Recent Acquisitions at the Argonaut Book Shop
Recent acquisitions at the Argonaut Book Shop.
The Argonaut Book Shop has issued a catalogue of Recent Acquisitions and Selections from Stock. Summer 2011. This catalogue could be described as a miscellany as books, pamphlets, and a few ephemeral items range over a variety of subjects. There is some concentration in California material, as befitting a San Francisco bookseller, but the rest of the United States is also well represented. There are also many items related to various fire departments from all corners of the land, making this a catalogue well suited for collectors with firemanic interests (yes, that is a real word). Here are a few of the items Argonaut is offering for the summer.
One of the iconic events of California history is the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Countless books have been written about the terrible crumbling of the earth, followed by an even more destructive firestorm. Here is an atypical one - San Francisco During the Eventful Days of April, 1906. Personal Recollections by James B. Stetson. James Stetson was a successful merchant who became interested in the city's cable car business. He was named President of the California Street Cable Railroad in 1888, a position he still held in 1906 when the earthquake struck. Rather than providing another history of the events that followed, or interviewing others, Stetson jotted down his own experiences and recollections. He notes going over to the powerhouse and finding it damaged, but the cable cars intact. A visit the following day found the workers unable to run the boilers to power the cars because of a lack of water, and no horses available to tow the cars away. By the third day, fire left everything in ruins. He surveyed the situation and observed it seemed impossible to ever get the operation running again, and yet five months later, he succeeded in doing just that. Stetson privately published his recollections two months later, apparently primarily for family, making this a scarce piece. Item 244. Priced at $175.
Earthquakes did not begin in California in 1906. Item 124 is Earthquakes in California (1888), by Edward S. Holden. This a separate printing of an article from the May 1889 issue of the American Journal of Science. It covers the specific times and locations of tremors in California during the year 1888, along with showing where various seismometers were located. $40.
Item 30 is an extensive account of the first European expedition into what is now the American Southwest: The Coronado Expedition, 1540-1542, by Pedro de Castaneda, translated by George Parker Winship. Francisco de Coronado was not a mere explorer. He was interested in riches, great wealth said to exist in the legendary Seven Cities of Gold. It soon became apparent that most of those seven cities were nothing but poor Indian communities, but Coronado retained faith in an Indian guide who spoke of one great city, known as Quivara. Coronado pushed on, crossing from Mexico into present-day Arizona (and the first European look at the Grand Canyon), New Mexico, the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma, and finally Kansas. Dorothy could have told him there is no pot of gold in Kansas. Coronado returned a poorer and beaten man, yet his expedition, and the less than exact certainty of his route and which tribes he met, make his story a great legend. Author Castaneda accompanied the assemblage of some 1,600 men that dwindled to a small number by the time Coronado threw in the towel. This edition was published by the Government Printing Office in 1896, and includes not only Winship's translation of Castaneda's work, but eight other contemporary accounts and much other information about the journey. $350.
Recent Acquisitions at the Argonaut Book Shop
The supposed brass plate of Francis Drake
When Sir Francis Drake sailed along the North American Pacific Coast in what would be England's first circumnavigation, he was reported to have stopped for a while at a cove. The location of that cove has long been subject to debate. Most people believe it was in California. Drake also said he left a brass plate at the spot, laying his claim to the land he called "New Albion" for the Queen of England. Drake's plate has long been the Holy Grail for California historians, making it a spectacular day when a store clerk walked into a Berkeley history professor's office in 1938 with just such a plate. Of course, there would be suspicions, but the plate and its message appeared to match Drake's description. It was subject to various testing, and in 1938, Colin Fink and E.P. Polushkin published the following report: Drake's Plate of Brass Authenticated. The plate truly was the one Drake had left in California three and one-half centuries earlier, they concluded. Item 63. $50.
Alas, such a wondrous find was too good to be true. It took four decades for updated technological research to be applied, The updated examinations are described in The Plate of Brass Reexamined (1977) and The Plate of Brass Reexamined. A Supplement (1979). The brass was of a recent American vintage, and the cutting methods also were not those of 16th century England. Item 68. $60. Still later, the truth behind the faux plate would be revealed. A club of local historians had produced and planted the fake plate as a prank, in hopes that someone would find it and bring it to a friend, a Berkeley professor who had been looking for the plate for ages. It took a couple of years, but eventually it was, and after publicity surrounding its find and a payment for it of several thousand dollars, the pranksters became afraid to reveal what they had done.
Item 214 is one of those early fire department publications: Souvenir. Portland Fire Department, Portland, Oregon. This one goes back to 1905, when fire trucks were still being pulled by horses. Those were fast horses, but still… it took a bit longer to reach the flames. It includes illustrations of engines and hook and ladders, a fireboat, and numerous street scenes, along with portraits of city and fire department officials. There are essays on the fire department, fire safety, and a chart showing the location of every alarm box in the city. $450.
The Argonaut Book Shop may be reached at 415-474-9067 or ArgonautSF@PacBell.net. Their website is www.argonautbookshop.com.