Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - May - 2015 Issue

Rare Books from the American West from Old West Books

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Books from the American West.

Old West Books has issued their Catalog 38 of Rare, Out of Print Books on the American West. Offered are 100 books targeted to serious collectors of the time and place we think of as the “Old West.” That means the titles are 19th and early 20th century books, though a few are of more recent vintage but pertain to those times. For Americans, this is the land of the “American Dream,” where those willing to take on the challenge could fulfill their wildest dreams. Some may have achieved these heights through the barrel of a gun, and outside of the law, and others became hardscrabble farmers, but no matter. This was our destiny, and if it wasn't, we made it so. Interestingly, if this was the embodiment of the American Dream, the Old West has long fascinated Europeans and others as well. Perhaps that reflects the reality that there were no such untamed lands left on the continent to conquer, so they were content to live the American Dream vicariously. Now, all of us get to relive those days through the books that describe those times.

 

The American Dream proved to be the Indians' nightmare through much of the West. Battles constantly sprung up as settlers claimed Indian land, Indians retaliated, the army retaliated to their retaliation, and so on. Ultimately, the Indians lost, even if occasionally they overcame the odds to achieve temporary success. Item 74 is A Thrilling Narrative of Indian Captivity, by Mrs. Mary Butler Renville, published in 1863. Mrs. Renville and her husband had been teachers to the Indians, but were caught up in what became known as the Dakota War of 1862. Not receiving timely treaty payments, and desperate for food, the Sioux rebelled, killing hundreds of settlers in the Minnesota River Valley. U.S. forces retaliated, capturing 1,000 Indians and carrying out the largest one-day execution in American history. Thirty-eight Sioux were hung on December 26, 1862. This book is Mrs. Renville's account of her captivity during those dark days. Priced at $12,500.

 

You might think that someone with a nickname like “Little Reddy” must have been a boy scout, but there was little good in Robert McKimie beyond the cute name. McKimie had already spent 15 years in a Utah prison for killing a man when he made his way to the Black Hills. There he hooked up with the Joel Collins-Sam Bass gang, holding up stages running from Deadwood to Cheyenne. On one occasion, he got careless and killed Johnny Slaughter, a popular driver and son of a Cheyenne marshal. That was too risky a move for the gang to tolerate. They threw him out. McKimie moved on to Ohio, where he went into business and became well-liked by his neighbors. However, he was eventually tracked down by a South Dakota lawman, captured, escaped, and was recaptured. His story is recounted in The Life and Adventures of Robert McKimie, Alias “Little Reddy,” from Texas The Dare-Devil Desperado of the Black Hills Region, Chief of the Murderous Gang of Treasure Coach Robbers... by J.W. Bridwell, published in 1878. The conclusion to McKimie's story remains unknown. He spent 14 years in a Ohio prison before being released. After that, some think he returned to Deadwood, but no one knows for certain where he went or what happened to him. Item 8. $1,750.

 

Next up we have an adventure story the likes of which could not be repeated today. Captain James Hobbs served in the Franco-Mexican War, but the title “captain” does not indicate he was primarily a military man. He was more of a mountain man, working the West before immigrants began to cross the country in numbers. He was a hunter and trapper, a close friend of the legendary Kit Carson. He coexisted among Indians, including time as a prisoner of the Comanches. He also served in the Mexican-American War as an interpreter, was a trader south of the border, and in time a forty-niner in California. His biography is revealed in Wild Life in the Far West; Personal Adventures of a Border Mountain Man, published in 1874. While it tells us much about the times, it is intended more as a story of the personal experiences of a man who lived a very wild life. Item 40. $250.

 

This next biography is laced with its share of self-aggrandizement, which might be inferred from its title: Life and Adventures of Polk Wells, The Notorious Outlaw Whose Acts of Fearlessness and Chivalry Kept the Frontier Trails Afire with Excitement, and whose Robberies and other Depredations in the Platte Purchase and Elsewhere, have been a Most Frequent Discussion to this Day... published by his wife's second husband in 1907. As the preface tells us, “The expressions of but a single man may change a whole epoch of history.” Did Polk Wells change history? Perhaps in his own mind. Who was he, anyway? Polk Wells was an Indian fighter on the frontier, twice captured, twice escaped. He became friendly with cowboys and criminals, the various people who roamed the plains. Kit Carson and Wild Bill Hickok were known to be friends. In 1872, he married, departed for a couple of years to seek his fortune, and when he returned, found his wife living with another man. Polk was understanding. Even gave him some money, and the man would later marry his wife and publish his autobiography. However, in 1879, Wells turned to crime. He started robbing trains and banks, and was good at it for a few years until he wasn't. He was sent to prison, attempted an escape, but the success he had escaping the Indians eluded him. Even more unfortunately, he killed a guard in the process, ensuring the rest of his life, which ended in 1893, was spent behind bars. In his autobiography, Wells paints himself as something of a Robin Hood, not an unqualified good man, but still someone who shared with the poor. Contemporaries considered the image more self-serving than accurate. He was hoping for a pardon. Item 96. $125.

 

Old West Books may be reached at 719-260-6030 or oldwestbooks@earthlink.net. Their website is www.oldwestbooks.com.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, wallpaper sample book, circa 1919. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Archive from a late office of the Breuer & Smith architectural team, New York, 1960-70s. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> William Morris, <i>The Story of the Glittering Plain or the Land of Living Men,</i> illustrated by Walter Crane, Kelmscott Press, Hammersmith, 1894. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustave Doré, <i>La Sainte Bible selon la Vulgate,</i> Tours, 1866. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustav Klimt & Max Eisler, <i>Eine Nachlese,</i> complete set, Vienna, 1931. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>Eric Allatini & Gerda Wegener, <i>Sur Talons Rouges,</i> with original watercolor by Wegener, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>C.P. Cavafy, <i>Fourteen Poems,</i> illustrated & signed by David Hockney, London, 1966. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jean Midolle, <i>Spécimen des Écritures Modernes...</i>, Strasbourg, 1834-35. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>E.A. Seguy, <i>Floréal: Dessins & Coloris Nouveaux,</i> Paris, 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. SOLD for $131,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. SOLD for $516,500
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. SOLD for $106,250
    <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. SOLD for $16,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. SOLD for $275,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. SOLD for $118,750
  • <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> E.H. SHEPARD, Original drawing for A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner.<br>$40,000-60,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> BERNARD RATZER, Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767. $80,000-100,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph letter signed comparing Logan, Tecumseh, and Little Turtle to the Spartans. Monticello: 15 February 1821. $14,000-18,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN C. FREMONT, Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in the Year 1842.. Abridged edition, the only one containing the folding map From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ZANE GREY, Album containing 94 large format photographs of Grey and party at Catalina Island, Arizona, and fishing in the Pacific. From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $5,000-$8,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> WILLIAM COMBE, A History of Madeira ... illustrative of the Costumes, Manners, and Occupations of the Inhabitants. produced by Ackermann in 1821; From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ERIC TAVERNER, Salmon Fishing... One of 275 copies signed by Taverner, published in 1931,From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN WHITEHEAD, Exploration of Mount Kina Balu, North Borneo. Whitehead reached the high point of Kinabalu in 1888. Part of a major group of travel books from the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN LONG, Voyages and Travels of an Indian Interpreter and Trader, describing the Manners and Customs of the North American Indians... The first edition of 1791. $3,000-$5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> SAMUEL BECKETT, Stirrings Still. This, Beckett’s last work of fiction with original lithographs by Le Brocquy, limited to 200 copies signed by the author and the artist. From the Estate of Howard Kaminsky.. $1,500-$2,500
  • <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>

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