First Laws of California among highlights of Western Americana sale

A first edition copy of The First Laws of California is to headline a sale of Western Americana at Bonhams San Francisco on February 9 with a $120,000-180,000 estimate.

Felipe de Neve (1724-1784), an early governor of California who founded Los Angeles, drew up the document in 1779. It passed the legislature in 1781 and was issued in printed form in 1782.

Laws California Bonhams
Felipe de Neve wrote The First Laws of California

It consists of 15 edicts covering, among other things, defence and the new settlements in the region. It places a cap on the number of missions that could be built, a move that Neve felt necessary to separate church and state.

Very few copies of the first edition have survived to the present day, with this specimen among the finest.

A copy of Miguel Costanso's report on the Portola expedition carries a valuation of $80,000-120,000.

The lot compiles information from the 1769-1770 exploration of the state of California by the Spanish.

Bonhams comments: "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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