Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - December - 2014 Issue

A Variety of Material from Southwestern Bookseller Back of Beyond Books

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A trip to the Great Salt Lake on the cover of the latest catalogue from Back of Beyond Books.

Back of Beyond Books has published their Catalogue 14. Back of Beyond specializes in books relating to the American Southwest, appropriate for a bookseller from rural, eastern Utah. There are certainly many items relating to that subject again this time, but also a broader selection of material as well. There are sections on literature and poetry, Mormon history, mountaineering, Native Americans, natural history, and a miscellany, as well as items of Western Americana. Here are a few of the new items recently added to Back of Beyond's selection.

 

We will start with the item displayed on the catalogue's cover: Route Map of the Mormon Pioneers from Nauvoo to Great Salt Lake February 1846. It comes with the accompanying Guide to the Route Map of the Mormon Pioneers. It was published by Milroy and Hayes, Map Publishers, in 1899. This large map and guide follow the diary of Orson Pratt, with occasional entries by his brother, Parley Pratt. Both were members of the original Quorum of Twelve. Threats on the safety and lives of the Mormons in Illinois at the time led to their migration to the western desert under Brigham Young. The map shows dates and mileage traveled each day by the Pratts to reach their destination. Those who have traveled today's roughly parallel highways will realize that a day's journey then averages 10-15 minutes today. Scenes from the trip are also depicted. This is the original, larger version of the map (there was a later printing) and is rarely seen. Item 38. Priced at $7,000.

 

Here is one of those items of poetry, an atypical work from one of the 20th century's most notable poets. If T. S. Eliot was best known during his lifetime for works such as The Waste Land, a later generation may know him better for his whimsical verses pertaining to the personalities of cats. Item 5 is Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, “Old Possum” being Eliot's nickname. The verses in this book were taken from letters Eliot had written to his godchildren, which naturally means they are different from works such as the aforementioned Waste Land (not something you would likely send to children). Eliot's practical cats would become a phenomenon, but not until well after he died, when Andrew Lloyd Webber set them to music and created what was then the longest running Broadway play ever – Cats. Offered is a 1946 edition of Practical Cats that has been signed by Eliot, along with having the initials “O.P.” in Eliot's hand. $3,000.

 

Item 71 is the Report on the Lands of the Arid Regions of the United States with a More Detailed Account of the Lands of Utah, the second edition, published in 1879. This is explorer John Wesley Powell's survey of the suitability of the dry western lands for agriculture. Powell is most noted for leading the first mission to ride the Colorado River rapids all the way to the Grand Canyon. However, the government wanted his evaluation of the land for practical purposes. Powell concluded that only a very small percent of the land, that closest to rivers that could be used for irrigation, was suitable for farming. The remainder could only be used for low density cattle grazing or set aside as conservation land. $340.

 

Next we have a handbill offering a reward for the capture of J. K. Bear. Jacob K. Bear was a manager at the Brownville, Nebraska, office of Merchant's Union Express when he absconded with $12,000. The reward offered $1,000 for the capture of Bear, and $1,000 for the return of the $12,000 (or a proportional amount for less than the full $12,000). Bear had gambling problems, and owed money around town, but still, $12,000 was an enormous amount of money on August 27, 1869, when this theft took place. Bear was kind enough to leave a note explaining his theft, and saying there was a 99 in 100 chance he would get caught, but was willing to take the chance for the 1 in 100. He was also gentlemanly enough to pay off his debts around town the night before he disappeared, though quite obviously he was using someone else's money. Later on, he sent back a letter saying he was making money and promising to repay the funds within ten years. In time, Bear was caught, but claimed the cash box with the rest of the money fell in a river. He was convicted, but sentenced to only a year in prison, which the Governor commuted to just three months. That enabled Bear to move on to Oregon, where he committed a similar heist in 1871, only this time he was not caught, and what happened to him after that is unknown. Item 91. $750.

 

Item 4 is a first edition, first printing, of Willa Cather's first published book, April Twilights (1903). She had written poems and short stories for periodicals prior to this, but this was the start of a long career writing books. It is a collection of poems, many of which were earlier published in magazines, sometimes under pen names. Cather was ultimately not too pleased with this effort, and destroyed remaining copies. The collection was later republished by her, but only after some poems were excised and replaced with others. $750.

 

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

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