The Prairie Traveler. A Hand-Book for Overland Expeditions, with Illustrations, and Itineraries of the Principal Routes

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Author: Randolph Barnes Marcy (1812-1887) and Richard Francis Burton

Year: 1859

Publisher: Harper and Brothers Publishers

Place: New York


xiv+340 pages with woodcut frontispiece, text illustrations and folding map. Small octavo (7 1/2" x 5 1/4") bound in original publisher's blind-stamped cloth, spine lettered in gilt. Edited (with notes) by Richard F. Burton. Housed in a custom enclosure. (Wagner-Camp 335:4; Cowan p.414; Graff 2677; Howes M279; Penzer p.69-70; Sabin 44515) First edition.

Randolph B. Marcy was a career soldier (he graduated from West Point in 1832) at a time when the career would be likely to involve exploration. In the 1840s, part of his role was the escorting of emigrant wagon trains through Oklahoma and Texas, and mapping their routes. In 1857, he was involved in the expedition against the Mormons in Utah, leading his men in a forced march through the Rocky Mountains in winter. In 1852, he was commander of an expedition to find the headwaters of the Red River. All this experience meant that he was the ideal author for a book on how to survive in the wilderness. As he says in his preface: A quarter of a century's experience in frontier life, a great portion of which has been occupied in exploring the interior of our continent, and in long marches where I have been thrown exclusively upon my own resources, far beyond the bounds of the populated districts, and where the traveler must vary his expedients to surmount the numerous obstacles which the nature of the country continually reproduces, has shown me under what great disadvantages the voyageur labors for want of a timely initiation into those minor details of prairie-craft, which, however apparently unimportant in the abstract, are sure, upon the plains, to turn the balance of success for or against an enterprise. 

In 1860 Richard Burton went off unexpectedly to the United States, where he traveled by stagecoach to the Mormon capital, Salt Lake City. The resulting volume, City of the Saints (1861), showed that he could write with sophistication about the nature of the Mormon church, compose a vivid portrait of its leader, Brigham Young, and also be dispassionate about the Mormon practice of polygamy, which was then outraging most Americans. Shortly after his return from the United States, he edited the above title by Marcy.


Spine ends lightly chipped, pencil drawing to back end paper, slight crack to front exterior hinge else a very good copy. 

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