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Stock# 85558

California Gold Rush Guide Book

With Colton's Map of the United States and Mexico and a Map of the Gold Region

This California Guidebook, called "the first combined edition" by Howell, collects in one volume three important western exploration accounts by Fremont and Emory. It was issued in 1849 for gold seekers heading to California by sea or land.  A kind of Gold Rush compendium, the volume also includes Colton's scarce and excellent map showing overland and sea routes from the Atlantic to California. The smaller woodcut map serving as a frontispiece to the book shows the California gold region, including the names of significant mining districts.

The first 29 pages of the text comprise Fremont's third expedition, originally issued in 1848 under the title Geographical Memoir Upon Upper California. The next section of 83 pages contains Emory's narrative, which originally appeared under the title Notes of a Military Reconnaissance, including Lieut. Abert's notes, which was first issued in 1848. The final section contains Fremont's Narrative of an Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in the Year 1842, and to Oregon and North California in the Years 1843-44. This latter Fremont report, which was originally published in 1845, served as a source for the route subsequently followed by thousands of Oregon immigrants. 

Howes includes two separate entries for this collected edition, one under the present title, and another (also issued in 1849) under the title California Guide Book. Howes calls the version under the title California Guide Book an "enlarged issue" and describes it as having two maps. The copy offered here has the identical pagination (with two maps), as the so-called enlarged issue, despite having the title of the smaller issue, Notes of Travel in California. The confusion seems to be based on transcriptions of the wrapper title - California Guide Book - instead of that appearing on the title page proper. See note on rarity below for further explanation of issues.

Colton's Map.

Colton's map was included by the publishers of this collected edition specifically for the gold seeker. It was not originally issued with the first editions of the Fremont and Emory exploration reports. The Colton is an excellent map and undoubtedly served as a guide for scores of overland travelers heading to Oregon and California in the wake of the Gold Rush. The inset map of South America includes an interesting note: "From New York to San Francisco via Cape Horn 17,000 miles. Via Panama, 5,900 miles," clearly meant for the potential gold seeker contemplating a sea voyage around the horn or the shortcut route over the Isthmus of Panama. 

The map is nearly identical to the Colton map that accompanied some editions of George F. Foster's The Gold Regions of California (1849), published by DeWitt & Davenport. Edward Eberstadt described Foster's guide as "the first considerable pamphlet on the Gold Region."  

In referring to the present Colton map, Wheat states:

This map is the same as 1849-Colton (DeWitt & Davenport), save for the words "D. Appleton & Co," which replace other words on that map.

The 1948 Catalogue of the Thomas Wayne Norris California Collection listed the DeWitt & Davenport issue of the Colton map separately, wih the note:

This is the map which is occasionally to be found in a few copies of Foster's Gold Regions of California, third edition, 1849.


This California Gold Rush guide book came out in various issues; the present copy conforms to the most complete version in terms of text and maps (see Howes C40).  A check of WorldCat suggests most copies only contained the first two sections (29, 83 pages); such copies, omitting the secondary Fremont report and apparently issued without Colton's folding map, conform to Howes C56. In fact, only a single holding on WorldCat, that for the copy in the Huntington Library, matches the pagination of the copy offered here (29, [3]-83], 186 pages). And the Huntington copy appears to lack the Colton folding map as only the frontispiece map is described in the library cataloging.

Also notable, and perhaps a further indicator of rarity, is that this compendium, which was issued expressly as a guide to California during the Gold Rush (with the Colton map), was overlooked in Gary Kurutz's extensive bibliography on the California Gold Rush. 

Condition Description
Octavo. Early 20th-century half calf and embossed green cloth. Marbled endpapers. 29; [3]-83; 186 pages. Separate title for third section (Fremont's Narrative) which reads "Reprinted from the Official Copy," above the imprint. Two maps (frontispiece map and large folding map). Complete. Text printed in two column format throughout. The maps in excellent condition. Private ink ownership notations on front flyleaf dated 1917 and 1942. Clean copy overall.
Howes C40. Wagner-Camp 148:10, 115:13, 150 (ref). Sabin 25836. Cowan I, p. 224. Wheat, Gold Region 72, 88. Howell 50: 92. OCLC 960056494 (copy at Huntington). For the Dewitt & Davenport issue of Colton's map, see Kurutz, California Gold Rush 250d (Foster). A Descriptive & Priced Catalogue of Books, Pamphlets, and Maps Relating Directly or Indirectly to the History, Literature, and Printing of California & the Far West Formerly the Collection of Thomas Wayne Norris: 2395 (map only)