Rare Books Help Illustrate VERVE, Season 6, Episode 1


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Several pieces from the rare book collections were used to help illustrate “What Makes A Book So Special,” episode 1, season 6, Its All About the Book, from VERVE, featuring Marnie Powers-Torry, director of the Book Arts Program.

A Casual Commentary: front seat, u.s.a.
Marnie Powers-Torrey
Salt Lake City: UT: M. Powers-Torrey, 1999
N7433.4 P69 C37 1999

Typeface is Twentieth Century Medium Italic. Handset and printed on an Asbern letterpress. Photographs are gum bichromate prints, photolithographs, and intaglio prints from photopolymer plates. Edition of 15 copies, signed and numbered. University of Utah copy is no. 4.

God Created the Sea and Painted it Blue So We’d…
Michelle Ray
Tallahassee, FL: The Small Craft Advisory Press, Florida State University, 2013
N7433.4 R395 G63 2013

Title is derived from a quote by Bernard Moitessier, a French yachtsman. Eleven unpaged booklets issued in a basswood box attached to linen hardcover with embossed title and printed endsheet. Inside the box are two compartments. One contains a tunnel of cut-out illustrations. The second compartment holds a cardboard box with title printed above tab enclosure and which contains the booklets. Images and text created with photopolymer plates, using Trajan and Optima typefaces on handmade cotton/abaca, French Construction, and Neenah Environment papers.

Mrs. Delany Meets Herr Haeckle
Barbara Hodgson
Vancouver: HM Editions, 2015
N7433.4 H63 M77 2015

From the publisher’s website: [Mrs. Delany] is an “imagined collaboration between Mrs. Mary Delany (1700-1788), an English widow, woman of accomplishment, and creator of imaginative botanical ‘paper mosaics’ and Herr Ernst Haeckel (1852-1911), a distinguished and controversial German biologist and artist who devoted much of his time to the study and rendering of single-celled creatures.”

Cut paper image of a microscopic organism affixed to frontispiece with another cut-paper image affixed to the recto of the same sheet; eleven cut-paper interpretations of microscopic organisms tipped on to captioned plates; tipped-in cut-paper initials, numerous smaller cut-paper decorations. The paper cuttings are adapted from Ernst Haeckel’s Die Radiolarien (1862) and Kunstformen der Natur (1899-1904). They are cut from a variety of papers, including Yatsuo, Kozuke, mulberry, Gifu, Kitikata, and Kiraku kozo from Japan; Ingres and unidentified wove from Europe; and Reg Lissel handmade papers from Canada. Some were cut from papers previously marbled in the Turkish or Suminigashi styles. Some were dyed by the papermaker; some were dyed or otherwise hand-colored for this book. The cuttings are mounted on one of Arches text wove (white), Arches MBM Ingres (black) or Hahnemuhle Ingres (black).

Bound in full polished morocco, ruled and stamped decoratively in red and gilt with a gilt-lettered spine by Claudia Cohen. Marbled endpapers. Issued in orange clamshell case with a gilt-lettered spine label.

Edition of twenty-five copies plus six hors de commerce, each signed by the author, printer, and binder. Rare Books copy is XXII.


Barry McCallion
East Hampton, NY: 2015
PR4611 J32 2015 oversize

India ink washes, various collage and drawing elements incorporating metallic gold paper and aluminum foil with text from newspaper type, copied on various papers, each letter cut out and collaged in a myriad of shapes and sized as well as colors. Richard de Bas cream wove paper. Bound by Joelle Webber: hand-sewn yellow colored silk over boards with title on front panel, a reduced reproduction of the title-page. Blue and silver endpapers by St. Armand, terracotta colored guards. Housed in tan linen over boards, clamshell box, title in red reproduced from the title-page with yellow and red reproduction of first page inset on front panel. Signed and dated by the artist.


The Arctic Plants of New York City
James Walsh (b. 1961)
New York City: Granary Books, 2015
N7433.4 W355 A73 2016

