Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - May - 2010 Issue

The Southwest and More from Back of Beyond Books

Backbeyond2

Books primarily from the Southwest from Back of Beyond Books.


By Michael Stillman

Back of Beyond Books has issued their Rare Book Catalogue #2, closely on the heels of #1. That is a tribute to the success of their first catalogue of rare and antiquarian books, after years of focusing on new titles. Back of Beyond features primarily works on their home area, the Desert Southwest, west of the Rocky Mountains. The challenges of heat, extremely dry conditions, and spectacular landscape has made this area a great source for exciting adventures and explorations. Along with its focus on the natural history of the area, the catalogue has sections on fiction, art and photography, and mountaineering. There is also a wide selection of titles from the noted local writer Edward Abbey. Here are some of the books being offered.

Item 20 is the classic resource for map enthusiasts of the West. It is Carl Wheat's Mapping the Transmississippi West 1540-1861. It includes reproductions of over 300 antique maps of the West, five volumes bound in six. It starts with the Spanish era, moves on to the period between the Louisiana Purchase and Fremont's expedition (including Lewis and Clark), and then to the Mexican boundary surveys, railroad surveys, and Civil War to geological surveys. The set was published in an edition of 1,000 copies from 1957-1963. This is the resource for early maps of the American West. Priced at $3,250.

Item 35 is one of the earliest American looks at its western territory: Report of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in the Year 1842, and To Oregon and North California in the Years 1843-44. This is the 1845 senate issue of General John C. Fremont's early look at the west, including pre-Mormon Utah and pre-Gold Rush California. Fremont conducted several expeditions, the two herein described his most successful. His account captured the imagination of many Americans, enough so that in 1856, he became the first nominee for president ever of the new Republican Party (he lost). $3,250.

Item 1 is 50 Years in Death Valley - Memoirs of a Borax Man, published in 1970. It is signed by the author, who is Harry P. Gower, not Ronald Reagan. Reagan was the television voice of Gower's employer, U.S. Borax, promoting "20 Mule Team Borax," a cleanser, as he hosted the television series Death Valley Days in the 1960s. While Reagan knew more about politics, it's safe to say that Gower knew more about borax, and Death Valley, the exceedingly hot and dry place where U.S. Borax extracted the mineral which readily dissolves in water to create a detergent. $50.

Here is an exception to the typical book in this catalogue. Instead of describing the Southwest, it covers adventures in the far north, the very far north. A group of eight pilots in two planes set out from Baker Lake in the Northwest Territories of Canada in September of 1929. Unfortunately, they encountered bad weather and were forced to land along the Arctic coast. While landing safely, they discovered they did not have enough fuel to complete their journey. They figured they could reach rescue on Victoria Island, but the Arctic strait was not yet frozen. They would have to wait until it froze to make their escape. That would take a couple of months. As they had no way of communicating home, a massive search was launched, one of the largest Canada had ever seen. It was to no avail. Fortunately, the pilots had one piece of very good fortune. They landed near an Inuit camp, and the natives supplemented the rations aboard their planes and provided help surviving the extreme weather. Finally, when the Arctic froze, the men were able to find rescue. One of the participants, Richard Pearce, wrote about their adventure in 1931, the book titled Marooned in the Arctic, Diary of the Dominion Explorers' Expedition to the Arctic August to December 1929. This copy has been inscribed by the leader of the expedition, C.D.H. MacAlpine. Item 23. $325.

Edward Abbey was one of the preeminent environmentalists of the Southwest, a writer who fought against both industrial despoiling of the land and government intrusion in people's lives. Most of his works were fiction, though they often related to real events (such as his "Monkey Wrench Gang" which took on the damming of the Colorado River to flood Glen Canyon). Item 64 is his first work of nonfiction: Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness. Published in 1968, it is an account of his time as a seasonal park ranger at Arches National Monument (now Park). The park is home to numerous, naturally carved sandstone arches, many very colorful, a spectacular sight still today, though it is doubtful Abbey would have appreciated the increased tourism of recent years. He did appreciate solitude. This copy is signed. $2,000.

Back of Beyond Books may be reached at 435-259-5154 or andy@backofbeyondbooks.com. Their website is found at www.backofbeyondbooks.com.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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>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>

Review Search

Archived Reviews

Ask Questions