VENEGAS, Miguel (1680-1764). A Natural and Civil History of California: Containing an Accurate Description of that Country, its Soil, Mountains Etc. London: James Rivington and James Fletcher, 1759.

$ 2,800.00

VENEGAS, Miguel (1680-1764). A Natural and Civil History of California: Containing an Accurate Description of that Country, its Soil, Mountains Etc. London: James Rivington and James Fletcher, 1759.

2 volumes. 8vo., (8 x 5 inches). Engraved frontispiece in each volume (that to volume one with expert repair at platemark) and two engraved plates, fine engraved folding map "of California drawn by the Society of Jesuits" (tear near mount repaired on verso) (light browning). Contemporary half tan calf, marbled boards (rebacked to style).    

Provenance: Armorial bookplate of Nicholas Garry (?1782-1856), deputy Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company (1822-1835).    

First English edition. "This translation gave the English-speaking world its earliest thorough account of the little-known areas of the west coast of North America. This work has been cited as the first book in English completely devoted to California" (Hill 1768).  

Miguel Venegas, a brilliant Mexican-born Jesuit, transferred a longing to serve in the new California missions, thwarted by ill-health, to intense study of the territory's history.  In researching  what would become a detailed history of the territories of present-day California, Baja California, southern Arizona and the northern Sonora, "Venegas employed the highest level of historical methodology, collecting original manuscripts, annual reports, and letters of … numerous other missionaries in California and Sonora… In 1735, Father Provincial Juan Antonio de Oviedo ordered that all archival material relative to California be provided to Father Venegas who also employed a novel form of acquiring information: detailed questionnaires covering the left half of the sheet, leaving the right half of the same sheet for answers, that were sent to persons who had participated in or were currently active in the California mission field" (W. Michael Mathes, art. in Dorothy Sloan, The Daniel Volkmann Collection of the Zamorano 80, 5 Feb. 2003, p. 280). Venegas's account of California reached a wide audience both through the first Spanish edition and translations into English (1759) [as here], Dutch (1762), French (1767) and German (1769). Howes V-69; Sabin 98845. Catalogued by Kate Hunter