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Sotheby's Announces Third Offering From The James S. Copley Library
Map of Lewis and Clark’s expedition, from a first edition of their 2-volume “History of the Expedition’. Est. $80/120,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s New York will present the third offering of rare books and manuscripts from the illustrious James S. Copley Library on October 15, 2010. The eight-part sale commenced on April 14th and extends through April 2011; this segment will highlight an important group of documents, pertaining to the growth of the Western states and Mexico. Mr. Copley was a well-known newspaperman and philanthropist in San Diego, and a substantial section of the sale reflects his particular interest in the early history of California.

“These manuscripts cover the settlement of the West from just after the incursion of the Spanish into California to Lewis & Clark’s expedition, through the Gold Rush and beyond,” said Selby Kiffer, Senior Vice President and Senior Specialist in Sotheby’s Books and Manuscripts department. “It includes the most significant group of California documents we have seen at Sotheby’s in decades.”

California: From Spanish Territory … to Independent Republic … to Statehood
A highlight of the sale is a rare autograph document signed by Fray Junípero Serra (1713-1784), the revered Franciscan friar who established missions from San Diego to San Francisco, then under Mexican control---an essential step in the settlement of California. The document on offer encapsulates the very heart of his achievement, displaying a list of the California missions arranged from south to north, along with the names of their Franciscan pastors who were, in Serra’s words, “occupied with the conversion of infidels” (est. $150/200,000).

Father Francisco Paloú (c. 1722-1789) who studied with Junípero Serra and is, with him, considered one of the founders of California, is also represented in the sale. A rare letter, c. 1787, exhibits Father Paloú’s delicate diplomacy in dealing with the perennial problem of the boundaries between the church and the authority of the Mexican state (est. $4/6,000). The sale also includes a scarce and desirable edition of Father Paloú’s narrative of his service in California, Noticias de la Nueva California---considered one of the first literary works produced in California, and one of only 21 California books illustrated with photographs before 1890 (est. $3/5,000). It includes 18 mounted albumen photographs, including by Eadweard Muybridge and Bradley & Rulofson, among others.

Among the sale’s other fine examples of revelatory correspondence during this important historical era are a fine group of five letters from 1776 by Fernando Javier Rivera y Moncada (1725-1781), the military commander of Alta California, offering a vivid view of the problems of native pacification (est. $10/15,000). When several Indian communities joined together to sack the mission at San Diego in 1775, Rivera had the responsibility of suppressing the revolt. (He was killed on the Colorado River during another Indian revolt in 1781.)

Among the fruitful results of a voyage to supply Spanish settlements in California in 1782 was the first reliable chart of San Diego Bay, surveyed by Juan Pantoja y Arriaga (est. $80/120,000). The manuscript map, in pen-and-ink with grey wash and red ink for settled areas, was the first considered to be accurate and was widely shared among Spanish and English sea captains. This map was imitated, with and without attribution, by English, Spanish, French, Mexican, German Russian and American nationals for the next sixty years.

In 1824, California was a northern Mexican province known as “Alta California” that, feeling neglected, revolted against the Mexican government. California’s “Declaration of Independence” from Mexico is one of the seminal documents tracing its transition from a colonial territory of Spain to its eventual inclusion in the United States. The sale includes one of five known copies of the document declaring the territory of Alta California “libre y soberano,” and is the only one recorded as signed by hand by the leaders of the revolt – among them the then-governor of Alta California, Juan Bautista Alvarado (est. $20/30,000).

The sale includes two copies of the first printing of the Constitution of the State of California (each est. $4/6,000). The original constitution, adopted in November 1849 in advance of California attaining U.S. statehood in 1850, was the first to appear in book form, and was one of the earliest works printed in San Francisco. These copies each contain the rare final signature, issued only in some copies, of a 3-page “Address to the People of California.”

