Description

    "Among the First [Publically Available]
    True Representations..."

    Alfred E. Mathews. Gems of Rocky Mountain Scenery, Containing Views Along and Near the Union Pacific Railroad. New-York: Published by the Author, 1869. First edition. Large quarto (13 x 10.125 inches; 330 x 258 mm.). [23] leaves, including title leaf, "Introductory" leaf, "Appendix" leaf, and twenty leaves of descriptive text. Twenty tinted lithographic plates of views of Colorado (twelve), Idaho (two), Montana (two), and Utah (four). Each plate with leaf of descriptive letterpress. The text to accompany the plates is printed on the versos of the leaves facing the plates. "Press of J. Adnah Sackett, 48 John Street, New-York" (verso of title-page).

    Original dark green sand-grain cloth over bevelled boards. Covers decoratively panelled in blind; front cover stamped with gilt vignette enclosing title in green reverse. Bright yellow coated endpapers. Binding rubbed and scuffed in places; covers darkened somewhat at the edges; cloth blistering around title vignette; a few small spots and stains; front joint inexpertly repaired. Front hinge repaired with cloth tape; rear hinge starting; front free endpaper reinserted, with tape at foot. Preliminary blank and title leaf detached; text leaves browned slightly and becoming brittle, with some chipping at edges; small portion of lower corner of title leaf chipped away (the piece present and laid in); offsetting from lithographs to adjacent text leaves; offset from an ink inscription (no longer present) on verso of front flyleaf. Faint dampstain in the lower blank margin of the last five plates, quite small on the first affected plate and becoming larger on the last plate; occasional additional minor marginal soiling. A very good copy of this scarce and fragile book.

    Eberstadt 106:207; Graff 2708; Howes M411; Sabin 46823; Streeter 2109 ("Mathew's famous lithographs were among the first true representations of the Rocky Mountains to be made available to the public").


    More Information:

    "The Lithographs embodied in this work are selections from a series of sketches made by the artist while sojourning in Colorado, Idaho, Montana and Utah, from the fall of 1865 to the winter of 1868. During this time he made many excursions of more or less duration, from Denver in Colorado, Helena and Virginia City in Montana, and Salt Lake City in Utah; the entire distance accomplished being about 6,000 miles...These expeditions were performed, excepting during one summer, entirely alone, and principally with ponies; but on two or three occasions on snow-shoes and in a small boat. One pony was used for riding-the other carried a small, light tent, bedding and provisions. Equipped in this way the artist was prepared to camp wherever and whenever so inclined-he tent being a perfect security against wild animals at night [!]. The pictures represent actual localities; and as they have been drawn on stone from the sketches by the artist himself, have lost none of their original truthfulness" (Mathews in his "Introductory" notice).

    "The last of the pictorial books for which Mathews is best known is Gems of Rocky Mountain Scenery...[It] was again solely the work of Mathews. He was the artist, lithographer and publisher. Its publication date was almost coincident with the celebration of the joining of the rails of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads. It may be that Mathews had this fact in mind when he published the book, for its title page states that it contained 'views along and near the Union Pacific Railroad'...Mathews was neither a skillful draftsman nor lithographer and his defects became all too apparent in his purely landscape work. It was the only one of his works to receive severe contemporary criticism...If the sketches in Gems of Rocky Mountain Scenery are not as good pictorial history as are some of the other records of Mathews, the book does furnish in its introduction an excellent description of Mathews' method of work and of the loving labor which he expended in collecting and making his sketches" (Robert Taft, Artists and Illustrators of the Old West, 1850-1900, pages 81-83).

    "Born in England in 1831, Mathews [1831-1874] came to America as an infant and grew up in Rochester, Ohio. He learned typesetting at his brother's newspaper shop, but by the time he was twenty-five he was earning his living as an itinerant book agent. He supplemented his income by selling drawings of the places he visited. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Mathews left his job teaching school in Alabama and made his way north to enlist in the Union Army. His artistic skills matured during his military service, when he drew at least thirty-eight scenes of battles or military camps that were lithographed...After his discharge from military service in 1864, Mathews prepared a large painted panorama showing Civil War battle scenes. A year later he was in Nebraska City, Nebraska, where he did a series of four lithographic views...The Mathews views provide an important graphic record of what was then the major jumping-off point for the West. Late in 1865, Mathews arrived in Denver, Colorado, and almost immediately embarked on an ambitious project to produce a uniform series of views of Denver and the major mining communities in the Colorado Rockies. In March 1866, he distributed the first four prints: a general view of Denver and three street scenes of the city. Four others arrived several weeks later from his New York City printer, Julius Bien. All of these must have been sold as separate prints, but in October they and others became available in bound form [as Pencil Sketches of Colorado, its Cities, Principal Towns and Mountain Scenery]...Mathews drew with almost mechanical regularity, and in examining his work one is always aware of looking at lines on paper rather than at the scene itself...Nevertheless, although far from great as art, the views provide valuable documentation of the appearance of Colorado communities less than a decade after they sprang into existence following the first gold discoveries in 1859. Mining activity in Montana offered new subjects for Mathews, and in 1867 he toured parts of the territory sketching for similar series of lithographs. They appeared in Pencil Sketches of Montana in 1868...In 1868 Mathews completed another panorama-apparently a continuous painting of western scenery-which he used for lectures and exhibits. He sold this in 1869, the year in which he issued yet another pictorial work, Gems of Rocky Mountain Scenery...Eventually he turned once again to city views, spending the winter of 1872-1873 sketching in Southern California" (John William Reps, Views and Viewmakers of Urban America (1985), pages 190-191).

    The plates are titled:
    Colorado:
    "The Eastern Slope, Near Denver"
    "Bear Canyon"
    "The Sierra Madre Range"
    "Clear Creek Canyon"
    "The Chief, Squaw and Papoose"
    "Chicago Lakes"
    "The Old Mountaineer"
    "Gray's Peak"
    "Buffalo Mountain"
    "Turkey Creek Canyon"
    "Exit of the South Platte from the Mountains"
    "Natural Monuments"
    Idaho:
    "A Mirage on the Plains"
    "The Three Tetons"
    Montana:
    "Exit of the Yellowstone from the Mountains"
    "Citadel Rock"
    Utah:
    "Church Buttes"
    "Echo Canyon"
    "Weber Canyon [Looking Down]"
    "Weber Canyon [Looking Up]"



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