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Perspective views, or vues d'optique, are a special type of popular print published in Europe during the eighteenth century. These prints were a form of entertainment meant to be seen through devices called "optical machines," "optiques," "zograscopes" or "peepshows." The prints were exhibited by traveling showmen in the streets throughout Europe and also were collected by those in the professional and upper classes who had the optical machines at home. There was a great curiosity about the appearance of unvisited European cities and exotic locations in the further reaches of the globe, and these prints were one of the only ways the general public could get a look at the wider world. While some of these prints are based on first-hand drawings, others are strictly imaginary or at least untruthful. The artists who etched them usually copied other prints or paintings and were quite unabashed in their willingness to take a beautiful, unnamed harbor from a painting by Claude Lorraine and call it, for example, Rotterdam.
The most characteristic feature of the perspective views is their emphasized linear perspective, done to further intensify the enhanced appearance of depth and illusionistic space in the prints when viewed through an optique. Another attribute of these prints is their bright, often crude hand coloring, applied boldly so to show the tints when viewed by candlelight. The prints usually have a series of colors - blue, pink and yellow are common - crossing in bands from side to side, with bright highlights often including red. These cheerful and colorful images, with their fascinating history and peculiar appearance, make for unusual and appealing eighteenth-century prints.
An early American engraving of Burlington Bay on Lake Champlain from The Port Folio. This was a new type of American magazine, "Devoted to Useful Science, the Liberal Arts, Legitimate Criticism, and Polite Literature." It was a product of the new century, appearing first in January 1801. It began as a weekly issue until 1809, when it became monthly until its demise at the end of 1827. As with the many magazines that followed it, The Port Folio contained numerous illustrations, including this interesting view of Lake Champlain. $175
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Charles Fraser. "Boston." From The Analectic Magazine. Philadelphia: 1817. 3 x 4 5/8. Engraving by Cephas G. Childs. Very good condition.
In 1812, Philadelphia bookseller and publisher Moses Thomas purchased a monthly magazine entitled Select Reviews, engaged Washington Irving as editor, and renamed the publication The Analectic Magazine. Irving, his brother-in-law J. K. Paulding, Gulian C. Verplanck and, later, Thomas Isaac Wharton wrote much of the material, which concentrated on literary reviews, articles on travel and science, biographies of naval heroes, and reprints of selections from British periodicals. Illustration "was one of the magazine's chief distinctions. Not only were there the usual engravings on copper, but some of the earliest magazine experiments in lithography and wood engraving appeared here. The plates were chiefly portraits, though some other subjects were used." (Mott, A History of American Magazines) A handsome view of Boston from a distance. $275
"Veduta di Boston." From Giulio Ferrario's Il Costume Antico e Moderno. Florence, 1828. 2nd edition. 4 1/8 x 6 1/2. Aquatint by Batelli. Original hand color. Some offsetting from text and a few spots in margins. Overall, very good condition.
Giulio Ferrario was founder of the Societá tipografica de' classici italiani and served as the director of the Braidense National Library in Milan. Beginning in 1821, he issued a multi-volume work on the "Ancient and Modern Costumes: The history of the government, the militia, the religion, the arts and sciences, and the customs of all people ancient and modern." This included a number of excellent, rare views of America based on various artists. This image shows Boston across a body of water (the Charles?). In the foreground is a large building from which flies the American flag. The Boston Commons and State House are identifiable and numerous church steeples rise from the clustered buildings. $225
James W. Rutter. "Iron Light House on Minots Ledge Massachusetts Bay." Lithographed by Swett & Powers. Boston, 1851. 18 x 14 1/2 (plus full margins). Contemporary frame. Browned. Framed with archival materials.
When this lighthouse was constructed on iron pilings so that the surf could flow through it as well as around it, the maritime world assumed that it was a new golden age of solidity and thus safety on the New England coast as well as the rest of the United States. It began operations in 1850. On 16 April 1851 a raging storm demolished this lighthouse and killed two assistant keepers. This storm and a combination of damaged lighthouses were the reason that the U.S. Government took over operations of lighthouses by replacing private owners and local municipalities.
