Taylor, Bayard. Eldorado, or, Adventures in the Path of Empire: Comprising a Voyage to California, via Panama; Life in San Francisco and Monterey; Pictures of the Gold Region, and Experiences of Mexican Travel.....With Illustrations by the Author. 1st edition, 1st printing, New York: C. W. Benedict, Stereotyper and Printer, 201 William St., for George P. Putnam, 155 Broadway, London: Richard Bentley, 1850. Vol. I: [i-vii] viii-xii,  2-251 [1, blank] pp., 4 plates. Vol. II: ,  2-3  [2, inserted list of illustrations, verso blank], -247 [1, blank], 1-17, 17A, 18-43  (publisher’s catalogue) pp., 4 plates. Total: 8 tinted lithograph plates, including 2 frontispieces, by Sarony & Major after author’s original artwork. 2 vols., 12mo (20 x 13.7 cm).
In the original embossed green cloth, title stamped in gilt on back strips. Both front free end papers with ink gift inscriptions dated Boston May 20, from J. Dutton Russell to his uncle Major General John Henry Russell, Sr. (1827-1897), grandfather of Brooke Astor, philanthropist in New York City. Vol. II with additional contemporary ink note: “Since this was written excellent coal has been discovered near St. Francisco.” Bindings lightly scuffed, adhesion stain and discoloration to inner margin of rear end paper of volume 1. Interior very good with only minor light foxing. In the first edition the Vol. II list of illustrations incorrectly cites Mazatlán plate at p. 8 rather than p. 80 (plate bound at p. 80 in this copy). Overall a very good, complete, untrimmed copy of the first edition, first printing.
Bayard Taylor (January 11, 1825 – December 19, 1878) was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Taylor, a successful author and correspondent with Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune, came to California to cover the leading story in the world, the California Gold Rush. He left New York on June 28, 1849, crossed the Isthmus of Panama, boarded the ship Oregon and arrived in San Francisco on August 18. Lieutenant Edward F. Beale (to whom the book is dedicated) accompanied Taylor on most of his travels. He visited the diggings between the Cosumnes and Mokelumne Rivers as well as the major towns and camps and describes what he saw. The journalist’s portrayal of San Francisco and Sacramento are considered masterpieces. He described San Francisco at night, dotted with campfires and transparent lantern-lit canvas houses, making the city gleam “like an amphitheatre of fire.” His imagery of Sacramento City with its gaudily decorated tent saloons, and the hilarious performances at California’s only theater, the Eagle, further illustrate his literary talent. In addition, Taylor visited Monterey and witnessed the state constitutional convention. He left San Francisco on January 1, 1850, on board the Oregon, along with a cargo of $2 million in gold and several distinguished passengers including the newly-elected Senators Frémont and Gwin and Congressmen Gilbert and Wright. T. Butler King, whose report of March 22, 1850 comprises the appendix, was also a passenger.
The book met with great success, selling 10,000 copies in America and 30,000 in England within two weeks. “His chronicle of the voyage to California via Panama is the best in print, and his chapters dealing with the constitutional convention at Monterey in 1849 are un-excelled”. “This work by an eminent writer and artist is probably the outstanding book on the early Gold Rush in California.” “Taylor’s command of the language and the scenes he witnessed make Eldorado one of California’s greatest books”. Eldorado is still in print and has probably been reprinted more times than any other book on California history. The first edition first printing in this condition is quite scarce.
The list of plates are:
[Frontispiece] San Francisco in November, 1848 [left side] From a Sketch by J.C. Ward, Esq. [right side] Lith. of Sarony & Major[below caption] New York, Geo. P. Putnam.
Lower Bar, Mokelumne River [left side] Bayard Taylor [right side] Lith. of Sarony & Major [below caption] New York, Geo. P. Putnam.
Monterey [left side] Bayard Taylor [right side] Lith. of Sarony & Major [below caption] New York, Geo. P. Putnam.
The Volcano Diggings [left side] Bayard Taylor [right side] Lith. of Sarony & Major, N.Y. [below caption] New York, Geo. P. Putnam.
[Frontispiece] San Francisco in November 1849 [left side] Bayard Taylor [right side] Lith. of Sarony & Major, N.Y. [below caption] New York, Geo. P. Putnam.
Sacramento City, from the South [left side] Bayard Taylor [right side] Lith. of Sarony & Major [below caption] New York, Geo. P. Putnam.
Portsmouth Square, San Francisco [left side] Bayard Taylor [right side] Lith of Sarony & Major [below caption] New York, Geo. P. Putnam.
Mazatlan [left side] Bayard Taylor [right side] Lith. of Sarony & Major. N.Y. [below caption] New York, Geo. P. Putnam.