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Stock# 98502

First edition of these Letters from North America written by a Hungarian freedom fighter in exile and naturalist.

The unauthorized first edition of letters by Jánus or John Xántus (1825-1894) an exile from Hungary who first settled in a Hungarian colony in Iowa, served in the Army in Kansas, and later found himself employed as a scientist in Southern California and Baja California in the late 1850s, collecting natural history specimens for what became the Smithsonian Institution. 

This book includes 37 letters written from 1852 to 1857, not intended for publication. Four letters are dated from San Francisco and Los Angeles, in addition to letters from his travels across the continent earlier in the decade, not included in the later authorized edition, from New Orleans, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri.

A vocabulary of the Comanche and Wichita languages appears on pages 118-122.

The book was edited by István Prépost, and some of the content is repurposed from Marcy's official report of the Red River. The illustrations are mostly of Plains Indians and scenery, closing with views of Los Angeles; San Gabriel Mission; and New York's Union Square.

The plates are based upon his drawings.

Condition Description
12 tinted lithograph plates. 175, [1] pages. 8vo, publisher's cloth, minor wear; moderate foxing, early pencil notes; later number tag on rear free endpaper.
Cowan 1933, page 500; Graff 4784; Howes X1 ("aa"); Sabin 105715; Streeter sale V:3066; Wagner-Camp 316.
János Xántus Biography

Xantus János was a Hungarian naturalist, traveler, founding member of MTA [Hungarian Academy of Sciences].

János finished his studies at the gymnasiums of the Benedictine monks in Győr and the Cistercians in Pécs. After his legal studies in Kaposvár, he volunteered for the national army, where he became a national guard officer. After the defeat of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, he emigrated, initially to the United States and later traveled to more distant parts of America and the Far East. During his travels, he collected plant and animal specimens, which he donated to the Hungarian National Museum.

He later became the director of the National Museum's Department of Ethnography and then became a member of the Hungarian Geographical Society.