American Travels and Explorations from George MacManus Co.
American travels and explorations from George S. MacManus Co.
By Michael Stillman
Catalogue 397 from the George S. MacManus Company is titled Travels and Explorations with a Focus on American Travels. For those who collect American travels, overland in particular, this catalogue contains a wealth of material. From Lewis and Clark to the obscure foreign visitor, these books present a portrait of America in the 18th and 19th centuries (a couple go back even farther). There are travels to Ohio when that territory was part of the west, to explorations into the territory we now call the "West" when no one besides the Indians had any idea what was out there. Many of these are titles that anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of American exploration will know; others will probably stump even the experts. Here is a sampling of the classic and little known offered within this catalogue.
Everyone knows of the midnight ride of Paul Revere. The famed patriot rode from Boston to Lexington, a dozen or so miles. His grandson, Joseph W. Revere, traveled from Boston around Cape Horn and all the way to California. The son of Paul Revere's 16th (and, thankfully, last) child, Joseph signed up with the Navy, where he was involved in seagoing missions during the Mexican War. After war's end, Revere published this book in 1849: A Tour of Duty in California; Including a Description of the Gold Region... He next purchased a ranch near Sonora, California, and settled down. He apparently was quite fond of California for a time, but then moved on to travel around Mexico, and finally return east to settle in Morristown, New Jersey. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Revere joined the Union Army, but after an unscheduled pullback of troops he ordered after his commanding officer was killed in combat, he was relieved of command. Revere returned to New Jersey where he remained until he died in 1880, having published one more book (his memoirs) in 1872. Item 36. $1,000.
What a difference time makes. When Susie Clark took The Round Trip from the Hub to the Golden Gate in 1890, she was not stuck on some cramped ship taking months to go around the Horn. Nor did she spend months dragging her possessions along the Oregon Trail. She took a tour aboard a luxury train, visiting several cities and scenic locations, and viewing the countryside through the window from her comfortable seat. There were no pirates or hostile Indians, no ice-capped mountains to climb, starvation or cannibalism on Susie's journey, but it should be an interesting story anyway. Item 52. $150.
Item 109 is one of the rarest and most important works of early explorations of the American West. Published in 1806, it is the Message of the President...Communicating Discoveries...by Captains Lewis and Clark, Doctor Sibley, and Mr. Dunbar. This is the earlier House of Representatives edition (there was also one published for the Senate) and contains the extremely rare map. It is "dd" rated in Howes' "USiana," the highest rating for value in that classic American bibliography. This was the first official publication to provide any information on Lewis and Clark's expedition into the Northwest, and also includes detailed descriptions of Texas and the Southwest provided by Sibley and Dunbar. Both natural history and information on the Indians, including their languages, are provided. $100,000.
American Travels and Explorations from George MacManus Co.
Henry Schoolcraft discovered the source of the Mississippi River.
Speaking of Lewis and Clark, their official narrative is probably the most collectible of all American travel books. Officially titled Travels to the Source of the Missouri River and Across the American Continent to the Pacific Ocean, it recounts their journey across the Northwest from 1804-1806. However, it was not until 1814 that their official report was published, delayed in part by the mysterious death of Meriwether Lewis. The first American edition of this book is now priced into six figures, but item 138 is the first London, published the same year, but more modestly priced. $35,000.
We are currently celebrating the 200th anniversary of Lewis and Clark's remarkable voyage, and naturally the landscape has changed drastically from what they saw. Here is a midpoint in that change: The Trail of Lewis and Clark, 1804-1904. Olin Wheeler recounts a journey along their route taken at the time of the 100th anniversary, along with a description of the "many changes" that had already occurred. Item 133. $600.
Next is the second most noted American travel of the early 19th century: An Account of Expeditions to the Sources of the Mississippi, and Through the Western Parts of Louisiana...During the Years 1805, 1806 and 1807. This is the account of the Zebulon Pike expedition, which first unsuccessfully sought the source of the Mississippi, and then explored the Southwest, including some harrowing winter days high in the Rocky Mountains. Pike was a military man, and he did not begin to match Lewis and Clark in terms of careful accounting of what they saw and found. His interests were more toward understanding what the Spanish were up to in land that is now part of America, but was then in Mexico. Nevertheless, this was one of America's great expeditions, as the territory was mostly unknown at the time. Item 170. $25,000.
The source of the Mississippi would finally be found in 1832. This expedition was led by Henry Schoolcraft, who had already made several journeys into the far northern reaches of the U.S., and had previously misidentified the source. This time he got it right, though the main purpose of his journey was to negotiate peace among warring Indian tribes. Schoolcraft's book is a Narrative of an Expedition Through the Upper Mississippi to Itasca Lake, the Actual Source of this River... Item 181. $850.
The website for George S. MacManus Company is www.macmanus-rarebooks.com, phone number 610-520-7273.