Houston: Gray, Dillaye & Co., 1909. viii, 230pp. Modern half black morocco and black cloth, spine gilt, preserving original gilt cloth label on front cover reading, "A.C. Gray." Title page a bit chipped, diagonal crease in first few text leaves, moderate even toning to text. Very good. Item #2420
The printer's copy of one of the most desirable books on the history of Texas, being the diary of early Texas land agent, soldier, and legislator William Fairfax Gray, which was privately printed by his younger son, Allen Charles "A.C." Gray. A.C. Gray also wrote the preface; it is believed he printed fewer than 200 copies "for the benefit of his descendants, and possibly for the use of the future historian." The present copy emanates from the Gray family, and was recently re-bound, but retains A.C. Gray's original label on the front cover. The work itself was praised by legendary Texas bookseller John Jenkins as "the best account of events in Texas during the revolution written as they occurred.... The only extensive diary written by an outsider to have survived.... [and] One of the best and most unbiased records of the turmoil in Texas during its most important winter and spring."
Gray's diary begins in Virginia in October 1835 and reports continuously on events in Texas through June 26, 1836; the later portion of the diary runs from January 17 to April 8, 1837. Gray stayed with Stephen F. Austin in New Orleans, speculated in Texas land to help finance the Revolution, and eventually traveled to Nacogdoches where he voted in the election of delegates to the Convention of 1836. During this time, he was entrusted to carry the letters from Stephen F. Austin to Sam Houston warning of the approach of Santa Anna's forces. His reporting on the subsequent Convention at Washington-on-the-Brazos remains a vital record of the activities involved in the negotiation, writing, and signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence.
Gray also provides the earliest written account of the fall of the Alamo, which he took down immediately after hearing it from William B. Travis's slave, Joe. He stayed for a brief time on the plantation of Texas Vice President Lorenzo de Zavala, recording the activities of the nascent Texas Navy before participating in the Runaway Scrape back to New Orleans. As Jenkins writes, perhaps Gray's greatest contribution to history was in "his character analyses of the leading Texans." He describes Austin as "a sensible and unpretending businessman" and Houston as "evidently the people's man, and seems to take pains to ingratiate himself with everybody. He is much broken in appearance, but still has a fine person and courtly manners." Gray also had an unvarnished opinion of Texans overall when he writes of them: "Rude hospitality and unaffected kindness are the characteristics of the old settlers that I met with.... The new race are adventurers, sharpers, and many of them blacklegs." He called the Texans he observed meeting in the Convention on Sunday as "a most ungodly people."
"William Fairfax Gray, soldier, lawyer, and author, was born in Fairfax County, Virginia, on November 3, 1787.... In 1835 as land agent for Thomas Green and Albert T. Burnley of Washington, D.C., Gray visited Mississippi and Texas. Upon arriving in Texas he attended the Convention of 1836 at Washington-on-the-Brazos and attempted to obtain the position of secretary. He failed in this, but in his diary (published in 1909 under the title of From Virginia to Texas, 1835) he kept a faithful record of the convention's proceedings, in some cases more complete than the official journal. During the Runaway Scrape he obtained a passport and returned to Virginia. In 1837 he moved his family to Texas and settled in Houston. In addition to practicing law, he served as clerk of the Texas House of Representatives from May 2 to September 26, 1837, and as secretary of the Senate from April 9 to May 24, 1838. On May 13, 1840, Gray was appointed district attorney. Upon the establishment of the Texas Supreme Court, he was named clerk.... Gray died in Houston on April 16, 1841, and was buried in the Old City Cemetery, now Founders Memorial Park” – Handbook of Texas Online.
The printer, Allen Charles "A.C." Gray, was the brother of Texas politician Peter W. Gray (who founded the famous Baker, Botts law firm in Houston) and the younger son of the present author, William Fairfax Gray. A.C. Gray worked for a time as the official printer of Texas in the 1870s, and printed the present work when he was eighty years old. He was also considered the first historian of Texas printing history, contributing "History of the Texas Press" to Dudley G. Wooten's Comprehensive History of Texas in 1898. Gray's publishing house operated from 1865 until 1959, well after his death.
The last copy of the present work to appear at auction sold for $7,475 at Dorothy Sloan in 1998. The Eberstadts sold a copy for $300 in their famous Texas catalogue in 1963. We are not aware of any other copies in the trade since the Sloan sale. Also, the few copies which have entered the market over the years have been bound in printed wrappers; the present copy was bound in simple black cloth with Gray's gilt label before it was re-bound recently.
Basic Texas Books 79. Howes G341, "aa." Clark III:171. Eberstadt 162:353.