AE Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - April - 2014 Issue

The American West, Fiction, Ivan Doig Archive, and More from Back of Beyond Books

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The Grand Canyon on the cover of Back of Beyond Catalogue 12.

Back of Beyond Books has issued Rare Book Catalogue No. 12. They are located in the Colorado Plateau, or Four Corners region of the American Southwest, and much of their material comes from, or relates to, this area. However, they also carry a selection of books related to other places, or no particular place at all. This catalogue comes with several subheadings, which are as follows: Colorado Plateau, Fiction and Poetry, Ivan Doig, Miscellany, and Western Americana. For those who do not know him, Ivan Doig is a Montana raised novelist, where much of his writing is set. Back of Beyond offers many of his books, some signed, including a collection of 15 of his works. Here are some more items to be found in this catalogue.

 

We start with a pioneering expedition along the Colorado River, the first recorded description of the Grand Canyon. The title is Report Upon the Colorado River of the West, published in 1861. Joseph Ives led his expedition by steamboat up from the mouth of the river to the Grand Canyon. This was the opposite direction of the famous Powell expedition a decade later. Ives' account provides information about the botanical and zoological specimens of the area, as well as the Indians who lived above the canyon's walls. It contains numerous illustrations, some displaying, perhaps in exaggerated style, the narrowness of the canyons below. Ives was more interested in practical uses of the land than scenery, so he concluded that it would never be of much use for anything. Back of Beyond is offering three copies, items 13-15, priced at $1,975-$2,500.

 

Speaking of the Powell Expedition, John Wesley Powell described his journey in 1875 in his account of the Exploration of the Colorado River of the West and its Tributaries 1869-1872. Powell started on the Green River in Wyoming, following it to its confluence with the Colorado, and eventually down to the Grand Canyon, concluding his journey where Ives had approached from the other direction. This was a first, the Colorado north of the great canyon not having been traveled before. Powell took two trips, first exploring the area, and later gathering more information about it, in particular, learning about the culture of the Utes and other Indians living there. Items 25 and 26 are copies of this account, priced at $2,300 and $7,500 (signed).

 

This is not quite as notable a journey down the Colorado, but Mary Remsen North undoubtedly deserves some recognition for her achievement. Item 23 is her Down the Colorado; by a Lone Girl Scout, published in 1930. Traveling the river at the tender age of 10 is quite an accomplishment, as is writing a book at that age. She didn't exactly travel alone, bringing her parents along. Her father was an adventurer and writer. Mary brought letters from her home state governor, New York's Franklin D. Roosevelt, which she presented to the governors of the surrounding states. Mary's journey followed Ives route from the Grand Canyon south, not so treacherous as the waters traversed by Powell. Her book includes an introduction from Frederick S. Dellenbaugh, an artist and photographer who accompanied Powell on his second trip over half a century earlier, and who also participated in the discovery of the Escalante River and the Henry Mountains. After her auspicious start, Mary seems to have faded into obscurity, we being unable to find anything further about her other than she was apparently living in a retirement home as recently as 2005, possibly in Madison, Wisconsin. $275.

 

As for the Henry Mountains, located in southern Utah, southeast of Capital Reef National Park, they were the last mountain range discovered in the lower 48 states, first visited in 1872. By 1877, the government was able to publish a Report on the Geology of the Henry Mountains, by Grove Karl Gilbert. Gilbert recognized they contributed “almost nothing to our direct material interests,” but pointed out that “[t]he deep carving of the land which renders it so inhospitable to the traveler and the settler, is to the geologist a dissection which lays bare the very anatomy of the rocks, and the dry climate which makes the region a naked desert, soilless and almost plantless, perfects the preparation for his examination.” In other words, it is a barren, desolate land. Item 11. $375.

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