Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - May - 2013 Issue

The American Southwest and Latin America from Almagre Books

Books from the Southwest.

Almagre Books recently published their List 64A. New Mexico and the Southwest, Texas and California, Mexico and Latin America. Add to that the subheading of Books, Pamphlets, Broadsides, Manuscripts, Photographs, Maps, Prints, to describe the type of material. Offered are mostly historic works and images pertaining to the Southwest. Either the material itself, or the events described, pertain primarily of the 19th and early 20th century. This was the era when this land was thoroughly explored by those from more eastern locales. The Spanish settled in the area as early as the 16th century, but settlement was sparse, at least on the American side of the border, until English-speaking explorers arrived in the 19th century. Here are just a few samples of the over 600 items offered in this catalogue.

John Wesley Powell is best known for his expeditions down the Green and Colorado Rivers in Utah and Arizona. He was the first to travel the river through the Grand Canyon. However, Powell also studied the culture of the area's natives. He was founding director of the Bureau of Ethnology, designed to preserve records relating to the North American Indians. Item 481 is Powell's Outlines of the Philosophy of the North American Indians. Read Before the American Geographical Society...December 29th, 1876. It is based primarily on his research among the Utes but discusses the Pueblos and other tribes, covering religion, mythology, etc. Priced at $75.

The North American Indians did not get much respect or sympathy from those who settled in their territory, which in their view, allowed them to treat the natives poorly. A few voices pointed out this mistreatment, none more clearly than Helen Hunt Jackson. She spelled out this treatment sharply in 1881 in A Century of Dishonor. Ms. Jackson heard an Indian chief speak of his people's treatment and became outraged. She wrote about land confiscation and forced removal. She wrote chapters devoted to the indignities experienced by specific tribes. Just to make sure her words were heard, Ms. Jackson sent a copy of her book to every member of Congress. It would be nice to be able to say it turned those gentlemen's thoughts around, but for the most part they ignored her pleas. However, a few years later, she wrote a novel called Ramona which reached a wider audience, describing what life was like for natives in California. Item 272. $150.

How many books describe Pat Garrett for something other than being a sheriff, gunslinger, and mostly, the man who killed Billy the Kid? Here is one: The Pecos River Commission of New Mexico and Texas. A Report of a Decade of Progress 1950-1960, published in 1961. Of course by then, Garrett was long gone, having traversed the great divide as Billy did, courtesy of a bullet. After Garrett shot Billy, he decided not to run for reelection as sheriff. Instead, he drifted off into business ventures. A notable one was his early involvement in plans to dam the Pecos River for irrigation in southeastern New Mexico. Garrett had purchased an 1,800 acre ranch. The idea would later come at least partly to fruition, but Garrett moved on to Texas in 1891. However, his role as an irrigation pioneer earns him a place in this book by Robert Lingle and Dee Linford. Item 290. $50.

Item 108 is a letter from novelist Erskine Caldwell to “Ralph,” dated November 30, 1951. Caldwell is best known for Tobacco Road and God's Little Acre. Caldwell suffered from emphysema and moved to Arizona in hopes of being able to breathe easier. He writes, with humor, “I don't know what people come to Arizona for. I came here on a week-end visit seven or eight years ago, and I've just failed to leave, I suppose. They say the climate is good for what ails you, and that if you have no ailment, you'll be sure to get one...” $125.

Item 608 is what Almagre notes is a somewhat “overlooked” account of the Southwest from mid-19th century. Baron Emile de Wogan was a Frenchman (seriously) who came to America during the Gold Rush of 1850. He disembarked in San Francisco and spent time in the mining communities of California. However, he then took off on an adventure into the Great Basin area, little explored at the time. He met with the Utes and Timpanogo Indians in today's Utah, and pushed as far east as the Rocky Mountains. He was captured by a band of Paiutes, but freed with the assistance of an Englishman. He returned to San Francisco, and then home, where he published his adventures (probably partly fictionalized), first in a magazine, and then in book form in 1863 under the title Voyages et Aventures. $350.

Here is a truly awful piece of fiction: Memoir of an Eventful Expedition in Central America; resulting in...the possession of two remarkable Aztec Children, Descendants and Specimens of the Sacerdotal Caste, (now nearly extinct,) of the Ancient Aztec Founders...described by John L. Stevens, Esq., and other travellers. The supposed author of this 1850 account, Pedro Velasquez, did not exist. Neither did these two children, at least as described. John L. Stevens was a legitimate explorer, but had nothing to do with this piece. These two “Aztecs,” who were ideal specimens for circus gawking because they suffered from microcephaly, were actually a pair of impoverished children from El Salvador. They were first displayed by an American named Morris, and later took up display with P.T. Barnum. Eventually, they were even presented to President Fillmore and Queen Victoria. What ever became of them is unknown. This pamphlet was sold in conjunction with the show. Item 68. $185.

Almagre Books may be reached at 505-989-9462 or wwroth@kiva.net.

Rare Book Monthly

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