The Spanish Southwest from Plaza Books
The Spanish Southwest from Plaza Books.
By Michael Stillman
We have just received our first catalogue from Plaza Books, of Santa Rosa, California. This is List 15, or books about the Spanish Southwest. This covers the border states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, as well as the country of Mexico. Of course, many of these titles predate, or pertain to times preceding those states becoming part of the U.S.A. In the second quarter of the 19th century, national upheaval turned much of these territories from Spanish colonies, to part of Mexico, to American territories, and eventually states. But, once upon a time, the Southwest belonged to Spain. Here are a few of the titles about this area that Plaza Books has to offer.
Items 6 and 7 are copies of the surveyor's report on the U.S.-Mexican boundary survey which took place after the Mexican War. In the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the War, Mexico ceded its claims to the aforementioned states, as well as part of Utah and Colorado. President Taylor appointed New York bookseller (yes, bookseller) John Bartlett to conduct a survey. The results are in his Personal Narrative of Explorations and Incidents in Texas, New Mexico, California, Sonora, and Chihuahua, Connected with the United States and Mexican Boundary Commission, During the Years 1850, '51, '52 and '53. Ironically, most of the Commission's work would quickly become obsolete, as much of the border they surveyed was moved south a few years later with the Gadsden Purchase. Nevertheless, Bartlett leaves us with an outstanding picture of the area as it was shortly after it became a part of America. Then, he headed back east to become John Carter Brown's first librarian. Two versions of this book were published simultaneously in 1854. Item 6 is the version with the two volumes in one (nothing is missing in this version), and is priced at $2,350, while item 7 is the version in separate volumes, and is priced at $2,850.
For those who collect the Mexican War, item 55 is a Message from the President of the United States to the Two Houses of Congress at the Commencement of the First Session of the Thirtieth Congress... This is the two-volume, 1847 senate edition (one of 2,000 copies) with data on that war. Included are 14 folding maps, some in color, along with reports from commanders and others, statistical records, and battle plans. It is an essential piece to this rather forgotten, but territorial important war that was the nation's last unifying event before it slid toward its devastating internal war. Ironically, the question of slavery and how it would relate to these new territories, converted this acquisition of new land into a divisive issue, one which would further push the nation toward civil war. $2,500.
A substantial portion of the U.S.-Mexican border (all of Texas) is formed by the Rio Grande. This great river flows from Colorado through the center of New Mexico, and then along the Texas-Mexico border. Most of it is through arid country where its water is as welcome as it is unusual. Item 40 is a 1954 first edition of the Pulitzer Prize for history winning Great River: the Rio Grande in North American History, by Paul Horgan. Volume 1 covers the earlier days, of pre-Columbian Indians and the Spanish, while volume 2 relates the period when the river was framed by the U.S. and Mexico. It is likely the best history of this area ever written. $55.
The Spanish Southwest from Plaza Books
Southwest explorer Zebulon Pike.
Item 50 is the 1811 first British edition (after the first American of a year earlier) of Zebulon Pike's Exploratory Travels through the Western Territories of North America...Performed in the years 1805, 1806, 1807... Pike's travels may not be celebrated in the manner of Lewis and Clark's, but his expedition was the best America could muster into the Southwest while the latter explored the Northwest. The first year of Pike's journey took him up the Mississippi, in search of its source, which he never found. The second year took him to the Southwest, where Pike and his men, ill-equipped, not prepared for winter in the mountains, and lacking much in scientific or geographical skills, explored territory not belonging to his country. He was, not surprisingly, captured by the Spanish, but this may have been his intention. Part of the mission was to spy, to learn more about Spanish territory, its forts, and its inhabitants. Pike was eventually led back to Louisiana under Spanish escort, and an international incident arose, but Pike had succeeded in learning about the Spanish presence. Pike was not a classic, nor very able explorer, but he was a determined military man who pushed himself and his men through horrible conditions in the Rockies during the winter, with little protection from the elements. And, it was during this time that he discovered, though he never climbed, the peak that now bears his name. He died but a few years later, at age 34, while serving his country during the War of 1812. Pike published his book in 1810, but it is a disjointed, confusing piece. The 1811 British edition has the advantage of being edited into an easier to follow format. $6,450.
Here's an interesting item for Texas collectors. It is the Journal d'un Missionnaire au Texas et au Mexique. 1846-1852, by Abbe Emanuel Domenech. Abbe Domenech, naturally, was a Frenchman, but he was also the first priest ordained in Texas. He worked on both sides of the border, a rough and lawless place at this time. Evidently, the Abbe was a good observer, and after returning to France, he wrote this book, which was published in 1857. Abbe Domenech would return to Mexico in 1861 as a chaplain with Maximilian's troops. We aren't sure what happened to him after that. Item 28. $875.
You may reach Plaza Books online at www.plazabooks.com or call them at 707-546-3544.