Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - July - 2008 Issue

Film, Writer, and an Early New Mexico Collection from James Pepper Rare Books

Pepper15

Fifteen collections from James Pepper Rare Books.


By Michael Stillman

James Pepper Rare Books has issued an unusual catalogue. It contains just 15 items, but then again, it contains many times that number. The paradox is resolved by the catalogue's title: Fifteen Interesting Collections & Archives. Each item contains multiple pieces, sometimes dozens of them. The collections range from those pertaining to films or authors to a large and unexpected group of documents from the then new territory of New Mexico, a few years after ceded to the United States following the Mexican War. There is much unpublished and unseen material to be found in these archives. However, we will take a look.

Item 2 is a shooting script archive for the classic film Rebel Without a Cause, starring James Dean. The collection belonged to Jack Grinnage, who played the role of one of the three hoods, "Moose." Included is Grinnage's script, which he had hardbound, his Warner Brothers studio pass mentioning Rebel, and 16 still photographs. The script contains rewrite pages and numerous changes that were made as the film was upgraded from a second-tier black and white movie to a major color release. One of the photos shows Dean wearing his glasses, Grinnage intently studying his script, Jim Backus struggling to stay awake, and Natalie Wood looking beautiful. Priced at $30,000.

The New Mexico archive, which deals extensively with issues the government of the newly acquired land faced with the native tribes, is an amazing collection of likely otherwise unrecorded history. The 68 manuscript letters and documents pertain to the first six months of the administration of territorial Governor David Meriwether in 1853. Among the documents are:

Eight lengthy letters from Indian agent James M. Smith, covering livestock stolen by the Indians, corruption by his predecessors, illegal sales of liquor to the Indians, Mexican incursions into the territory, and Indian attacks on travelers and settlers. However, Smith recognized the terrible plight of the natives which led to their actions, and movingly writes, "They are really poor...I plead for the Apache - He is a noble, fine-looking, though naked Indian. Save him, I beseech you, from starvation."

Ten letters and five other documents from Indian agent Capt. Edmund A. Graves, Meriwether's son-in-law. He writes of conflicts between various tribes of Indians and between Indians and Mexicans, stolen horses, and other issues. Graves advises that the Indians must be brought under control, but he, too, recognizes that their actions are the result of a desperate situation, and that whites would act no differently if faced with the same conditions. He says, "they [the Indians] have for a great length of time subsisted merrily by the chase and by robberies and murder of the most revolting character - but as they must live and as both civilized as well as the savage man will plunder and rob before he will die by starvation when the means of subsistence is within reach, it is nothing remarkable or strange."

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