Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - February - 2006 Issue

The Spanish Southwest from Plaza Books

Pike

Southwest explorer Zebulon Pike.


Item 50 is the 1811 first British edition (after the first American of a year earlier) of Zebulon Pike's Exploratory Travels through the Western Territories of North America...Performed in the years 1805, 1806, 1807... Pike's travels may not be celebrated in the manner of Lewis and Clark's, but his expedition was the best America could muster into the Southwest while the latter explored the Northwest. The first year of Pike's journey took him up the Mississippi, in search of its source, which he never found. The second year took him to the Southwest, where Pike and his men, ill-equipped, not prepared for winter in the mountains, and lacking much in scientific or geographical skills, explored territory not belonging to his country. He was, not surprisingly, captured by the Spanish, but this may have been his intention. Part of the mission was to spy, to learn more about Spanish territory, its forts, and its inhabitants. Pike was eventually led back to Louisiana under Spanish escort, and an international incident arose, but Pike had succeeded in learning about the Spanish presence. Pike was not a classic, nor very able explorer, but he was a determined military man who pushed himself and his men through horrible conditions in the Rockies during the winter, with little protection from the elements. And, it was during this time that he discovered, though he never climbed, the peak that now bears his name. He died but a few years later, at age 34, while serving his country during the War of 1812. Pike published his book in 1810, but it is a disjointed, confusing piece. The 1811 British edition has the advantage of being edited into an easier to follow format. $6,450.

Here's an interesting item for Texas collectors. It is the Journal d'un Missionnaire au Texas et au Mexique. 1846-1852, by Abbe Emanuel Domenech. Abbe Domenech, naturally, was a Frenchman, but he was also the first priest ordained in Texas. He worked on both sides of the border, a rough and lawless place at this time. Evidently, the Abbe was a good observer, and after returning to France, he wrote this book, which was published in 1857. Abbe Domenech would return to Mexico in 1861 as a chaplain with Maximilian's troops. We aren't sure what happened to him after that. Item 28. $875.

You may reach Plaza Books online at www.plazabooks.com or call them at 707-546-3544.

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