Here is a scarce lithograph by a firm with an uncertain identity. Swett & Powers worked from 24 Franklin Street in Boston. Two men named Swett were Francis C. Swett, a plate printer, and Cyrus A. Swett, an engraver. James T. Powers was a lithographer. Ref.: Pierce and Slautterback, Boston Lithography, p. 155. $900
A pair of lovely views of East Rock and West Rock in New Haven. The scenes were drawn by the great New England painter, George H. Durrie, best known for his work with Currier & Ives. The landscapes show impressive, accurate detail, but still exhibit the charm for which Durrie is famous, each containing vignettes of daily life in New England. $2,600
"Lawrence Machine Shop, Lawrence, Mass." Boston: L.H. Bradford & Co., n.d. but early 1850s. Tinted lithograph. 16 x 23 3/4. Some slight browning with a couple of bends and one short tear upper center just touching image. Conserved and with a fine overall impression. Ref.: America on Stone, 105-6. Pierce and Slautterback, Boston Lithography, illus. 81.
A strong and lovely image of the Lawrence Machine Shop factory with surrounding grounds and village. The Lawrence Machine Shop produced locomotives along with other machinery such as stationary steam engines and textile machinery. The scene shown is of an ideal community with orderly and clean multistoried factory buildings abut which citizens stroll through the grounds where workers are loading crates and barrels. Beneath the title is given the dimensions of eight buildings as well as a statement that "many auxiliary buildings and a Rail Road track encircles the yard." Lovely plantings are seen on the grounds and in the outskirts. A detailed image of an early railroad engine and tender is at the right border. Here is an exquisite depiction of a New England factory prior to the American Civil War. Pierce and Slautterback record that this lovely factory employed seven hundred workers in 1853 and 1854, but it went bankrupt during the depression of 1857. $950
Lovely architectural renderings of these important Boston buildings, perhaps for an album or portfolio. The Boston Athenaeum has these prints in a curious book titled Hartshorn's Commercial Tables by John Hartshorn (Boston, 1852) with others by Engel. The Athenaeum also has lithographs by Engel with the lithographed decorative border. See Pierce and Slautterback, Boston Lithography, p. 171 for information on Engel. We find this lithographer absent from the usual sources, such as Peters, Deak, Stark, and Whitehill & Kennedy. Scarce city views.
John B. Bachelder. "Haverhill Mass. From Bradford." From Album of New England Scenery. New York: J.B. Bachelder, 1856. Ca. 10 x 15 3/4. Two tone lithograph by Endicott & Co. Very good condition.
A view of Haverhill from a rare series of attractive views of New England by John Badger Bachelder (1825-1894). This series of twenty two-toned lithographs was issued in 1856. John Bachelder, well known for his historical images of the Civil War, was also a fine landscape painter. He made his drawings on-the-spot, usually from an elevated vantage point just outside of the towns. Bachelder was concerned to present as accurate a picture of his subjects as was possible and his images are both precise and detailed. These prints thus present us with accurate images of these New England towns near the middle of the nineteenth century. The compositions, lithography and fascinating historical detail combine to make these most desirable prints. $650
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"Lake Chocorhua & White Mts." Ca. 1870. Chromolithograph on canvas. Original frame. Very good condition.
An annonymous chromolithograph of Lake Chocorhua and the White Mountains, probably produced in New England. Similar to a Prang print, the leaves are shown in their autumn splender and this is a charming scene. $375
Thomas Hill. "Birthplace of Whittier, The Poet." [Haverhill, Mass.] Boston: L. Prang & Co., ca. 1865. Chromolithograph. 17 x 26. Mounted on original canvas and stretcher and in original wood frame. With some small repairs in image. Overall, very good condition and appearance.
Louis Prang was the most successful American publisher of chromolithographs, producing very high quality prints intended to replicate the appearance and appeal of oil paintings. Produced by using numerous lithographic stones, each printing a separate color, with the ink applied in layers that duplicated the feel of an oil painting. These were issued in attractive frames and without glass, so that a middle class family could hang an impressive looking picture on the wall of their home without the expense of an original painting. There were several levels of quality, with the most elaborate published backed on linen and stretcher, as in the case of this excellent print of the home in Haverhill, Massachusetts, where John Greenleaf Whittier was born on December 17, 1807. American views were particular popular subjects for Prang's chromolithographs and this is one of the larger and better quality prints issued by the firm, evidence of the popularity of the home of this American poet and abolitionist. $850
"Narragansett Bay." Boston: J.H. Bufford, ca. 1870. Chromolithograph. 5 1/4 x 6 3/4 image on 8 3/4 x 10 7/8 decorative backing sheet. Backing sheet somewhat brittle and with some stains and other blemishes. Image, very good.
