Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2005 Issue

At Auction: Los Angeles Imprints 1843 - 1873

The earliest LA printing - a handstamp


By Bruce McKinney

An interesting collection of rare Los Angeles imprints and ephemera comes to market on December 2nd in a sale organized by Johns' Western Gallery of San Francisco. The official title is Los Angeles Imprints: 1843 - 1873. This material was accumulated over a lifetime by Glen Dawson of Dawson Books, the firm that recently celebrated its one hundredth anniversary. For fussy collectors of obscuranta this is an opportunity to purchase material that in many cases has been unknown and until now undocumented. Collectors tend to think of books and images when creating a collection but it is the ephemera of an area and period that brings a collection to life. For collectors of Los Angeles, southern California, emerging cities and life in the period, this is an exceptional opportunity to acquire otherwise unobtainable material. The estimates are low.

Item 1 is the earliest known "printing" in Los Angeles. It is an application to the prefect for 200 varas of vacant land in Los Angeles. It is estimated at $2,000 to $3,000. Today well over a million impressions come off Los Angeles presses every twenty-four hours. This is thought to be the first printed impression.

Item 4 is the marriage announcement of Serefino Covarrubias and Isabel Sepulbeda in Los Angeles dated June 5, 1852. It is estimated $300 to $400, a sum certainly larger than the value of gifts received to celebrate the occasion.

Item 13 is an invitation to "Baile de Solteros" and attributed to Los Angeles: 1854. It is estimated $400 to $700. You may have missed the dance but you can still get an invitation.

Item 16. What is the value of a receipt for $15? Because it is a billhead from the Los Angeles firm Butts & Wheeler for job printing and dated November, 1854 it is expected to bring $350 to $450. Keep your receipts! Your Visa bill for $1,200 this month, if it does as well, will be sold by your great, great grandchildren in 2156 for $360,000. I'm selling my bills for face value if anyone is interested.

Item 19 is an invitation to the Independence Anniversary Ball. If you are reading about it here you missed it. It took place on the 79th anniversary of American Independence [Los Angeles: 1855]. You can still get an invitation though it will probably cost you more than the entire affair did then. Estimates $500 to $800.

Item 27. Hollywood did not invent entertainment in Los Angeles. In fact Hollywood is the new kid in town. In 1856 the fortunate received this invitation: "You are respectfully requested to attend a Ball, to be given by the Los Angeles Brass Band." Eat your heart out Madonna! Life today in LA may be quiet, even sedentary but it is nice to know it wasn't always that way. It's estimated $350 to $450.

Rare Book Monthly

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