Handbook to the new Gold-fields

Af: R. M. Ballantyne



First published in 1858 ‘Handbook to the New Gold-Fields’ is a fascinating guide by prolific author R.M. Ballantyne to the land of California following the initial gold rush there. In it he describes the new gold-fields, the wildlife, and the people of the area – both the American Indians and the workers who had come to seek their fortune from afar. With beautiful and evocative descriptions throughout, this is a fascinating glimpse of California following perhaps one of the most altering periods of its history. R.M. Ballantyne (1825-1894) was a Scottish artist and prolific author of mostly children’s fiction. Born in Edinburgh, Ballantyne was the ninth of ten children. At the age of 16 Ballantyne moved to Canada, where he worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company, travelling all over the country to trade for fur. He returned to Scotland in 1847 following the death of his father, and it was then that he began his literary career in earnest, writing over 100 children’s adventure books over the course of his life. Stories such as ‘The Coral Island’ and ‘The Young Fur Traders’ were hugely popular, and many of them drew on his own experiences of travelling throughout Canada. A stickler for detail, Ballantyne continued to travel widely to research the backgrounds and settings for his exciting stories. His tales became an inspiration for authors of the future, including ‘Treasure Island’ novelist Robert Louis Stevenson. Ballantyne spent the latter period of his life living in London and Italy for the sake of his health. He died in Rome in 1894 at the age of 68.

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