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2007 Catalog > 23. Johnston, Reports and Reconnaissances of the West.

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An Important Color-Plate Book on Explorations in Texas and New Mexico
featuring illustrations of Anasazi, Zuñi, and Pueblo Indian culture from the Simpson report

23. Joseph E. Johnston et al. Reports of the Secretary of War, with Reconnaissances of Routes from San Antonio to El Paso (Washington, D. C.: Senate Ex. Doc. No. 64, 31st Cong., 1st Sess., 1850). First edition. 8vo. 250 pp. Two large folding maps: (1) “Reconnoissances of Routes from San Antonio de Bexar to El Paso del Norte” (Philadelphia: P. S. Duval, 1849; 26 x 36 1/2"; short tear at binding tab, small taped area of loss in u. l. quadrant; overall excellent) and (2) “Map of the Route Pursued in 1849 by the U.S. Troops Under the Command of Bvt. Lieut. Col. Jno. M Washington, Governor of New Mexico, in an Expedition Against the Navajos Indians” (Philadelphia: P. S. Duval, 1849; 20 1/4 x 27 1/2" at neat line; short tear at binding tab; overall excellent). 72 lithographed plates (many colored or tinted, some folding; plates numbered to 75, but nos. 2, 21, and 39 were not issued). Original blind-stamped cloth with title in gilt on spine. Contemporary owner’s inscription in ink on front free endpaper. Some page darkening and occasional foxing; light damp stain in bottom corner affects a section of pages; cover worn in places but in acceptable condition. Overall, a very good to excellent example of a seminal title.

Price: SOLD.

This outstanding and beautifully illustrated government document is a compendium of reports by officers of the Topographical Engineers who were assigned two immense tasks: filling in the many blank spots of “unexplored” areas on the map of the West following the acquisition of the Southwest and California from Mexico and finding the quickest route to California after gold was discovered in 1848–49. The reports in this anthology present the results of their surveying expeditions throughout the Southwest and West. Several reports stand out.

Through the explorations of Johnston and his officers in West Texas and New Mexico, a southern route to California was determined, as well as a likely route for the new transcontinental railway. The route became the main passageway for soldiers, settlers, and gold miners heading west, in the process opening up West Texas to settlement. A number of the reports in the book recount these explorations and the first of the two folding maps details the route.


The Simpson report is important as one of the first thorough surveys in New Mexico. It also presents a remarkably complete and accurate narrative of exploration in the country of the Zuñi and Pueblo Indians. Related to it are many handsome plates and the second of the two maps. Simpson was accompanied by the artist Richard Kern, who drew illustrations that constitute some of the earliest views of the Pueblo Indians and their heritage. Perhaps most significantly, Simpson explored Chaco Canyon, which was, as Goetzmann writes, “one of the most important archaeological finds made in America up to that time. . . . Simpson included in his report his own idea of the vanished inhabitants of the pueblos. . . . Of great value were R. H. Kern’s diagrams and sketches of the ruins, which, besides indicating their dimensions, placed them in their proper setting in the landscape and indicated their state of preservation in 1849.”


Mixing chromolithographs, hand-colored lithographs, and uncolored lithographs, the Simpson report brought to its largely East Coast audience their first glimpse of the anthropological and physical wonders of the Southwest—portraits of tribal leaders and images of Indian dances, archaeological ruins, pottery shards, and petroglyphs—all topics of “consuming interest for American artists ever since,” as Reese notes. The Simpson reconnaissance, he writes, “was among the earliest of government-sponsored explorations in the American West to be extensively illustrated with color plates.”

A significant government document for historical, cartographic, artistic, and cultural reasons, the book is intact with all maps and plates and is in very good condition for a publication of its type.

Refs.: Basic Texas Books, 111; Bennett, American Nineteenth Century Color Plate Books, p. 63; Goetzmann, Army Exploration in the American West, pp. 239–242; Reese, Stamped with a National Character, no. 29; Schwartz and Ehrenberg, The Mapping of America, p. 279; Wagner-Camp, no. 184; Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West, vol. III, no. 677.

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