Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - July - 2009 Issue

Mexico and the American Southwest from Plaza Books

Plaza29

List 29 from Plaza Books.


By Michael Stillman

Plaza Books has issued a brief, but nonetheless interesting List 29, with items primarily relating to Mexico and the American Southwest. Some items have much broader horizons, such as antiquarian maps of the United States, but these do cover the Southwest and border regions of Mexico, so they qualify. Additionally, there are several items that relate to Texas from a time when it was neither part of the U.S. or Mexico (though Mexican officials had a different view of its self-proclaimed independence). There are but 28 items in this collection, but there is plenty to interest those who collect this part of the world in the 17th to the early 20th century. Here are a few samples.

Item 5 is one Texas collectors will appreciate. It is a census for El Presidio de la Bahia as of June 5, 1825. The Presidio, now known as Goliad, is one of the most significant locations in Texas history. However, that would come a decade letter. For almost a century prior, under its old name, it was one of the most important places in Spanish Texas. The Spanish had built a fort in 1721 on the ruins of the abandoned French Fort St. Louis, moving it twice before settling on its current location in 1747 (it still stands as a historic monument). At one time, it was the only Spanish fort between the Rio Grande and the Mississippi (at the time the Spanish colonial border). However, the fort would gain greater notoriety a decade after this census in the early stage of the Texas Revolution when a group of Texians seized the fort, and issued the state's first declaration of independence. They would hold on until March of 1836, when Santa Anna's forces overran them and proceeded to execute 342 people, an event known in Texas as the Goliad Massacre. That defeat would soon be followed by another, at the Battle of the Alamo, but a month later, the Texians would route Santa Anna and achieve their independence at San Jacinto. The census not only provides population figures as of 1825, but breaks them down by age grouping and occupation. The census showed a population of 1,559, a substantial number at a time when such million-plus population cities as Houston and Dallas did not even exist. However, time passed Goliad by as a major center, and today it has but a few more residents, 1,975, or an increase of just over two people per year over the past 184 years. Priced at $1,750.

The Texians got a bit overambitious once they had secured their independence from Mexico. Their view of the boundary was more generous than today, including large parts of today's New Mexico and Colorado and even some of Wyoming. A contingent of Texans was sent to Santa Fe in 1841 to lay their claim, but was quickly overwhelmed by Mexican forces and imprisoned (at least they did not suffer the fate of those at Goliad). Item 25 is a rare Monterrey edition of an October 16, 1841, broadside providing the first news of their capture. $3,000.

Item 8 is a July 2, 1836, Mexican broadside, but the heading is A Treaty having been concluded and signed in the City of Mexico on the 12th day of January 1828...for the purpose of establishing the true dividing line and boundary between the two nations... That boundary between the U.S, and Mexico was to be formed by the Sabine and Red Rivers, which today form the boundaries between Texas and Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma. The timing here is significant, as the Texians had received their independence from Santa Anna under duress and the Mexicans were in no mood to actually let the state secede. They were looking for affirmation from the U.S. that it still recognized the pre-Texas Revolution borders as legitimate. $900.

Item 6 is a major survey of the new territory in the Southwest won by America as a result of the Mexican War. The book is Notes on a Military Reconaissance, from Fort Leavenworth, in Missouri, to San Diego, in California...Made in 1846-47 with the Advanced Guard of the "Army of the West." The author was Lieutenant Colonel William Emory, a skilled surveyor who would go on to mark the changing boundaries after the war. This work, conducted while the war was ongoing, was conveniently available when America secured a large swath of land in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. Offered is a copy of the House edition, which contains more material than the Senate edition. $1,650.

Plaza Books may be reached at 707-546-3544 or plazabks@sonic.net. Their website is www.plazabooks.com.

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