Rare first separate edition of this journal by a Donner Party survivor, edited by a member of the rescue party, one of only 65 copies signed by the publisher.
Very good plus.
THRILLING AND TRAGIC ACCOUNT OF A PERILOUS JOURNEY OVERLAND TO CALIFORNIA
"Mrs. Murphy said here, yesterday, that she would commence on Milton and eat him; I do not think she has done so yet; it is distressing."
The diary of Patrick Breen is the only known journal kept by a member of the Donner Party through the harrowing winter of 1846-47. The Donner-Reed wagon train set out from the Midwest for California in the spring of 1846; by autumn, following a series of deeply unfortunate events, the party was suffering from exhaustion and lack of food, divided into splinter groups by disagreements and internal tensions, and had already lost two members to tuberculosis and another to James Reed's temper and knife. Reed was expelled from camp, eventually reaching Sutter's Fort in late October, but no successful rescue party would find the survivors until February of 1947. Patrick Breen and his family were among the men, women, and children trapped by early snows, unable to navigate the pass and without external sources of food supplies for the four months of their trials. Much of the gruesome trivia of Donner Party legend comes from other survivors' letters and recollections written some time after the fact; only the terse stoicism of Breen's account renders its immediacy bearable.
Patrick Breen's original manuscript diary passed into the hands of rescuer George McKinstry in the spring of 1847 and is now held by the Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley, where a tipped-in note from McKinstry confirms that "The annexed Diary was kept by Patrick Breen." This diary was the basis for McKinstry's abridged and emended text, first published in the ST. LOUIS REVEILLE, THE DOLLAR NEWSPAPER, and THE CALIFORNIA STAR in 1847 and reproduced here by Bieber; a faithful transcription of Breen's text was not published until Frederick Teggart's scholarly edition of 1910. This broadside provides ample evidence of the "flagrant editorial alterations" described by the Breen diary's archivist: in the course of adjusting Breen's words for public viewing, McKinstry shortens entries and smoothes his diction.
Patrick Breen, his wife Margaret Breen, and all of their seven children survived the disastrous winter recorded here, arriving safely at Sutter's Fort, California in March of 1847. His youngest daughter, Isabella, lived to be the last surviving member of the Donner Party.
Published by noted bibliophile and dealer Albert A. Bieber (1888-1974), whose collection of poetry eventually was placed en bloc at the University of Texas, this publication can be dated by his address listed in this publication, which tracks to contemporary ads to around 1917. An important document and unusual publication in this tragic story that has gone on to become a quintessentially American legend.
Read more: Kristin Johnson, "Unfortunate Emigrants": Narratives of the Donner Party; Glen Dawson, Californiana, 373; Online Archive of California, Finding Aid to Patrick Breen Diary.
(New York): (Albert A. Bieber), [circa 1917]. Full title: Thrilling and tragic account of a perilous journey overland to California, in the years of 1846-47 by George McKinstry Jr. (a member of the ill-fated party.) Thrilling and tragic journal written by George McKinstry, Jr. while on a journey overland to California, in 1846-47. Including an account of the death of many of the party, the last three who died, being eaten by the survivors. 4.25'' x 7''. Original letterpress folding pink paper broadside. In publisher's original cloth portfolio with printed paper label. Edition of 65 copies signed by the publisher (Bieber) at colophon, which reads: "NOTICE: This narrative Journal is a perfect copy in text, the title has been put together by myself. Genuine First Edition Copy, Albert A. Bieber" followed by Bieber's NYC address. Foot of broadside also notes "First Separate Edition / Privately published by Albert A. Bieber, (65 signed copies only) / West Hoboken, N.J. — C. Reining, Printer." Shallow chipping to lower edge beneath publisher's signature; small closed tears at folds. Light ink spotting to verso. Mild wear to cloth.
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