Another intriguing document, in Spanish, dated 23 May 1835, is a decree which elevated the Pueblo of Los Angeles to the status of a city, the first in Alta California, and made it the capitol of the territory (est. $2,500-3,500). This measure was shepherded through the Mexican Congress by Carlos Antonio Carillo, then the provincial deputy from California. Los Angeles never became the capitol due to the opposition of Monterey, which had been the capital originally established under the Spanish, and subsequently under Mexican rule.

The present sale includes a wide-ranging selection of important 18th and 19th century missives reflecting the turmoil in Mexico throughout the period, from two exceedingly rare documents signed by Gaspar De Portolá (1716-1786), the explorer and founder of San Diego and Monterey (est. $4/6,000) to a typed announcement signed by the Mexican revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata (1877-1919) (est. $3/4,000).

Leading in importance is a 76-piece archive providing vivid insight into the turbulent second Mexican Revolution primarily from the unique perspective of the revolutionary leader Benito Juarez (est. $75/100,000). The Revolution expelled the combined forces of France, Britain and Spain, in France’s attempt to establish a puppet government under the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian (proclaimed “Emperor Maximilian I”). The archive touches on the debt default which provided the pretext for the European invasion ---but primarily it offers a weekly account of the political, military and financial conflicts, from the arrival of Maximilian in 1864 through the defeat of the Emperor’s forces in 1866. These dramatic events were intimately entangled with American foreign policy during the Civil War, as the Union supported Juarez, while the Confederacy gave fitful backing to Maximilian. This collection appears to have been the personal archive of Antonio Ochoa (1811-1883), governor of the state of Chihuahua, where Juarez had his capitol during most of the war), as most of the letters are addressed to him and the retained copies are in his hand. A copy of a famous photographic portrait of Juarez is also included in the sale (est. $1,500-2,500).

As head of the defeated army, Maximilian was captured in May of 1867, was court martialed, and on 14 June, sentenced to death. The sale includes a simple note written just two days before his execution to the loyal officers of his defeated army: “In these solemn moments I send you these words as proof of my recognition of the loyalty with which you have served me, as well as the sincere esteem that I feel for you.” (est. $4/6,000)

In addition, the sale includes the second issue of a first edition of “the treaty that gave California to the United States” – the Guadalupe Hidalgo peace treaty negotiated by President Polk and Mexican officials following General Winfield Scott’s capture of Mexico City that ended the Mexican-American War in August 1847 (est. $3-4,000) The treaty stipulated that Mexico give up fifty-five percent of its territory, including California, in exchange for fifteen million dollars in compensation.

Chronicles of Expeditions to the West from Lewis & Clark through the Gold
Rush Rounding out the sale are a number of first editions offering details of many intriguing treks of discovery to the Western states, chief among them a first edition of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s 2-volume ‘History of the Expedition…to the Pacific Ocean’ the “definitive account of the most important exploration of the North American Continent” (est. $80/120,000). Many copies were evidently issued without the large map tracing Lewis and Clark’s 8,000-mile trek, which is here preserved in a fine impression.

Following Lewis and Clark in 1843, but still early in the days of overland travel, were Overton Johnson and William H. Winter, who contributed ‘Route Across the Rocky Mountains, with a Description of Oregon and California.’ A first edition of their rare early narrative is estimated to sell for $12/18,000.Of special note is one of the great rarities of western Americana and color-plate Americana, a first edition, hand-colored issue of John Woodhouse Audubon’s ‘Illustrated Notes of an Expedition Through Mexico and California’ (est. $60/80,000)—only the third copy to come to auction since 1929. John Woodhouse Audubon, son of the famed ornithologist and wildlife artist John James Audubon and himself a painter, supported and continued the work of his father. In 1849 he joined the gold rush, traveling west to California across Texas and Northern Mexico. He hoped to capitalize on the huge national interest in the gold rush by producing an ambitious book of forty plates illustrating scenes from his trip, but did not generate enough interest to publish the work as originally envisioned. The text published here, edited from Audubon’s notebooks, covers only the first half of his journey to California, from New York to the village of Jesus Maria in Chihuahua, near the Sonora border. It includes four stunning hand-colored lithographed plates.

Sotheby's | The James S. Copley Library | Selby Kiffer |

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