"One of the Most Important
[Rufus B. Sage]. Scenes in the Rocky Mountains, and in
Oregon, California, New Mexico, Texas, and the Grand
Prairies; or Notes by the Way, During an Excursion of
Three Years, with a Description of the Countries Passed Through,
Including Their Geography, Geology, Resources, Present Condition,
and the Different Nations Inhabiting Them. By a New Englander.
Philadelphia: Published by Carey & Hart, 1846. First edition,
without the author's name on the title-page; second issue, with
pages 77-88, 270, 271, and 302 correctly numbered in the outer
margin. Small octavo (7.125 x 4.75 inches; 181 x 122 mm.). xii,
-303, [1, blank] pages. Large folding lithographed map.
Original brown diaper-grain cloth with covers decoratively paneled
in blind and spine lettered in gilt. Inexpertly rebacked,
preserving the original spine. Binding worn, with some surface loss
at extremities and along joints; corners bumped, with boards
exposed; gilt lettering rubbed; front hinge starting; bookplate
removed from front pastedown; verso of front free endpaper abraded
where library pocket was removed. Light offsetting to title-page
and old ink accession number bleached out; mild uniform age toning
to text. A few leaves poorly opened at lower edge; leaf 12/2 (pages
179/180) slightly smaller, on thinner paper, and mounted on a stub;
over-opened between gatherings 14 and 15 (pages 224 and 225); stain
in upper margin of page 245, visible on adjacent pages. Map with a
few short splits at folds and curling at edges; old tears at text
block, repaired on verso (no loss); and some browning, mostly
confined to verso. Overall, a very good copy, with the cloth still
generally bright. From The Daniel G. Volkmann Jr. Collection of
Fine Californiana, with his leather ex libris on verso of front
free endpaper (Dorothy Sloan Rare Books, Auction 15: A
Collection of Fine Californiana, 16 February 2005, Lot
Source Books of the Overland"
Cowan (1914), page 197; Field 1345; Fifty Texas Rarities 30; Graff 3633; Howes S16; Mattes, Platte River Road Narratives, 68; Mintz, The Trail, 402; Pilling 3438; Rader 2870; Rittenhouse 502; Sabin 74892; Saunders 3141. Smith 8929; Streeter 3049; Wagner-Camp 123; Wagner-Camp-Becker 123:1; Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West, 527 (illustrated on page 40); Wheat, Maps of the California Gold Region, 30.
"The 'New Englander' who wrote the scarce narrative of early Western travel whose title you see here was Rufus B. Sage [1817-1893], who apparently was one of the thousands who went thataway in the Yankee Exodus, because he is known to have been the editor of several newspapers published in Columbus, Ohio...Sage's Scenes in the Rocky Mountains is one of the best of contemporary first-hand narratives of the overland trail and of life in California, the Oregon Country, Wyoming, and Texas in the years 1841-46. Sage met and talked with many of the famous old mountain men, traders, and fur trappers, and was one of the first to tell the story of Hugh Glass" (The Month at Goodspeed's, Vol. 26, No. 8 (May, 1955), 18).
"One of the most important source books of the overland, Sage's personal narrative includes an account of the early days of California, Texas, and the Old Oregon Country and perhaps the best contemporary account of the Snively Expedition, one of the strangest escapades of the early West. Of particular interest is the superb folding map, based on Fremont's historic 1845 map...and one of the earliest maps to depict the Oregon boundary. Although this map was to issue with the work, letters from Sage's publishers reveal it was printed too late for inclusion and that Sage sold the maps separately himself" (Howell 50: California, 216).
"Most copies lack...the map...one of the earliest to depict the finally-determined Oregon boundary...one of the earliest attempts to show on a map the ever-more-heavily traveled emigrant road to California" (Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West).