From the publisher’s website: “The Arctic Plants of New York City combines personal letters, poetry, prose essays, scholarly research, botanical exploration and artistic investigation, and ranges from the Doctrine of Signatures to the sleep of plants, and from Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Muir on mental travel to Giacomo Leopardi and Charles Baudelaire on the necessity of illusion for art and life. Interspersed throughout the book are a number of two-page spreads that focus on a single plant, such as Common Mugwort, with a mounted botanical specimen of that plant surrounded by texts drawn from earlier writers on botany and set in verse, creating a field of word-objects interacting with plant-objects. The letters that open the book lead into a prose essay that touches on the souls of plants, their use in medicine and as spurs to mental travel, their transience, their migrations, their meaning. A bibliography lists the most essential works from the author’s research and the book concludes with a reproduction of the index from Nicholas Polunin’s Circumpolar Arctic Flora (1959), in which the author has marked in red pen the eighty-eight Arctic plants that occur in New York City. Written, designed, and printed letterpress by James Walsh, with eighteen botanical specimens pressed and mounted by the author. Bound by Daniel Kelm at Wide Awake Garage.” From the colophon: “All the plants were gathered in Brooklyn.” Printed by the author using two Vandercook proof presses at the Center for the Book Arts. Text paper is Somerset Book White, endsheets are Hahnemuhle Ingres Blue Green. Cloth bound in Dover Oxford Black. Edition of forty copies, 34 of which are for sale.

The Great American Read


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Luise Putcamp and Bob Johnson, reading

“It’s up to you how you waste your time and money. I’m staying here to read: life’s too short.”
― Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

Rare Books salutes The Great American Read by inviting you to visit the Special Collections Reading Room on level 4 of the J. Willard Marriott Library to hold first editions of some of the classics included on the 100 list.

Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World

“My hours of leisure I spent in reading the best authors, ancient and modern, being always provided with a good number of books…”

Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus

“My education was neglected, yet I was passionately fond of reading.”

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

“‘…and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice ‘without pictures or conversation?'”

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

“It consisted in a peculiar bird-like turn, a sort of liquid warble, produced by touching the tongue to the roof of the mouth at short intervals in the midst of the music—the reader probably remembers how to do it, if he has ever been a boy.”

The Call of the Wild
Jack London (1876-1916)
London: Heinemann, 1903
First English edition
PS3523 O46 C3 1903b

“But especially he loved to run in the dim twilight of the summer midnights, listening to the subdued and sleepy murmurs of the forest, reading signs and sounds as a man may read a book, and seeking for the mysterious something that called — called, waking or sleeping, at all times, for him to come.”

The Sun Also Rises
Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)
New York: Scribner, 1926
First edition, first issue
PS3515 E37 S9 1926a

“’No; that doesn’t interest me.’
‘That’s because you never read a book about it.’”

The Sun Also Rises was published on October 22, 1926 in a first printing of 5090 copies. A second printing of 2000 copies was issued in November of that same year. By mid-December both printings had sold out. By 1961 the novel had sold more than one million copies.

The first issue of the first printing is noted by these factors: “stopped”, p. 181, line 26 is misspelled “stoppped;” and a quote from Ecclesiastes regarding vanity is on page [viii].

The University of Utah copy has the first issue dust jacket with the error “In Our Times” instead of “In Our Time” on the front panel. This is one of the two most rare and desirable dust jackets in twentieth-century American literature book collecting, the other being the dust jacket from the first issue of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. The dust jacket was printed in gold, black, and tan, with a gold apple on either side of the title and beneath it the figure of a drowsing woman clothed in the style of Greek antiquity. A Pan’s pipe lay near her sandaled foot and another gold apple rested in the palm of her left hand. At the bottom, Hemingway was identified as the author of In Our Times [sic][ and The Torrents of Spring.

Catcher in the Rye
J. D. Salinger
Boston: Little, Brown, 1951
First edition
PS3537 A426 C3 1951

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.”

A twentieth century American classic, Catcher in the Rye was extremely popular at the time of its publication, especially with young readers who strongly identified with the yearning for lost innocence by the novel’s narrator, Holden Caulfield. The novel added to a budding literary, musical, and artistic theme of youthful rebellion.

Catcher, however, raised a gentle voice of protest over growing militant rhetoric. Published after the triumphant yet devastating Second World War and during a pseudo-peace labeled “the Cold War,” youth in the fifties began protesting what they viewed as the failures of the adult world. Anger, contempt, and self-pity were prevalent in many works of the era, but Catcher captured a much more telling view of the era’s stresses with it’s decent but completely and genuinely perplexed teenager.

The book has been banned repeatedly from various school curricula from the time it was published to the present day.

Handmaid’s Tale
Margaret Atwood
Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1986
First American edition
PR9199.3 A8 H3 1986

“On the floor of the room there were books, open face down, this way and that, extravagantly”

The Rare Books staff offers these suggestions for summer reading, based on the criteria The Great American Read used to gather its 100. The five of us each chose five books. From those the editor savagely (as editors do) and without apparent rhyme or reason (and she will never tell) whittled the list down to this, in alphabetical order by author. Copies may be found in the General Collection on level 2 of the J. Willard Marriott Library.

