De Neve's First Laws achieve $197,000 in San Francisco sale

A first edition copy of Felipe de Neve's First Laws of California has sold for $197,000 at Bonhams San Francisco, an increase of 9.4% on an $180,000 estimate.

De Neve (1724-1784) was the first governor of California and was key in facilitating the founding of Los Angeles in 1781. This set of early laws dates to around the same time.

Laws California Bonhams
The First Laws of California date back to the founding of Los Angeles

Published in 1782, the 15 edicts cover issues including defence, and the ordinances on the establishment of new townships.

The number of missions was capped, a move de Neve felt was necessary to ensure the separation of church and state in this new territory.

The lot is among the best of a handful of surviving copies.

A rare copy of Miguel Costanso's report on the Portolo exhibition (a Spanish survey of California carried out from 1769-1770) proved another highlight, pulling in $125,000.

Bonhams explained prior to the sale: "It is believed that the work was suppressed by the Spanish government immediately upon its appearance, as it contained certain information that might be of use to navigators of other nationalities, and Spain distrusted England.

"Subsequently a manuscript copy was translated into English by William Reveley, and published in London in 1790. A copy of each of these works is known to be in this state—probably the rarest of all Californiana".

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