(Washington: Beverley Tucker, Thomas F. Ford, and A. O. P. Nicholson, 1855-60). 300 x 220 mm. (11 3/4 x 8 3/4"). 12 volumes bound in 13.
Modern black library cloth, white titling on spines. WITH 648 PLATES AND MAPS (583 lithographed plates, many colored; 65 maps, 58 folding). Howes P-3; Wagner-Camp 262-67. All but one of the volumes somewhat foxed and browned (due to poor paper quality), three volumes with light dampstain to lower margin, half a dozen of the large maps with splits along major fold, but generally a very good complete set, with no fatal defects, in sturdy, unworn bindings.
The product of one of the greatest government-sponsored programs in 19th century America, this is a series of exploration reports on a possible north-central route for a railroad line linking the eastern United States with the Pacific coast. It was of great value at the time, and since it contains the most extensive contemporaneous information available on the American West, it is a major resource for scholars and collectors of Western Americana today. In 1853, Congress authorized the Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis, to send expeditions west to determine the best route for a transcontinental railroad. There were four possibilities to survey and consider: one running along the Missouri River and over the northern Rocky Mountains; another across the central Plains to the Great Salt Lake and then on to the coast along the 38th parallel; a more southern route along the 35th parallel, through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Southern California; and finally a 32nd parallel route through central Texas, along the Gila River, terminating in San Diego. Parties led by Brevet Major Isaac Stevens and Captain George McClellan explored these various choices, sending updates back to Congress. This set contains their reports, correspondence, itineraries, and journals, as well as data collected on flora, fauna, geology, climate, and the Indian tribes encountered. The set is also notable for its cartography: Wheat devotes 24 pages of his "Mapping the Transmississippi West" to its maps. The reports are extensively illustrated, both in the text and with attractive lithographed plates, many of them colored, picturing Western scenery and geological formations, plants, and animals--the last including a number of very pleasing color plates of birds. One volume is largely devoted to describing the Indian tribes encountered, with plates depicting scenes from villages, hunts, and celebrations, as well as Native tools and costume. (CFB1719)
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PJP Catalog: 72.118