James Agee, A Death in the Family (1957)
Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine (1957)
Adolfo Bioy Casares, The Invention of Morel (1940)
Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White (1859)
Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly (1997)
Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers (1959)
M. M. Kaye, The Far Pavilions (1978)
William Kennedy, Ironweed (1983)
D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928)
Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer (1934)
Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead (1943)
William Saroyan, The Human Comedy (1943)
J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit (1937)
Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle (1963)
Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again (1940)

What do you suggest?

Student Filmmaker Finds Stars in Special Collections


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This past spring, students taking Digital Storytelling, a course taught by Natalie Stillman-Webb, Department of Writing and Rhetoric Studies, worked with Alison Elbrader, Special Collections Reference Librarian. One student, Mickenzie Burns, produced this video, inspired by her visit.

Thank you, Mickenzie!


Coming Soon! KUED’s VERVE, Season 6 — “It’s All About the Book”


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Inspired by PBS’s The Great American Read, beginning May 22, season six of KUED’s VERVE was produced by Ashley Swansong, Digital Media Producer. While working toward her Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Film, Cinema, and Video Studies from the University of Utah, Ashley worked in Special Collections.

We recommend — The Book Restructured: Wire-Edge Binding


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“Everything corresponds. Sweet is easy: happiness. Tanginess is trickier: people going the wrong way and calling it right; the tendency not to complain while harboring envious and covetous feelings. Sourness is things you like and don’t like — woven together. Smokiness is slow vision, seeing gradually the good things in life. What we find distasteful? That’s bitterness.”

Tea: Time in Korea
Greta Sibley
Easthampton, MA: Small Offering Press, 1994
DS904 S53 1994

Text and photographs based on three trips to Sonam Temple, South Cholla Province, Korea. Binding and box designed and produced by Daniel Kelm, Wide Awake Garage. Edition of twenty-five copies. Rare Books copy no. 14, signed by the author and the binder.

“The Book Restructured: Wire-Edge Binding”
A Book Arts Program workshop by Daniel Kelm

June 1 & 2, 2018
Friday & Saturday, 10:00 – 5:00
Book Arts Studio, J. Willard Marriott Library, Level 4

$215, register here

Wire-edge binding utilizes a thin metal wire along the hinging edge of each page. The metal wire is exposed at regular intervals, creating knotting stations where thread attaches one page to the next. The result is a binding that opens exceptionally well and provides the option of producing unusual shapes. This workshop presents various wire-edge structures useful for books, enclosures, and articulated sculpture. Participants produce both a simple codex and an accordion model that forms a tetrahedron. All levels of experience are welcome.

Daniel E. Kelm is a book artist who enjoys expanding the concept of the book. He is known for his innovative structures as well as his traditional work. In the mid-1980s, Daniel invented a style of bookbinding called wire-edge binding in order to explore the nature of the book as articulated sculpture. His expression as an artist emerges from the integration of work in science and the arts. Alchemy is a common theme in his bookwork. Daniel received formal training in chemistry and taught at the University of Minnesota and is known for his extensive knowledge of materials. Daniel teaches widely, and founded the Garage Annex School for Book Arts (GAS) in 1990. Most recently, with long-time collaborator Timothy Ely, Daniel co-delivered a lecture on The Alchemy of the Handmade Book at the Getty Center as a complement to the exhibition The Alchemy of Color in Medieval Manuscripts.

Rare Books is pleased to support the Book Arts Program with its collections.

“Decadence is sophistication severed from genuine feeling.”

Terence K. McKenna (1946-2000)
New York City: Granary Books, 1992
N7433.4 M4285 S95 1992

Drawn and painted images by Timothy Ely. Typography and printing by Philip Gallo at The Hermetic Press. Paper is Rives BFK. Bookbinding by Daniel Kelm and staff, Wide Awake Garage. Edition of seventy five copies, twenty hors commerce. Rare Books copy is no. 47, signed by the author, printer and binder.

“I decide to go down the mountain to get a jar of fig sugar. The houses below feel very flimsy. I am greeted in one, by a cat that chases me barking like a dog back up the hill with an empty peanut butter jar.”

