Auction 135, Lot 222

"Oregon Missions and travels over the Rocky Mountains, in 1845-46", De Smet, Father Pierre-Jean

Subject: Northwestern United States

Period: 1847 (dated)


Color: Black & White

4.5 x 7 inches
11.4 x 17.8 cm

Father Pierre-Jean De Smet (1801 - 1873) was one of the earliest and most important missionaries active in the American West. Read more about his life and travels here. His extensive travels resulted in the 1843 "Voyages Aux Montagnes Rocheuses, et une Annee de Sejour Chez les Tribus Indiennes du Vaste Territoire de l'Oregon," and the detailed account of his experiences in the Northwest are chronicled in his 1847 "Oregon Missions and travels over the Rocky Mountains, in 1845-46."

This is the First Edition of the highly regarded and rare journal complete with all plates and the folding map (10 x 8.3") Oregon Territory. 1846Dalles of the dead, St. Peter's Station, and many more. The watershed is highly developed with many tributaries to the major rivers named. The Roman Catholic missions and churches are carefully shown, as are the "Press" (Presbyterian) Missions near Walla Walla and on the Salmon River. The "Main Chain of the Rocky Mountains" is delineated with two parallel lines winding through the map. Wheat describes this as "an excellent map and discloses the travels and careful studies made by De Smet, though the main chain of the Rockies still remains vague and undefined."

All 13 called for plates present plus the illustrated title page "Mary Quille in the Battle Against the Crows," not collated in Wagner & Camp. The frontis is "Lodge Pole (Indian Name) Great Chief of the Flatheads" and includes many plates showing chiefs, mounted warriors, teepees, buffaloes and missions. The book has recently been professionally rebacked with original spine cloth laid down and new endpapers and pastedowns. In original blind stamped brown cloth with gilt spine title and Indian decoration and mounted chief. Hardbound, small octavo, 408 pp. plus 4 pages of "Our Father" translated into various Indian language, plates, and folding map. This first edition was published by Edward Dunigan, New York.

De Smet was one of the earliest and most important missionaries active in the American West. Oregon Territory then consisted largely of the future states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and the western part of Montana. As described in this book he traveled through parts of Washington, with trips though the Columbia River Plateau country, a trip up the Columbia River to its source and continuing to Fort Augusta through Assinibone territory via the Athabasca River. He returned to Fort Vancouver by way of Fort Colville. He also visited forts Walla Walla, Jasper, and Augustus (Edmonton). Another trip took him on an overland journey to the upper Missouri River, then downstream to St. Louis in 1846. The book naturally focuses on his work as a Catholic priest with emphasis on his efforts to establish relationships with the Indian tribes. Thus the book contains a treasure of ethnological information about the Blackfeet, Flatheads, Coeur d'Alenes, Kalispells, Crows and others. He also made numerous and valuable observations on travel, landscape, and wildlife. Wagner- Camp-Becker were impressed enough with the book to illustrate its title page in their "The Plains and the Rockies," one of only 33 selected to illustrate out of 429 listed.

References: Wagner & Camp #141:1; (map) Wheat (TMW) 535.

Condition: B+

Light general shelf wear and rubbing and the boards show a few light toning bands. The text has some light foxing and some signatures have damp spots entering the text and plate images from the right edge. But with these few exceptions the plates and map are clean and unmarked. Overall a nicely restored copy of this very scarce book.

Estimate: $1,000 - $1,400

Sold for: $1,000

Closed on 2/16/2011