News | July 12, 2021

World Record-Breaking Sale of Earliest CA Book at PBA Galleries

Courtesy of PBA Galleries

José Figueroa’s Manifiesto a la Republica Mejicana, 1835.

Berkeley, CA -- Seventy-five choice lots of rare and valuable Americana and cartography drew strong interest to PBA Galleries’ July 8th auction. The sale was highlighted by an amazing record price of $361,500 (including the buyer’s premium) for the first book printed in California, José Figueroa’s Manifiesto a la Republica Mejicana, 1835, the then-governor of California’s defense of his policies and actions in connection with the Hijar and Padrés colonization scheme. Though the scheme and its relation to the secularization of the California mission properties is of great import to historians and scholars, that is overshadowed today by its significance as the first substantial book printed in California, and undoubtedly the most important book produced in California during the Mexican period, printed by California's first printer, Agustin V. Zamorano. For this, the book is rewarded with a prime position in the Zamorano 80, a list of the eighty most important and influential books on California and its history compiled by members of the Los Angeles-based bibliophilic organization, the Zamorano Club, with the list published in 1945. Of the estimated 19 copies of the book extant, only five are believed to be in private hands.

The price achieved at PBA Galleries shattered the previous auction record for the book of $40,250, set by the Plath-Robbins copy sold at PBA in 1996, with two copies selling in 1994 and 2003 for $34,500 each, both at auctions conducted by the late Dorothy Sloan. Indeed, the book also bested itself by a considerable margin – it is the Estelle Doheny copy, previously sold at Christie’s in 1988 for $15,400. The book also set another milestone by a wide mark – the highest price brought at auction for book on the esteemed Zamorano 80 list. Previously held by Lansford Hastings’ The Emigrants' Guide, to Oregon and California, 1845, at $194,500, it was nearly doubled by the Figueroa.

Other highlights from the auction include:

Striking lithograph of Sacramento in 1857

A Birds-Eye View of Sacramento, "The City of the Plain", by George H. Baker, 1857, considered the greatest of gold rush-era lithographs of the city, the central image surrounded by pictorial vignettes. Sold for: $9,600.

Rare account of East Indies & Brazil, 1582

Fernão Lopes de Castenheda’s Conquest of the East Indias, the rare 1582 English edition, with an account of the discovery of Brazil by Cabral. Sold for: $15,600.

Mexico law on Texas colonization, 1823

Mexico’s first colonization decree, from the Junta Nacional Instituyente passed January 3, 1823, approved by Agustin de Iturbide on January 4, and promulgated by Jose Manuel de Herrera, one of the fundamental Mexican laws relating to Texas. Sold for $7,800.

First brand book printed in California

The Northern California and Southern Oregon Stock Directory, by Frank Dean and Wilson Bayly, the first brand book printed in California, published in Alturas, California, in 1888. Sold for $4,500.

Original watercolor of the Panama crossing

Original watercolor by Margaret Van Houton, recording her and her family’s crossing of the Isthmus of Panama circa 1852, a significant work by an early female California artist. Sold for $3,600.

Oakland marsh land map lithographed by G.T. Brown

Rare real estate auction map for an “Important peremptory Credit Sale of Reclaimed Marsh Lands” in Oakland, California, 1875, lithographed by Grafton Tyler Brown, the first African American lithographer in California. Sold for $3,300.