Venus Unbound
Jane Sherry
New York City: Granary Books, 1993
N7433.4 S418 V46 1993

The writer dreams. From the colophon: “The images were printed from metal plates made from the artist’s original paintings then treated with extensive hand-work: gouache, pen & ink, rubber stamps and collage…” Typography and printing by Philip Gallo at The Hermetic Press. Binding designed by Daniel Kelm. Box made by Jill Jevne. Edition of forty-one copies, eleven lettered. Rare Books copy is “A/P 2/2, signed by the author.

“The moon empties of light and is called new.”

Four Chambers, Five Nights
Greta Sibley
Easthampton, MA: Small Offerings Press, 1999
N7433.4 S5453 F68 1999

Text designed and composed by the author. Imagery created by Joseph A. Osina. Letterpress printed by Arthur Larson of Horton Tank Graphics. Binding and folders designed by Daniel E. Kelm at The Wide Awake Garage. Edition of twenty copies. Rare Books copy is no. 14.

— Photographs by Scott Beadles


Book of the Week — Opuscula mathematica


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“…the function of our Art is to put before our eyes…representation of anything which the human mind can split up and divide into a definite number of different parts, not infinitesimally small, which frequently recur in exactly the same form to play a part in that representation.” — Giambattista Bodoni, Manuale tipographica (1818)

Opuscula mathematica
Pietro Giannini (1740-1810)
Parma: Ex Typographia Regia, 1773
First edition
QA3 G43 1773

This scarce mathematical work on hydraulics and geometry was printed by Giambattista Bodoni. Bodoni was born in Saluzzo, Piedmont, Italy in 1740. He died in Parma, Italy in 1813. An engraver, type designer, printer and publisher, Bodoni was invited by the Duke of Parma to set up and run a printshop. In 1779, Bodoni opened his own type foundry. In 1782 Charles II of Spain named Bodoni his court typographer.

Bodoni is still recognized for his roman, Greek, Gothic, Asian and Russian fonts, and lines, borders, symbols, numbers and musical notation. He was the most prolific punchcutter in the history of printing: an inventory of his shop, compiled by his widow, revealed 25,491 punches and 50,283 matrices, each cut by hand. He was friend to kings, ministers and others in power, dubbed by them as “Re dei tipografi, tipografo dei re” (king of typographers, typographer of kings). He basked in popularity, receiving numerous high honors.

This plain edition, with simple yet gracious chapter-heading ornamental devices, is a great example of the beginnings of Bodoni’s signature style: wide margins; clear, solid type; and exquisitely designed and printed mathematical figures all point to Bodoni’s typographical genius.

Oh, yeah. And then there’s the math. Pietro Giannini was a student of Vincenzo Riccati (1707-1775) who urged Giannini to publish Opuscula Mathematica (1773). Opuscula is divided into three parts. In the first part, Giannini studied water falling through a hole. Isaac Newton had addressed this in his Principia, but Giannini’s work is less experimental, more mathematical. Giannini was appointed a professor of mathematics in Seville, Spain.

This edition contains ten engraved folding copper-engraved plates, each with multiple diagrams. It is illustrated with a woodcut device on title-page. Our copy is bound in original wrappers with an old manuscript spine label.

We recommend — Frank Lloyd Wright’s Buffalo Venture


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“Between 1906 and 1909 he designed more than one hundred buildings…But after he initiated an affair with one of his clients, Mamah Borthwick Cheney, he ended up abandoning his family and his practice in 1909. Cheney and Wright traveled to Europe, where the architect produced in 1910 a large portfolio of lithographs entitled Ausgeführte Bauten und Entwürfe von Frank Lloyd Wright [Executed Buildings and Studies by Frank Lloyd Wright] for the German publisher Ernst Wasmuth. That elegant summation of his early architectural production significantly influenced the course of European Modernism…”

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Buffalo Venture: From the Larkin Building to Broadacre City, A Catalogue of Buildings and Projects
Jack Quinan
San Francisco: Pomegranate Communications, Inc., 2012
NA737 W7 Q56 2012, General Collection, Level 2

Rare Books contributed several images to this book.

We invite you to Special Collections to look at:

Ausgeführte Bauten und Entwürfe…
Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959)
Berlin: E. Wasmuth, 1910
NA737 W7 A28

The Wasmuth Portfolio was a collaborative effort between Ernst Wasmuth, a Berlin publisher and Frank Lloyd Wright. It was Wasmuth’s idea to publish a complete folio of Wright’s work to date. The project was completed during Wright’s first trip to Europe in 1909 and published in 1910-11. The collection of Wright’s houses and commercial buildings received far more attention and praise in Europe than in the United States. Contemporary architects called it “the most important book of the century.” The portfolio consists of one hundred and thirty-one prints and overlays with accompanying text in English and German. A letter from Frank Lloyd Wright to Taylor Wooley, dated 1911, suggests that six hundred and fifty copies were produced for this edition.

