Description

    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. Presentation copy, inscribed by the author in ink on the front free endpaper to Denver physician and public health advocate Frederick J. Bancroft (1834-1903): "Dr. F. J. Bancroft. / With compliments of / the Author [flourish]." Large quarto (approximately 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 purple sand-grain cloth over bevelled boards. Covers decoratively stamped in blind within a triple blind rule border; title embossed in blind against a gilt vignette; bright yellow coated endpapers. The front cover is detached; the rear cover is held by a single thread; the spine has perished; the gatherings are beginning to separate in a few places; front free endpaper, flyleaf, and title leaf held together by glue and detached. Covers faded in places and stained, with some areas of discoloration; boards exposed at corners and edges, with cloth fraying. Front free endpaper with a few small stains and ink offset; lower corner chipped away; and with a vertical crease. Paper browned slightly, especially at the edges, and becoming brittle; a few edge and corner chips; offsetting from plates to text; mostly faint dampstaining in the lower margin throughout; a few additional marginal stains or smudges. Piece torn from outer margin of Appendix leaf (measuring approximately 3.125 x 1 inch). An excellent candidate for rebinding, with the lithographs generally very clean.

    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-the 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).

    Denver physician and public health advocate Frederick J. Bancroft (1834-1903) was a surgeon during the Civil War before he settled in Colorado, where he was considered to be "one of the most prominent physicians," according to a San Francisco Chronicle obituary. In the late 1870s, he and the Denver Medical Association created the public health system for Denver, Colorado, to improve the health of its citizens. In 1876, Bancroft became the first president of Colorado's State Board of Health. He became Colorado Medical Society president in 1880. Bancroft was a founder and professor of the University of Denver and Colorado Seminary Medical Department in 1881. Bancroft advocated for public health measures to prevent the spread of communicable diseases and licensing prostitutes to reduce the prevalence of syphilis. He was concerned about the public health issues due to a lack of sewage systems, regulation of the distance between outhouses and wells, disposal of human and animal refuse in the streets and rivers, and the extent to which animals roamed through Denver city streets. It was not until a major flood in 1878 triggered an epidemic that construction of the city's sewer system began. Bancroft, who also believed in the importance of pasteurized milk, operated a dairy farm in the Bancroft community, which became part of Lakewood in 1969. He wrote about climatology, and how certain diseases were affected by climate, garnering national attention. He was a founder and the first president of the State Historical and National History Society of Colorado, now called History Colorado. Colorado's Mount Bancroft is named for him (see Wikipedia).

    "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" Signed A. E. Mathews Del. & Lith., N. Y.
    "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" Signed A. E. Mathews Del. & Lith., N. Y.
    "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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