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Thomas Russell's annotated copy




Life in California

During a Residence of Several Years in that Territory comprising a Description of the Country and the Missionary Establishments, with Incidents, Observations, etc., etc. | to which is annexed a Historical Account of the ... Indians of Alta-California by Fr. Geronimo Boscana [Thomas Russell's annotated copy]


Robinson, Alfred, 1846, New York:Wiley and Putnam


Alfred Robinson(1806–1895), immigrated to Mexican Alta California in 1829 as an resident agent in the export of cattle hides and tallow. He became a well-connected businessman, and sympathetic to Californio society by marrying into a prominent family (de la Guerra). In this book, Robinson describes his personal activities and the politics of California under the Mexican control. He describes the history of the settlements, ranchos, and the Catholic missions. He was witness to the changes in the California economies and social structure with the increasing American and foreign immigrants and interests. He published the book in 1846 anonymously and it covered the period from 1829 to 1842. The Mexican-American war (1846-48) and the American conquest of the province had great impact to the California society along with the discovery of gold in 1848. Robinson’s book became very popular with people rushing off to California. It was reprinted a number of times in various forms and abridgments.


The provenance of this book is unusual and important. In 1925, Thomas C. Russell ( - 1931), decided to research and republish Robinson's 1846 book as part of his California history series from his private press. Laid in is a hand written card stating 'This copy of Life in California was the one used by Thomas C. Russell in his reprint [1925] and contains his pencil noted throughout (purchased by K.M.J. from John Newbegin)'. Also, laid is an 1984 invoice from California Book Auction, San Francisco and catalogue description. The pencil annotations throughout the book are extensive and typical of editing notes. In the 1925 book's preface, Russell lists edits in places and peoples names from the 1846, and, in a cursory review, the pencil annotations on this 1846 first edition reflect the changes made in the 1925 edition. Thomas C. Russell was a long prominent San Francisco printer, publisher and author from the mid-1880's to his death in 1931. His books were well researched, beautifully written, designed and printed. His research has added to the history of California and the exploration of the Pacific Northwest. The printings were always limited and the early books were numbered and signed with a full signature along with occasional handwritten annotations by Russell.


12mo [8x5.25in] xii [2] 226 pp., [5], 232-341 pp. (two works in one volume with continuous pagination), 9 lithographic plates of views and portraits with one tinted (by G. W. Endicott from Robinson sketches); Modern three-quarter bound in maroon goat and dark red cloth with gilt lettering on ribbed spine, top edge dark ink other edges untrimmed, maroon marbled end papers; Light shelf wear to covers with few rubbing and along edges and joints, light age toning of text and plates, small ink spot to bottom edge on several front pages, Book plate of Kenneth M. Johnson on front end paper, light pencil annotations throughout by Thomas Russell [see below for details]. [Volkmann-Zamorano 80 65, Hill 1467, Howell 50:211, Howes R363, Cowan II p.536, Graff 3525]


The nine plates are (1) Frontispiece View of Presidio or Santa Barbara [town view], (2) Mission San Luis Rey, p24, (3) Mission San Gabriel, p33, (4) View of Presidio or Santa Barbara p40 [water view with ship], (5) Mission Santa Barbara, p45, (6) Mission San Buena Ventura, p49, (7) View of Anchorage of "Yerba Buena" in San Francisco, p56, (8) Portrait of Father-Friar Geronimo Boscana, p[229], (9) An Indian Dressed in the "Tobet", p290 [tinted].


This book also includes Robinson’s translation of Father Boscana’s ‘Chinigchinich’ which is an important and early contribution to the ethnology of the native Californians (from Gary F. Kurutz article in the Volkmann Zamorano 80 catalogue, 2003).






More items from

David Spilman Fine Books, ABAA

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