The Desert Southwest and More from Back of Beyond Books
The third catalogue from Back of Beyond Books.
By Michael Stillman
Back of Beyond Books has issued Rare Book Catalogue #3. This Moab, Utah, based bookseller features books related to the Western Slope and Desert Southwest, but you will find many other items in this latest selection. Novels from Norman Mailer, Tony Hillerman and Edward Abbey are featured this time. As we will see, there are also a few items offered that are not books or even works on paper. Now, here are a few items from the eastern edge of the Beehive State.
Ferdinand V. Hayden is not a household name as he was not the first to explore the western territories. However, he was often the first to provide detailed information. He was a geologist and surveyor who conducted several mission into the west between 1856 and 1878. He was one of the first to survey Yellowstone and was instrumental in encouraging Congress to make it the nation's first national park. Item 12 is the Tenth Annual Report of the United States Geological and Geographic Survey of the Territories, published by the Government Printing Office in 1878. It covers Hayden's survey of Colorado and adjacent areas. This copy is stamped "Library of Hannibal Hamlin." One would guess this refers to the former vice-president ("Hannibal Hamlin" not being a common name). Hamlin had returned to the senate at this time, serving as a senator from Maine. Hamlin was Lincoln's first vice-president (and the first Republican vice-president). Had the party not sought to expand its base in 1864 by replacing Hamlin on the ticket with war Democrat Andrew Johnson, Hamlin would have become President after Lincoln's assassination. Priced at $375.
Item 58 is a first edition of Hayden's Geological and Geographical Atlas of Colorado and Portions of Adjacent Territory. This also came as a result of Hayden's travels to the area in the 1870s. It includes 20 folding sheets - 18 maps and charts along with two panoramic views. $5,000.
Item 3 is a remarkable one of a kind - the diary of Jessie Benton Fremont. Mrs. Fremont was the daughter of one of the most powerful senators of the first half of the 19th century, Thomas Hart Benton. Benton was perhaps the leading proponent of America's westward expansion. Her husband was John C. Fremont, the General and great explorer, notable mainly for his explorations in California, and for being the first presidential nominee of the Republican Party (he lost in 1856). Jessie undoubtedly would have created a comparable career in her own right, as she was bright, inquisitive, and well educated, but such was not possible for women in this era. Instead she wrote many books, including those describing her husband's explorations, and worked behind the scenes, notably as an advocate for the abolition of slavery. This diary was given to Jessie Fremont by her daughter Elizabeth ("Lily"). Six pages contain entries by Mrs. Fremont, including one transcribing a letter from her husband. $900.
Item 34 is a Utah piece...sort of. It's a signed first edition of Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song. It is the story of Gary Gilmore, an intelligent but incorrigible criminal who went to Utah to live with an uncle after being released from prison. He returned to his criminal ways and then some, committing two cold-blooded murders. The one for which he was convicted involved the shooting of a Provo motel clerk who offered no resistance. Gilmore's execution became celebrated as it was the first in the U.S. after a lapse of many years as a result of a Supreme Court decision, and because of his choice of how to die - by firing squad. $750.
The Desert Southwest and More from Back of Beyond Books
John Hillers' transparency; Edward Abbey's Cadillac.
Number 82 is a remarkable item, a large hand-colored photographic transparency from the late 19th century. The photograph was taken by John K. Hillers on his last western trip for the U.S. Geological Survey. It is possible that John Wesley Powell had requested this and other photographs of Hillers for display at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1892. The exquisite 28" x 32" positive has been carefully hand-colored, displaying red cliffs behind a lake at sunset (or sunrise). $12,500.
For those interested in rural settings, item 71 is Golden Nuggets of Pioneer Days: A History of Garfield County. Named for the President, not the cat, this is Garfield County, Utah, an isolated location in the lightly-populated southern part of the state. Even today, there is fewer than one resident per square mile in the county. This is not New York. Parts of three national parks, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, and Canyonlands, are located within the county. If Garfield seems isolated today, think of how difficult it was to get there when this book was published by the local chapter of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers in 1949. $48.
We will close with an item that is definitely not a book, nor printed material, though it is related to the region's most notable writer, Edward Abbey. Abbey fought to preserve the land from encroachment by both business and government through books such as The Monkey Wrench Gang. We will call item 88 a piece of ephemera. It's Abbey's 1975 Cadillac Eldorado. It is a cherry red two-door convertible, complete with his license plate, "E ABBEY." The untraditional environmentalist must have loved the contradictions of his gas-guzzler. $19,500.
Back of Beyond Books may be reached at 435-259-5154 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Their website is found at www.backofbeyondbooks.com.