Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada. By Clarence King. CLARENCE KING.
Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada. By Clarence King ...

Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada. By Clarence King. Boston: James R. Osgood and Company, late Ticknor & Fields, and Fields, Osgood, & Co., 1872. 20.2x12.8 cm, pp. [1-2: blank] [3-8] [1] 2-292, flyleaves at front and rear, original bevel-edged brown pebbled cloth, front and rear panels ruled in blind, spine panel stamped in gold and blind, t.e.g., brown coated endpapers. First edition, first printing. The first printing is identified by the presence of the JRO monogram on title leaf recto; at base of title leaf verso: "University Press: Welch, Bigelow & Co., / Cambridge;" at base of page 292: "Cambridge: Electrotyped and Printed by Welch, Bigelow, & Co." In 1863, shortly after graduation from the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University, Clarence King (1842-1901) went to California. That year he joined the California Geological Survey as an unpaid volunteer as the result of a chance meeting with William H. Brewer, leader of the survey's field parties. King's experiences in the High Sierra at the head of the Kern, Kings, and San Joaquin rivers in 1864, his field work with the survey in the Yosemite region in 1866, and his 1871 attempt to make the first ascent of Mount Whitney (he climbed Mount Langley in error, but returned to the area in 1873 and successfully ascended the true Mount Whitney) provided material for a series of brilliant literary sketches, seven of which were first published in the Atlantic Monthly during 1871. This material, with minor changes, was combined with additional sketches and published in book form the following year. The "fourth edition" (i.e. fourth printing), published in 1874, added King's account of his ascent of Mount Whitney. King was preeminent among American geologists of his day. He was the field leader of the Fortieth Parallel Survey from 1867 through 1873, the first director of the United States Geological Survey (1879-1880), and later achieved prominence as a mining specialist. Mountaineering in California was well received by the public and was reprinted many times. Some modern readers have criticized King's exaggerated literary style, especially with reference to his mountaineering episodes. However, "If climbers of a later generation fail to find the hazards described by King, they should not too hastily denounce him," cautions Francis P. Farquhar in his preface to the 1935 edition of King's book, "the unknown is always terrifying and King was venturing upon a far more formidable terrain than mountaineers of his day were accustomed to." King's literary accomplishment was summarized by William Dean Howells, foremost American literary critic of the time: "He has brilliantly fixed forever a place of the Great West already vanished from actuality." For an analysis of this Sierra Nevada mountaineering classic see Lawrence Clark Powell, California Classics ... (Los Angeles: The Ward Ritchie Press, [1971]). Also see James M. Shebl, King, of the Mountains (Stockton, Calif.: Pacific Center for Western Historical Studies, University of the Pacific, [1974]), which provides a literary analysis of King's writings with emphasis on Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada, which Shebl ranks with the best of the American travel narratives. Farquhar (1948), title 12. Currey and Kruska 224. Farquhar 12a. Cloth lightly rubbed, front free endpaper and first blank just a bit foxed, a nearly fine copy. Provenance: "Bailey / Utica May 1872" on front flyleaf. A lovely copy. (#166083).

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