View a digital copy of our portfolio here.

See an article using our portfolio here.

Book of the Week — Clavis Historia Thuanae


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Clavis historiae thuanae: id est, nomenclature…
Jacques Dupuy (1591-1656)
Ratisponae: Sumtibus J. Z. Seidelii, 1696
Editio altera
D228 T552

Originally published in Geneva in 1634, this revised edition includes the word “Clavis” as the beginning of its title. The title translated into English reads: Nomenclature of Proper Names in the Historical Work of Jacques Auguste de Thou. Thou (1553-1617) was a historian whose fame and acclaim lasted well into the nineteenth century. His “History of His Own Time” (Historiarum sui temporis libri CXXXVIII) was added to the Index of Prohibited Books in 1609 for its humanist bent.

In spite of the ban and the humanism, his work received praise across the Roman Catholic/Protestant spectrum from Spain and Portugal to England and Germany. It was read by the curia it condemned and was a favorite of the Philosophes of the French Enlightenment. Voltaire referred to the “truthful eloquence” of Thou several times in his works. William Pitt quoted Thou, “the great historian of France,” in the early years of the French Revolution, and historian Edward Gibbon referred to Thou as the “authority of my masters.”

Thou was a leading member of Parlement. A Roman Catholic, he nonetheless counted many Protestants as his friends and helped negotiate the Edict of Nantes. He was appointed the Keeper of the Royal Library. His own library contained nearly 6,000 volumes, vast even by the standards of a private library-owning upper class. His “History” appeared in parts between 1604 and 1610. But the work was considered heresy in that it failed to condemn all Protestants outright. For this he fell from royal and papal favor.

The other indexer of Thou’s history was Jacques Dupuy, one of the many archivists and librarians who organized meetings of scholars at Thou’s home and, here, organized his book.

Rare Books copy bound in vellum, using loose leaves from another work. Pages are in double column format.

Ocean of Joy


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“The nucleus of the Joy cell is buoyant and it can transfer invisibly into other cells without realization by the host. This is a most desirous outcome…The presence of other positive cells (Trust, Love, Curiosity, and Work) can greatly influence the production and hardiness of Joy. Exposure to nature is also imperative to the existence of Joy cells. Taking a daily walk is highly recommended.”

Made Up
Ellen Knudson
Gainesville, FL: Crooked Letter Press, 2015
N7433.4 K58 M43 2015

Written, designed, and letterpress printed by Ellen Knudson. Seventeen drum-leaf-bound spreads with eight gate folds in illustrated paper over boards with cloth spine. From the artist’s statement: “[A] non-scientific science book about the imaginary cellular composition of the human body. Fourteen cells are illustrated: Anger, Curiosity, Failure, Fear, Jealousy, Joy, Knowledge, Location, Love, The Past, Success, Talent, Trust, Work. The cell images are…multi-block and reduction linoleum prints with a diagram explaining how each cell operates…imaginary, emotional cellular structures…” Typefaces are Spectrum and Franklin Gothic Condensed. Printed from photopolymer plates onto Mohawk 100# text weight paper. Edition of fifty copies, signed. Rare Books copy is no. 18.

Joyful graduates! Keep on working! Keep on succeeding! Keep on walking!

Book of the Week — The Emigrant’s Guide to Oregon and California


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“Remember, never take no cutoffs and hurry along as fast as you can.” — Virginia Reed

The Emigrant’s Guide to Oregon and California
Lansford Warren Hastings (1819-1870?)
Cincinnati: G. Conclin, 1845
F864 H345

On April 29, 1847 the nearly three month-long rescue of survivors of the now-infamous Donner-Reed Party ended. The last surviving member arrived at Sutter’s Fort more than a year after the original party had departed from Springfield, Illinois. The first of the lost souls, located near Truckee Lake in the Sierra Nevada, had been found on February 18. Dan Rhoads, one of the rescuers wrote, “They were gaunt with famine and I never can forget the horrible ghastly sight they presented. The first woman spoke in a hollow voice very much agitated and said ‘are you men from California or do you come from heaven?'”

To get from Illinois to California, the Donner-Reed party had relied, in part, on a bestselling book called The Emigrant’s Guide to Oregon and California. The author was Lansford Warren Hastings, a young real-estate entrepreneur from Ohio who had financial and political interests in California. Hastings, at age twenty-three, had made a trip west in 1842.

