Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - April - 2012 Issue

The Early West from Old West Books


Catalog 33 from Old West Books.

Old West Books has issued their Catalog 33 of books that pertain to the land west of the Mississippi. Offered is a collection of books and manuscripts from the 19th and 20th centuries (and a few from the 21st) that pertain to the American West in the 19th. It is filled with tales of people who settled the West, traversed it on their way to California and Oregon, fought the Indians who already lived there, fought each other once they drove the natives out, drove cattle across its open spaces, and did all of the other things these amazing, though somewhat romanticized, people did to survive. They fascinate us as much today as they did then. Here are a few books from America's Old West.

We will start with a harrowing trip across the west in 1850, A Ride Over the Rocky Mountains to Oregon and California, published in 1852. The author was Henry Coke, an adventurous young man from England, son of an M.P. He had already served time in the Royal Navy when he joined up with six others to cross the Rockies. Five of them made it, two did not, and it was said to be a miracle that any survived. Coke made it on time to observe the Gold Rush in California, but he was there to sightsee, not dig for gold, so from there he moved on to the “Sandwich Islands” (the British continued to call Hawaii by this name long after others abandoned the practice). Among his adventures Coke met the famed mountain man, Kit Carson. Item 20. Priced at $550.

Here is another trip to the West, but we imagine a far less stressful one. This title sounds perfect for a low budget film staring Fran Drescher – Westward Ho. Snapshot Recollections of a Happy Brooklyn Party's Memorable Transcontinental Tour. During the summer of 1915, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper put on a western tour for Brooklyners, and one has to imagine the locals of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and the Pacific states must have been as astounded by these people as they were of the scenery and people they encountered in the West. At the end of the trip, the tourists were given a copy of this book, which includes many photographs. Item 1. $325.

Item 120 is a rare and important piece for collectors of western outlaws: The Story of Cole Younger by Himself Being an Autobiography of the Missouri Guerrilla Captain and Outlaw... Younger and his brothers were Confederate sympathizers in Missouri during the Civil War. Pro-Union and pro-Confederacy Missourians battled it out in this border state, often turning to extreme violence. Younger joined up with the particularly violent Quantrill Raiders, who slaughtered 200 people across the Kansas border in abolitionist Lawrence. After the war, the remnants of the Raiders still occasionally attacked and stole from those who had been pro-Union, but in time they became little more than common outlaws. The Youngers joined up with another pair of Quantrill veterans, Jesse and Frank James, to wreak havoc across the Midwest. Younger was captured after an unsuccessful bank heist in 1876, while the James' brothers avoided capture until Jesse was shot from behind in 1882. Though sentenced to life in prison, Cole Younger was paroled in 1901, and for a while toured in a “Wild West” show with Frank James. It was around this time – 1903 – that this autobiography was published. This copy was once owned by Younger's nephew, Harry Younger Hall. $5,000.

Item 54 is a book for California collectors, a biography of the leader of the short-lived California Republic, or “Bear Flag Republic.” The title is A Biographical Sketch of the Life of William B. Ide... by his older brother, Simeon Ide. In 1846, tensions were running high between Mexico and the United States. The Mexican War was about to begin. A group of American settlers in California heard that Mexico planned to expel the Americans. They revolted. Operating under the Bear Flag, they declared their independence. Independent California did not last long, if ever it was independent. Unknown to Ide and his followers, war had begun. Ide, who served as California's only “President,” ended his administration just 25 days later when American General John Fremont and his troops arrived. The rebels quickly joined the American forces, and as a result of the war, California permanently became American Territory. This biography was published in 1880, when Simeon Ide was 86 years old. William had died back in 1852. $3,500.

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