Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - May - 2007 Issue

A Theodore Hittell Collection Offered by Brian Cassidy

Cassidy

A Theodore Hittell Collection from Brian Cassidy, Bookseller.


By Michael Stillman

Brian Cassidy, Bookseller
, recently issued Bulletin Number One, A Theodore Hittell Collection. This is a one-item catalogue, though this one item consists of many different pieces. All are documents and photographs relating to noted California historian and writer Theodore Hittell and his family. Hittell is a well-known figure to California collectors, being one of just two authors to have two books in the quintessential California collector's list, the Zamorano 80. The only other writer with multiple books on this list is one Mark Twain.

Theodore Hittell came to California from Ohio in 1855. His brother John had arrived six years earlier, during the Gold Rush days. He became a journalist, newspaper editor, attorney, and from 1879-1882, a state legislator, representing San Francisco. He was involved in various public-spirited organizations, including the Sierra Club, of which he was one of its earliest members. Hittell died in 1917, but this collection includes family items as late as 1926.

Of course what Hittell is best remembered for is historical books, two in particular. One is History of California, a work that took him 26 years to complete. It is regarded as one of the best histories of the Golden State ever written, and is partly based on sources that were lost in the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. If this was his most scholarly work, his other notable book is the one that worked its way deeper into popular culture: The Adventures of James Capen Adams, Mountaineer and Grizzly Bear Hunter, of California. Adams was an adventurer who captured and befriended (to what ever extent it is possible to befriend a bear) several grizzlies from the backwoods of California. He would perform with them, even wrestle with his bears, who were usually quite kind in return. Near the end of his life in 1860, Adams toured with P.T. Barnum. James (or sometimes "John") Adams is better known today as the inspiration for Grizzly Adams, star of a 1970s movie and popular television series. Hittell interviewed Adams, who was perhaps at times given to tall tales, many times for his newspaper, stories which evolved into this classic book.

Among the Hittell items in this collection are:

A two-page manuscript describing Hittell's arrival in San Francisco. The appearance discouraged him at first, until he came around Telegraph Hill and saw the city's center.

A letter to his wife while on a hunting trip in 1868.

A manuscript of an apparently unpublished song, The Pioneers.

A typescript of a poem called The Nature-Worshipers.

A letter from California writer/explorer Charles Lummis to Hittell's son Carlos (Charles), himself a western artist, on his wedding.

A duplicate (marked "COPY") of a letter from famed journalist Lincoln Steffens to Carlos and his brother Frank on the death of their sister in 1925.

Several photographs of Hittell and various personal, legal and business correspondence.

The entire collection is priced at $9,500.

Brian Cassidy, Bookseller, may be found online at www.briancassidy.net, telephone 831-656-9264.

Rare Book Monthly

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