The book had almost no practical advice, in spite of the crowing in its preface of providing “a description of the different routes; and all necessary information relative to the equipment, supplies, and the method of traveling” with the caveat that “all excrescences have been cautiously lopped off, leaving scarcely any thing more than a mere collection of interesting, important and practical facts.”

To make up for the lack of “excrescences,” Hastings regaled the reader with lengthy and snarky anecdotes regarding “Californians,” gamblers and drunks all. “How different are the priests of California from those of the same denomination of christians in our own country?”

In his “guide” he depicted Indians as lazy and Mexicans as dishonest, blaming much of the latter on the priests of the Roman Catholic Church.

“At times, I sympathize with these unfortunate beings, but again, I frequently think, that perhaps, are thus ridden and restrained and if they are thus priest ridden, it is, no doubt, preferable, that they should retain their present riders.

As for Indians, Hastings’ wrote, with no irony, that they “in numerous instances, abandoned their old haunts, and re-established in other portions of the country, but for what cause, it is difficult to ascertain, with any degree of certainty, for the sites which have been thus abandoned, appear in many instances, to possess advantages much superior, to those which have been subsequently selected.”

Hastings’ “little work,” as he called it, was inspirational to those wishing to escape the crowded conditions and poor economy of the east and Midwest. Hastings’ book promoted the land and climate of California as ideal companions for hardworking “Americans.” His book was read by one of the drivers of the Donner family wagons. A copy of the book, owned by Jacob Donner, much-handled, was found in the saddlebag of one of the travelers.

Hastings’ guidebook had bad information and good.

Good: In Chapter XV Hastings discussed “The Equipment, Supplies, and the Method of Traveling.” First, “All persons, designing to travel by this route, should, invariably, equip themselves with a good gun.” (Indians and/or buffalo.) Second, “It would, perhaps, be advisable for emigrants, not to encumber themselves with any other, than those just enumerated; as it is impracticable for them, to take all the luxuries, to which they have been accustomed; and as it is found, by experience, that, when upon this kind of expedition, they are not desired, even by the most devoted epicurean.”

The Reed family brought with them an invalid grandmother, a piano and an iron cookstove.

Bad: Hastings, eager to sell land in California, encouraged travelers to forget about Oregon and make their way to California, suggesting a cutoff through the Wasatch Mountains, passing to the south of the Great Salt Lake and then across the salt flats to rejoin the California Trail at the Humboldt River. Hastings, who had not, in fact, traveled this route, was sure the shortcut would save travelers valuable time. The passage in Hastings’ guidebook was short and carried no description: “The most direct route, for the California emigrants, would be to leave the Oregon route, about two hundred miles east from Fort Hall; thence bearing west southwest to the Salt Lake; and thence continuing down to the bay of San Francisco, by the route just described.”

The Donner-Reed Party, stopping at Fort Bernard, were warned not to take the route. Still, they had been delayed for one reason or another almost from the start and needed to make up time. The shortcut would enable them to do so. A meeting with an emissary of Hastings, on his way back to Ohio, convinced the Donner-Reed Party even more of this need. In a letter, Hastings warned of the war between the United States and Mexico and advised travelers to take his shortcut of about two hundred miles, promising to meet the emigrants at Fort Bridger and to guide them over the deserts and mountains of his new route, crossing what would become the states of Utah and Nevada. It was a convincing proposal. Hastings never met them. The party found another guide to take them as far as the salt plain west of the Great Salt Lake. Again, others warned against taking this route.

At the mouth of the Weber Canyon the Donner party found a note from Hastings, now guiding another group, advising them that the canyon was impassable with wagons and offering to provide them with yet another route. The company waited while James Reed rode ahead to meet Hastings, who refused to act as guide but showed Reed a potential route to follow. No one in the party saw Hastings again, although they heard from him one more time in the form of a wind-ripped note that warned of two days and nights of hard driving across the desert to reach water. The company plodded on, ignoring a sentence buried only pages away from the cutoff passage in the Hasting guide: “…for, unless you pass over the mountains early in the fall, you are very liable to be detained, by impassable mountains of snow, until the next spring, or, perhaps, forever.”

Thank you, Friends of the Library, for your many gifts to Rare Books over the years, including this historic guide.

Recommended reading:
Wallis, Michael. The Best Land Under Heaven: The Donner Party in the Age of Manifest Destiny. New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2017
General Collection, Level 2
F868 N5 W36 2017