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    The First Complete Narrative of Powell's Famous Exploration of the Colorado River

    J[ohn] W[esley] Powell. Canyons of the Colorado. With Many Illustrations. Meadville, PA: Flood & Vincent, The Chautauqua-Century Press, 1895.

    Presentation copy, inscribed by the author on the front flyleaf: "Yours Cordially / J. W. Powell." Additionally inscribed on the front flyleaf: "Mary C. Clark." Large quarto (11.375 x 8.5625 inches; 289 x 217 mm.). [2, half-title], xiv, [15]-400, [1, advertisement for the Santa Fé Railroad], [1, blank] pages. Title printed in red and black. Frontispiece portrait, numerous plates, including ten double-page views of the Grand Canyon, and text illustrations.

    Contemporary half burgundy roan or hard-grain morocco, ruled in gilt, over maroon fine diagonally-ribbed cloth. Front cover ruled and lettered in gilt, spine decoratively panelled in blind and lettered in gilt in compartments with five raised bands, marbled endpapers. Rebacked at an early date, with original spine laid down, and with some corners renewed. Boards detached. Short tear to the upper blank margin of pp. 55/56, short tear to the lower blank margin of pp. 119/120 and 281/282. Small stain to the outer edge of the last few leaves. An excellent copy, despite the failing binding, of this scarce work, which was privately printed in a small edition.

    One of American's great explorers, John Wesley Powell (1834-1902) "planned and led the first boat expedition through the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River. The exploration party consisted of ten men, and their means of transport was four small rowing boats. The boats were launched in the Green River, a tributary of the Colorado, in south-west Wyoming on 24 May 1869, and the expedition emerged from the mouth of the Grand Canyon three months later, on 29 August. On this trip, Powell made the first important geological observations of the geology of the canyon, and demonstrated that it originated by river erosion into rocks that had been slowly elevated. As a result of his several geological expeditions to the Rocky Mountains, Powell became interested in, and made a special study of, the native peoples of the area and their languages. In order to curate his work with the native peoples, he founded and directed the Bureau of Ethnology within the Smithsonian Institution. Between 1874 and 1879, Powell directed the United States Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories, jointly carrying out both geological and enthnological field studies in Utah, Nevada, California, New Mexico, and Arizona. During this period, realizing that access to water imposed a limit on development of the western states, he made the first extensive studies of the water supplies available in the arid south-west of the United States. In 1879, the United States Geographical and Geological Survey was incorporated into the United States Geological Survey under the directorship of Clarence King. When King resigned his directorship in 1881, Powell was appointed his successor, carrying out the tasks associated with the directorships of both the Ethnological Bureau and the Geological Survey. He administered both offices until 1894, when he resigned the office of Director of the U.S. Geological Survey in order to devote more time to ethnological studies" (The Oxford Companion to the Earth).

    "This book differs in so many respects from the report of 1875 [Exploration of the Colorado River of the West and Its Tributaries; Explored in 1869, 1870, 1871, and 1872, under the Direction of the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution] that it is here given the status of a separate title. Not only has the narrative been revised and augmented, but there are several new chapters and a great many new illustrations. Included in the latter are adaptations from the superb sketches of William H. Holmes which are featured in the Dutton atlas [Tertiary History of the Grand Cañon District, with Atlas (Washington: 1882)]...Altogether, it is a handsome book; also a scarce one" (Farquhar).

    Farquhar, Colorado River, 43. Graff 3335. Howes P527 ("aa") ("First complete narrative; his earlier reports were largely devoted to scientific data").

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2008
    4th-5th Wednesday-Thursday
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