Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2003 Issue

Finding Early Works About The Oregon Trail

Abby6

MatchMaker finds Matches

Next up we find Ross Cox’s 1831 Adventures on the Columbia River…. Cox was a fur-trader who traveled to Oregon in 1812 and back in 1817. His is another first-hand account of travels to Oregon before there was a real trail.

Even earlier is John Bradbury’s Travels in the Interior of America…. The first edition is printed in Liverpool in 1817, the second in London in 1819. The second includes a map not included with the first. Bradbury had accompanied Hunt on a journey up the Missouri in 1810. And then there’s H.R. Brackenridge’s Views of Louisiana…, printed in 1814. Unusually, this work was actually printed in America, specifically, the frontier town of Pittsburgh. Brackenridge passed Hunt going up the Missouri, but returned to St. Louis long before reaching Oregon. Next is another French work, Gabriel Franchere’s 1820 Relation d’un Voyage…, printed in Montreal.

Finally, there’s a very interesting item despite its relatively recent date: Robert Stuart’s The Discovery of the Oregon Trail, printed in 1935. Why so late? It’s not a typical reprint. The answer is that it’s the first English edition. It originally was published with a set of other volumes in French in 1821. This book also contains the first English translation of Hunt’s work. Stuart traveled backward, from Oregon to St. Louis, in 1812-13, and is credited with discovering "South Pass" (a key pass on the Oregon Trail) and establishing the Trail itself.

O.K. We’ve developed a nice list of early Oregon Trail-related titles simply by discovering the name of Wilson Hunt. Now let’s try adding some of these other names to Oregon in a search. To save time, we’ll do them all at once. Watch carefully. We’ll put the “or” sign (“/ ”) between each name, and then the “and” sign (“&”) before Oregon. It looks like this in the search box: cox/bradbury/brackenridge/franchere/staurt&oregon. This will find us every record with one of these surnames plus the word “Oregon.”

This brings up several new titles, including Alexander Ross’ The Fur Traders of the Far West. Not surprisingly, we find that most of these early “explorers” were really fur traders, who later recounted what they had discovered in the conduct of their trade. While slightly later in printing date (1855), this work recounts Ross’ adventures between 1813 and 1825. What’s really interesting, however, is an even later title, Reuben Thwaites’ Early Western Travels. This ÆD reference, taken from one of Edward Eberstadt’s catalogs, lists over 30 names of early explorers. Now I can take these names down and do another of those “or” searches combined with “Oregon” to find even more references. Starting from just one name, Wilson Hunt, I’ve discovered a whole list of names to research.

Many new titles emerge as I search these new names. I discover works written by explorers such as James O. Pattie, Peter Skene Ogden, Benjamin Bilson, and Father DeSmet. However, I have a particular interest in two works by Thomas Jefferson Farnham: from 1841 there’s Travels in the Great Western Prairies…, and from 1844, History of the Oregon Territory. My attention is particularly focused on the rare first edition of the earlier title. Those of you following my colleague, Bruce McKinney’s contributions to this collaborative project, may be aware that he is a collector of Hudson Valley imprints. It just so happens that on this title, our interests overlap. Farnham’s first book was first printed in the spelling bee participant’s nightmare city, Poughkeepsie, New York. And as any geographer knows, Poughkeepsie was settled along the banks of the mighty Hudson.

This will not be an inexpensive title to purchase. An inscribed copy from Farnham was sold at the Siebert auction in 1999 for $3,450, more than double the estimate. An unsigned version was sold by Christie’s in 2002 for $1,554. I find only one copy of the Poughkeepsie first available on Abebooks today, a not-perfect copy for $2,250. I’ll need to keep my eyes open for this one. If I find the right copy, I may be able to sell it to Mr. McKinney…after a suitable mark-up, of course.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species.</i> Presentation Copy. Sold for $500,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. Autograph Letter Signed, 3 pp, negotiating the 2nd American edition with Appleton. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Hemingway, Ernest. Autograph Letter Signed, 8 pp, Paris, 1924, to his father discussing Bullfighting, Stories, and his new baby. Sold for $25,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Corialanus.</i> London, 1623. 1st printing [Extracted from the First Folio]. Sold for $50,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Swift, Jonathan. <i>Gulliver's Travels.</i> London, 1726. 1st edition, Teerink's A edition, fine, large copy. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Fitzroy, Robert. Autograph Letter Signed to agent Thomas Stilwell, informing him of the progress of H.M.S. Beagle. Sold for $17,575.
    <center><b>Bonhams<br> Property from the Collection of Nicole and William R. Keck II</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Sonnets.</i> 1901. 2 volumes. Printed on vellum and illuminated by Ross Turner, bound by Trautz-Bauzonnet. Sold for $13,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Beardsley, Aubrey. <i>The Birth, Life, and Acts of King Arthur.</i> 1893-94. 2 volumes. Contemporary painted vellum gilt by Chivers. Sold for $5,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Assisi, St. Francis. <i>The Canticle of Brother Sun.</i> Illuminated on vellum, for the Grolier Society. Sold for $7,575.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Rackham, Arthur. <i>Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.</i> 1/500 copies signed by Rackham. Sold for $4,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Proust, Marcel. <i>Du coté de chez Swann.</i> 1st edition, 1st issue. Inscribed by Proust. Sold for $8,825.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Sergio Trujillo Magnenat, <i>Bogotá 1938 / IV Centenario / Juegos Deportivos Bolivarianos,</i> 1938. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> <i>McQueen Drives Porsche,</i> designer unknown, 1970. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b><br>Joe Bridge, <i>Bignan / A Des Ailes,</i> 1921. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Graham Simmons, <i>The Army Isn’t All Work,</i> 1919. $1,000 to $1,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Leonetto Cappiello, <i>Je ne fume que le nil,</i> 1912. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> <i>Attack of the 50 ft. Woman,</i> designer unknown, 1958. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Raymond Tooby, <i>Festival Guiness / Have You Tried One Yet?,</i> 1952. $600 to $900.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Francisco Tamagno, <i>Terrot & Co. / Dijon / Cycles Motorettes,</i> 1909. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b><br>A. Hori, Oakland / General Motors, circa 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> James Montgomery Flagg, <i>Travel? Adventure? Answer – Join the Marines!,</i> circa 1918. $4,000 to $6,000.
  • <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Roberts, David. Twenty Lithographs of the Holy Land, 19th Century. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Declaration by the Reps. of the United Colonies of N.A. 1775. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Composer Jerome Kern personal Letters, Albums and Other. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Paine, Thomas. <i>Common Sense,</i> London 1776. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Stowe, Harriet Beecher. <i>Uncle Tom’s Cabin,</i> Cleveland 1852. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Hobbes, Thomas. <i>Leviathan,</i> 3rd edition, London 1651. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Anno Regni Georgii III. Intolerable Acts and other Bills, 1774. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Wilberforce, William. An Abstract of the Evidence, 5 Letters, and two books. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Nightingale, Florence. Notes on Nursing and Signed Letters, ca. 1860 $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Tolstov, Leo. <i>War and Peace,</i> 5 volumes, 1886. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Dickinson, John. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1768. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Twain, Mark. <i>Tom Sawyer,</i> 1877 [and] <i>Huckleberry Finn,</i> 1885. $4,000 to $6,000.

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