The Great West: A Treasury of Firsthand Accounts, edited by Charles Neider, Da Capo Press, New York, 1997, $22.95 paperback.
The almost 60 accounts and nearly 100 black-and-white illustrations selected by editor Charles Neider fill 457 pages–enough to give the reader a great taste of the Great West. How can you go wrong when your writers include Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, John Charles Frémont, David Crockett, Kit Carson, George Armstrong Custer, William “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Pat Garrett, Washington Irving, Mark Twain, John Muir and Robert Louis Stevenson; and your artists include Frederic Remington, George Catlin and Albert Bierstadt. Many of these accounts will be familiar to hard-core Wild West buffs (Neider says in his introduction that he has not emphasized novelty in his selections), but it’s still nice to have them all in one volume. “I have tried to touch the chief highlights, and those which have stirred the nation’s imagination,” he writes. All of these firsthand accounts involve events west of the Mississippi River. The opening two accounts are by Francisco Vazquez de Coronado (“The Search for the Seven Cities”) and Sebastian Vizcaino (“A Report from Monterey”); the other entries are by 19th-century pathfinders (Part I), heroes and villains (Part II) and observers (Part III). Many of the accounts include editor’s notes that will prove helpful to the general reader.