In the second part of the nineteenth century, a number of publishers, led by Louis Prang, issued chromolithographed prints which were intended to duplicate the appearance of oil paintings. This allowed middle class Americans to be able to hang sophisticated looking art on their homes at affordable prices. This is such a print, issued by John H. Bufford from Boston. It shows sailing ships at night in Narragansett Bay. It is mounted on a backing sheet with decorative border, indicating that this lovely image was clearly intended for framing and display. $165
Steel engravings after American landscape paintings. From the portfolio Gallery of Landscape Painters--American Scenery. New York: G.P. Putnam & Sons, 1872. Folio. Full margins. Uncolored as issued. Fine condition.
The process of steel engraving first made its impact with the small, octavo topographical engravings that appeared in such works as Willis' American Scenery and Hinton's History and Topography, both issued in the first half of the nineteenth century. By the second half of the century, some publishers used this medium to produce more elaborate topographical prints, and amongst the best series of this sort was William Pate's American Scenery. This large portfolio contained medium folio sized steel engravings by various American engravers after the paintings of a number of famous American landscape artists. Not only were the sources of top quality, but the engraving work is excellent, making these some of the finest steel engraved views ever produced.
James M. Hart. "Scene near Farmington, Ct. Autumn." Boston: L. Prang & Co., 1871. Chromolithograph. 9 x 16. Mounted on board with original label. Slight blemish in sky. Otherwise, very good condition. In period frame.
Louis Prang was the most successful American publisher of chromolithographs partly because he had a good sense of what the general public liked. One of the most popular subjects for art was views of American scenes, and this charming image of the landscape near Farmington, Connecticut is a fine example of such a view by Prang. Taken from a painting by James M. Hart, and it is a fine scene of New England in the autumn. $475
"On the Saco River, New Hampshire. Ca. 1870-80. Chromolithograph. 9 x 13 1/4. Mounted on board as issued. Very good condition. In period frame.
Chromolithography was developed by publishers in the later part of the nineteenth century as a medium to produce inexpensive prints that filled the demand for attractive images to hang in homes of those that could not afford original paintings. One of the more popular subject matters for these prints was American views. This charming image shows the Saco River in New Hampshire. $275
Harry Fenn. "Mount Desert, Coast of Maine." From Picturesque America. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1872. Steel engraving by R. Hinshelwood. Very good condition.
A handsome print from Picturesque America. This two volume set and others of its genre were popular during the mid-nineteenth century. Through their ample illustrations they provided a glimpse of nineteenth century America, its towns, cities, rivers, ports, important architecture, and other areas of interest. As stated by Sue Rainey, in her excellent Creating 'Picturesque America', "As the first publication to celebrate the entire continental nation, it enabled Americans, after the trauma of the Civil War, to construct a national self-image based on reconciliation between North and South and incorporation of the West." (p. xiii) This print shows a view of Mount Desert in Maine, a lovely "picturesque" view of this popular spot. $90
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From The Aldine. New York. Wood engravings. ca. 9 x 13.
The Aldine. An American Art Journal (1868-79), was started as a house organ for a New York firm of printers, but became a general magazine devoted to art and typography under the editorship of R.H. Stoddard (1871-75). It was filled with wood engravings based on art by some of the best American artists of the day, including most famously Thomas Moran, after whose work thirty-nine prints were made. Many of these, and images by other artists, featured American landscapes, showing places and buildings of interest.
A photograph of a drawing showing the Nashawannuck Manufacturing Company's mills in Easthampton, Massachusetts. This company, which opened in 1848, was an elastic company, which made suspenders and the like, which was one of the primary businesses in Easthamption through the second half of the nineteenth century. $250
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