Wagner-Camp (pages 176-177 of the 1953 third edition) details Sage's itinerary: "Sage arrived in Westport in May, 1841, too late to accompany a party to Oregon, and finally left, Sept. 2, with one of the return fur-trade parties. Returned to Independence, July 21, 1842. Started out again in early August for Ft. Lancaster and thence to Arkansas. While on Fountain Creek was passed by Fitzpatrick and Van Dusen on their way to the States. Stopped at the Pueblo and Taos and made an excursion to Uinta River with Robidoux. After a short stay, continued to Ft. Hall and arrived there Nov. 9, returned in December by North Park and Middle Park on the Platte River and wintered on the Platte below Cherry Creek. He says Captain Warfield, a Texan, came to Ft. Lancaster for recruits for some expedition. Sage found the Texans on the Arkansas River below the old Fort. He finally joined Warfield between the Cimarron and the Arkansas. This was the Snively expedition of which he gives a long account, including the surrender to Cooke. He then returned to the Platte. He met Frémont at Fort Lancaster in July, 1843. On March 17, 1844, he started from Ft. Lancaster for the U.S. via Bent's Fort, thence down to Van Buren, Arkansas, which he reached July 4."
During his travels, Sage heard the story of the fur trapper Hugh Glass, who was depicted by Leonardo DiCaprio in the award-winning 2015 film The Revenant, directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu. It appears in his Scenes in the Rocky Mountains in Chapter XIV, pages 117-118 ("Desperate encounter with a grizzly bear, and extraordinary instance of suffering"): "Several years since, an old trapper by the name of Glass, with his companion, while on an excursion, came upon a large grizzly bear. Bruin, having received the salute of two rifles, as usual, rushed towards his uncivil assailants, who broke from him with all possible despatch. But Glass, stumbling, fell prostrate in his flight, and before he could recover his feet the infuriated beast was upon him. Now commenced a death-struggle. The pistols of the hunter were both discharged in quick succession,-the ball of one entering the breast of his antagonist, and that of the other grazing his back. Smarting and maddened by the pain of additional wounds, the bleeding monster continued the conflict with the fury of desperation,- tearing from the limbs and body of the unfortunate man large pieces of trembling flesh, and lacerating him with the deep thrusts of his teeth and claws. Meanwhile the sufferer maintained, with his butcher-knife, an obstinate defence, though with fast waning effort and strength. Finally, enfeebled by the loss of blood, and exhausted from the extraordinary exertions of a desperate and unequal contest, he was unable to oppose further resistance, and quietly resigned himself to his fate. The bear, too, with the thick blood oozing from his numerous wounds, and faint from the many stabs among his veins and sinews, seemed equally in favor of a suspension of hostilities; and, extending himself across the hunter's back, he remained motionless for two hours or more. But now another enemy commences n assault upon his vitals-that enemy is death. In vain is defensive effort. In vain are all his struggles. He falls by the hunter's side a lifeless corse [sic]."
"Among the...migrant and traveler maps, those accompanying journals of travels in the West, the cartographic efforts of Rufus B. Sage are both representative and among the finest examples of the genre. Sage's map of 1846, drawn to accompany his Scenes in the Rocky Mountains, is outstanding in its portrayal of the territory east of the Rocky Mountains. From the Missouri on the north to the Canadian River on the south, Sage drew as accurate a map of the plains as any mid-nineteenth-century cartographer's, except for the maps of the topographical engineers. His delineation of the courses of virtually all the major plains streams and their tributaries is nearly without fault; he identified both the Oregon and California trails with care and precision; he located, as accurately as any, the territories of the major plains tribal groups. Like other cartographers of the period, Sage did not have the Black Hills correctly, showing them as a linear chain running northwest from the Sweetwater to the Missouri. In a concession to both the patterns of promise and the pessimism that were evident among mappers of the Plains, Sage's 'Great American Desert' sprawls in flourishing letters across the plains south of the Arkansas, while in the heart of 'proposed Ne-Bras-Ka Territory,' straddling the Platte and identified in even more florid style, are the 'Grand Prairies'" (John L. Allen, "Patterns of Promise: Mapping the Plains and Prairies, 1800-1860," Great Plains Quarterly (1984), Paper 1810, page 18).
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