[PACIFIC RAILROAD SURVEYS]. Reports of Explorations and Surveys...for a Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. 33rd Congress, 2nd Session. Washington, D.C.: A.O.P. Nicholson [Vols. I-XI] and Thomas H. Ford [Vol. XII], 1855-1861.
12 volumes in 13, 4o (275 x 218 mm). More than 600 plates and maps, many in color, including Warren's "Map of the Territory of the United States from the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean" see below (some occasional pale browning and spotting, some intermittent pale dampstaining and creasing, Warren map present but torn and with some creasing). Contemporary brown half morocco, marbled boards, gilt-lettered on spines (some minor rubbing, library shelf numbers on spine overpainted). Provenance: Edmund Kirby Webster (inscription dated 1871 on titles); York County, Historical Society (bookplate, gift of Pamela and Frances Danner).
FIRST COLLECTED EDITION, mixed House and Senate issues of this important railroad survey, collecting the reports of the four routes of exploration proposed by Secretary of War Jefferson Davis. The first route lay between the 47th and 49th parallels, extending along the Missouri River over the northern Rockies into the Columbia Basin and across the Cascades to Puget Sound. The second was to follow the Kansas River west from its junction with the Missouri to the headwaters of the Arkansas River through the Cochetopa Pass to the Salt Lake Basin. The third was along the 35th parallel, beginning at Fort Smith, Arkansas and proceeding west to Albequerque, then through central New Mexico and Arizona to the Colorado River, and across the Mojave Desert to California. The fourth route was along the 32nd parallel from central Texas to El Paso, following William H. Emory's "military reconnaissance" of 1846-1847 to the Gila River, Fort Yuma and San Diego (see lot 245). The Senate and House issues differ only in regard to the arrangement of the constituent reports.
"PROBABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT SINGLE CONTEMPORARY SOURCE OF KNOWLEDGE ON WESTERN GEOGRAPHY AND HISTORY and their value is greatly enhanced by the inclusion of many beautiful plates in color of scenery, native inhabitants, fauna and flora of the Western country" (Taft, Artists and Illustrators of the Old West). The set was issued in octavo and quarto formats. When the Secretary of War submitted to Congress preliminary reports of some of the surveys, it appears that it was his intention to publish all the reports in three octavo volumes with an atlas of maps. The quarto edition began to appear in 1855 and concluded in 1861. The plates comprise topographical views, portraits of Indian life and settlements, zoological, botanical and ornithological specimens, and a variety of maps illustrating the routes and geography. "Despite their flaws, these volumes contain a monumental collection of scientific information, geographical, zoological, botanical, geological, of the still mysterious American West. Upon first examination, the volumes seem forbiddingly disorganized; reports clearly were printed as they were received; there is no overall system of arrangement, nor are there general indices to the volumes, and, as Camp has pointed out, there is the usual duplication of printing and lithography by both houses of Congress. However, these faults are amply compensated by the richness of the material within" (Wagner-Camp-Becker p. 462). Wheat devotes twenty-four pages of detailed discussion to the maps in this series of reports, singling out the Warren map as "among the great maps of the United States that preceded the Civil War."
"The massive volumes of the [PRR] represented the combined efforts of the Topographical Engineers and a sizable contingent of the country's foremost scientists. Not since Napoleon had taken his company of savants into Egypt had the world seen such an assemblage" (Goetzmann, Army Exploration in the American West). Howes S-965 & P-3, etc.; Reese Stamped with a National Character: Nineteenth Century American Color Plate Books 75 ("In sheer numbers, it was the greatest printing project of the century"); Rittenhouse 442; Tweeny 89, 59; Wagner-Camp 262-267; Wheat Mapping the Transmississippi West 822, etc. Sold not subject to return. (13)