HOLLEY, Mary Austin (1784-1846). Texas. Observations, Historical, Geographical and Descriptive, In a Series of Letters, Written During a Visit to Austin's Colony

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HOLLEY, Mary Austin (1784-1846). Texas. Observations, Historical, Geographical and Descriptive, In a Series of Letters, Written During a Visit to Austin's Colony...Baltimore: Armstrong & Plaskitt, 1833.


12mo., (7 2/8 x 4 3/8 inches). Copyright notice on a small slip affixed to verso of title-page, as in some copies. Folding engraved map of Texas and Coahila (11 3/8 x 14 inches) by W. Hooker (occasionally heavy spotting). Original blue cloth, upper cover with title "TEXAS" gilt-stamped within a decorative cartouche (slightly rubbed); modern quarter blue morocco slipcase and chemise.

Provenance: Contemporary ownership inscription of "Tompkins" on front paste-down; bookplate of C.B. Sanders M.D. on front paste-down.


The work is an epistolary account of the author's journey in the fall of 1831 from the mouth of the Brazos to Bolivar, where her brother Henry had founded a new settlement.

Holley's enthusiastic account of the new promised land of Texas, dedicated to her cousin Stephen Fuller Austin and possibly written with Austin's help, was published with the intention of assisting her cousin in attracting new settlers. At this she succeeded, thanks to the extraordinary abilities of her remarkable cousin, assisted by economic conditions which attracted hordes of emigrants to the new territory. Though rife with superlatives on the subject of Texas ("a tract of surpassing beauty"), Holley's prose is delightful and her account full of interest for the modern reader. Noteworthy to the modern reader is Holley's awareness of the appeal of a feminine perspective: her introduction concludes with a tribute to "emigrant mothers, on whom the comfort of every family, and the general well-being of the infant colony, so much depends", for whom she hopes that "a journal in detail, of one of themselves, would furnish more hints for the judicious arrangements of the voyage... than could be gathered from the more abstract and general views of gentleman travelers" (p.15).

Holley and Austin had hoped to use Austin's original map, published by the Philadelphia map publisher H. S. Tanner, for the book, but Tanner refused, and they were obliged to make use of another map based on Austin's sources, by the engraver William Hooker. Hooker's map covers the area extending from just east of New Orleans to about a degree west of Santa Fe, and from just south of the mouth of the Rio Grande northwards to just north of the 38th parallel, above the big bend of the Arkansas River. It is of one of the earliest maps of Texas to show the entire territory, including the Panhandle, and one of the first to identify the vast land grants awarded to the earliest settlers. An earlier state of the map, without imprint and with some slight variations in the land grant names, had been issued by Hooker separately, and a later state appeared in an anonymous 1834 tract titled A Visit to Texas (Streeter, Bibliography of Texas, 1155). Three issues or states of the book are recorded, with no priority established, one without copyright notice and the others with the copyright notice on either a pasted-in slip or printed directly on the title verso; this copy is form the latter issue (Jenkins' issue B). Copies of the first edition are scarce, and almost never found in the impeccable condition of the present copy, preserved in its original binding, and with the map in pristine condition. Sabin 32528; Streeter, Bibliography 1135; Jenkins, Basic Texas Books 93; Graff 1924; Howes H593.

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