Pesten [i.e., Budapest]: Lauffer es Stolp Kiado Könyvkereskedese Tulajdona, . 175pp., plus twelve tinted lithograph plates, including frontispiece. Original cloth boards, spine gilt and stamped in blind. Minor patches of discoloration to boards; spine ends and corners lightly worn; front joint starting at head. Scattered pencil annotations. Minor dampstaining to frontispiece, light foxing and dust soiling throughout. Good plus. Item #1294
The unauthorized, first edition of these letters describing the American West by a Hungarian observer. Janos Xantus had escaped to the United States in 1851 from Hungary, where he had been involved in the tribulations between his own country and Austria in the late 1840s. "Unable to find work in the United States, he joined the Hungarian colony in New Buda, Iowa, which he left a year later with mutual disaffection. In 1855, without job prospects, he became naturalized in order to enlist in the U.S. Army, something he found so demeaning that he assumed a new name until discharged, Louis de Vésey. Xántus’s first post was Fort Riley in Kansas Territory. Assigned hospital duty, he served under Dr. William A. Hammond, close friend of Spencer F. Baird, assistant secretary for the new Smithsonian Institution. Hammond introduced Xántus to Baird by mail, suggesting that Xántus might be a good collector. Thus began a seven-year correspondence between Baird and Xántus." - ANB.
"Letters from North America, dated from 1852 to 1857, describing travels and researches chiefly in the middle western, and southwestern parts of the United States, including visits to San Francisco and Los Angeles, and edited by Stephen Prépost. Vocabularies of the Comanche and Wichita Indian languages are given on pp. 118--122. The tinted lithographs of scenery and Indian life are said to be from drawings made by the author at the time" - Sabin. "The letters which Xantus wrote to his family and later published in the Levelei commenced in Dec. 1852 and are divisible into four periods: Those written from the Great Plains (Dec. 1852 to Jan. 1853); those from New Orleans (March 1853 to June, 1854); those from the Hungarian settlements in Iowa (August 1854 to Feb. 1855); and those from Kansas Territory (Jan. to Sept., 1856)" - Decker. An additional, final section contains letters dated 1857 from Missouri and California.
Quite scarce on the market, with no copy appearing in auction records since the Streeter Sale in 1968, where it brought $100.
ANB (online). Cowan, p.500. Decker 36:463. Eberstadt 135:915. Graff 4784. Howes X1, "aa." Sabin 105715. Streeter Sale 3066. Wagner-Camp 316.