Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2003 Issue

Finding Early Works About The Oregon Trail

Abby6

MatchMaker finds Matches

Next up we find Ross Cox’s 1831 Adventures on the Columbia River…. Cox was a fur-trader who traveled to Oregon in 1812 and back in 1817. His is another first-hand account of travels to Oregon before there was a real trail.

Even earlier is John Bradbury’s Travels in the Interior of America…. The first edition is printed in Liverpool in 1817, the second in London in 1819. The second includes a map not included with the first. Bradbury had accompanied Hunt on a journey up the Missouri in 1810. And then there’s H.R. Brackenridge’s Views of Louisiana…, printed in 1814. Unusually, this work was actually printed in America, specifically, the frontier town of Pittsburgh. Brackenridge passed Hunt going up the Missouri, but returned to St. Louis long before reaching Oregon. Next is another French work, Gabriel Franchere’s 1820 Relation d’un Voyage…, printed in Montreal.

Finally, there’s a very interesting item despite its relatively recent date: Robert Stuart’s The Discovery of the Oregon Trail, printed in 1935. Why so late? It’s not a typical reprint. The answer is that it’s the first English edition. It originally was published with a set of other volumes in French in 1821. This book also contains the first English translation of Hunt’s work. Stuart traveled backward, from Oregon to St. Louis, in 1812-13, and is credited with discovering "South Pass" (a key pass on the Oregon Trail) and establishing the Trail itself.

O.K. We’ve developed a nice list of early Oregon Trail-related titles simply by discovering the name of Wilson Hunt. Now let’s try adding some of these other names to Oregon in a search. To save time, we’ll do them all at once. Watch carefully. We’ll put the “or” sign (“/ ”) between each name, and then the “and” sign (“&”) before Oregon. It looks like this in the search box: cox/bradbury/brackenridge/franchere/staurt&oregon. This will find us every record with one of these surnames plus the word “Oregon.”

This brings up several new titles, including Alexander Ross’ The Fur Traders of the Far West. Not surprisingly, we find that most of these early “explorers” were really fur traders, who later recounted what they had discovered in the conduct of their trade. While slightly later in printing date (1855), this work recounts Ross’ adventures between 1813 and 1825. What’s really interesting, however, is an even later title, Reuben Thwaites’ Early Western Travels. This ÆD reference, taken from one of Edward Eberstadt’s catalogs, lists over 30 names of early explorers. Now I can take these names down and do another of those “or” searches combined with “Oregon” to find even more references. Starting from just one name, Wilson Hunt, I’ve discovered a whole list of names to research.

Many new titles emerge as I search these new names. I discover works written by explorers such as James O. Pattie, Peter Skene Ogden, Benjamin Bilson, and Father DeSmet. However, I have a particular interest in two works by Thomas Jefferson Farnham: from 1841 there’s Travels in the Great Western Prairies…, and from 1844, History of the Oregon Territory. My attention is particularly focused on the rare first edition of the earlier title. Those of you following my colleague, Bruce McKinney’s contributions to this collaborative project, may be aware that he is a collector of Hudson Valley imprints. It just so happens that on this title, our interests overlap. Farnham’s first book was first printed in the spelling bee participant’s nightmare city, Poughkeepsie, New York. And as any geographer knows, Poughkeepsie was settled along the banks of the mighty Hudson.

This will not be an inexpensive title to purchase. An inscribed copy from Farnham was sold at the Siebert auction in 1999 for $3,450, more than double the estimate. An unsigned version was sold by Christie’s in 2002 for $1,554. I find only one copy of the Poughkeepsie first available on Abebooks today, a not-perfect copy for $2,250. I’ll need to keep my eyes open for this one. If I find the right copy, I may be able to sell it to Mr. McKinney…after a suitable mark-up, of course.

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 Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.

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