,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Carte-de-visite album with 83 images of prominent African Americans & abolitionists, circa 1860s. Sold for $47,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk,</i> Vienna & Leipzig, 1918. Sold for $106,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Man Ray, <i>[London Transport] – Keeps London Going,</i> 1938. Sold for $149,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Nicolas de Fer, <i>L’Amerique Divisee Selon Letendue de ses Principales Parties,</i> Paris, 1713. Sold for $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Russell H. Tandy, <i>The Secret in the Old Attic,</i> watercolor, pencil & ink, 1944. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Hemingway, <i>Three Stories & Ten Poems,</i> first edition of the author's first book, Paris, 1923. Sold for $23,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Walker Evans, <i>River Rouge Plant,</i> silver print, 1947. Sold for $57,500.
  • <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Ernst, Max. <i>Mr. Knife and Miss Fork</i>. Paris, 1932. DELUXE EDITION. Sold for $15,625
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Einstein, Albert. Signed Passport Photo for his US citizenship application. Bermuda, 1935. Sold for $17,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Verard, Antoine. Illuminated printed Book of Hours. Paris, 1507. Sold for $7,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Wetterkurzschlussel. German Weather Report Codebook - for Enigma use. Berlin, 1942. Sold for $225,000
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Morelos y Pavon, Jose Maria. Autograph letter signed to El Virrey Venegas, February 5, 1812. Sold for $6,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Milne, A.A. Complete set of <i>Winnie-the-Pooh</i> books. 4 volumes. All first issue points. London, 1924-1928. Sold for $5,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> A 48-star American Flag, battle worn flown at Guadalcanal and Peleliu, 1942-1944. Sold for $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Locke, John. Autograph Letter Signed mourning the death of his friend, William Molyneaux, 2 pp, October 27, 1698. Sold for $20,000
  • <b>Doyle: Hunting Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake” Johnson. Online only auction Aug 3-14</b>
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>The Sportsman's Portfolio of American Field Sports.</i> 1855. Est: $600 to $900
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>Bishop's Birds. Etchings of Water-Fowl and Upland Game Birds.</i> 1936. Est: $200 to $300
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>Hunting Big Game in Far Northwest British Columbia</i>. 1904. Est: $500 to $800
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>Mananaland. Adventuring with Camera and Rifle Through California in Mexico.</i> 1929. Est: $400 to $600
    <b>Doyle: Hunting Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake” Johnson. Online only auction Aug 3-14</b>
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>Grand Canyon Trails.</i> 1924. Est: $300 to $500
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>A Sporting Trip through Abyssinia. A Narrative of a nine months’ journey..</i> 1902. Est: $200 to $300
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>Hunting in Tanzania [...in Zimbabwe; ...the Sudan; ...in Botswana; ...in Ethiopia; ...in Zambia; ...in South Africa; ...in Kenya]</i>. 1991-2000. Est: $800 to $1200
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>Hounds and Hunting through the Ages ... with an Introduction by the Earl of Lonsdale</i>. 1928. Est: $600 to $900

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