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    "A masterpiece of American color-plate publishing" in the original wrappers

    William Birch. The Country Seats of the United States of North America, with some scenes connected with them. Designed and published by W. Birch, Enamel Painter. Springland near Bristol, Pennsylvania: W. Birch, 1808 [i.e. 1809]. First (subscriber's) edition in 4 parts, 3 in original wrappers. Complete with 20 hand-colored engraved plates. Oblong quarto (sheet size approximately 13 x 10.25 inches; 330 x 260 mm). Nos. 1, 3, 4 in original printed wrappers, No. 2 wrappers with title supplied in facsimile in manuscript (likely in a contemporary hand) to wrappers uniform with the others. All four wrappers pricked for stitching, some with professional repairs to verso, some minor chipping but no significant or even moderate losses to wrappers, some wrinkling, minor staining and foxing to wrappers, subscription notice pasted to No. 1 inside rear wrapper, dampstain to No. 2 front wrapper (approximately 4 x 3 inches; 104 x 78 mm), No. 3 bottom of front wrapper reinforced on verso and with small closed tear to lower front wrapper, No. 4 wrapper with ink "C" to top right corner, a few closed tears professionally repaired. Plates and text leaves reinforced and sewn together so binding thread does not touch original sheets.

    Complete with 20 hand-colored engraved plates including engraved title depicting "The Capitol at Washington," section title depicting "The View from Springland," and 18 other views of American estates. Each plate bound with a tissue guard, with some offsetting, as expected. Plates with three holes to left margin, pricked for stitching. Belmont, [Plate 15] in No. 3, is trimmed within the plate mark, window mounted, and the imprint partially effaced, seemingly supplied from the second (or later) edition. With letterpress introduction sheet titled "American Seats" and three letterpress sheets with descriptions of the twenty scenes, printed on rectos only, originally issued with part No. 4, here bound in part No. 1. Plates with watermarks "T G & Co." and "T. Gilpin & Co. / Brandywine" as called for by Snyder, p. 137, footnote 38. Plates clean and bright, with minor instances of foxing and spotting, a few with expert repairs to versos. See extended description for full condition of each plate. Housed in a linen slipcase and chemise with red crushed morocco labels lettered in gilt to spine and front cover of chemise; some minor scuffing and staining. Overall, a near fine copy of this first edition, truly rare American color-plate book in the original wrappers.

    Country Seats is the second color-plate book published by the noted architect and enamel painter, William Birch (1755-1834). A native of England, Birch settled in Philadelphia in 1794 and made the city and surrounding countryside his home until his death forty years later. Celebrated for his Views of Philadelphia published in 1800, his Country Seats publication is perhaps more alluring, and certainly more bucolic than the Views of Philadelphia, although it lacked the commercial success of its predecessor. Martin P. Snyder wrote, "study of the Country Seats will show that the scenery is beautiful, the engraving most carefully and delicately completed, and the coloring in each case beautifully done." William Bennett sagely noted, "Birch's two great books were the two initial masterpieces of American color-plate publishing, and are entitled to the greatest collector esteem." Rare in the truest sense, a subscriber's copy appeared at auction in 2013 but lacked the original wrappers; the last copy in wrappers to appear at auction sold in 2008 but was the second, trade edition. We know of no first edition in wrappers of this title that has ever appeared at auction.

    References: Bennett, p. 15; Howes B-460; Jackson, Encyclopedia of Philadelphia, pp. 293-299; Reese, Stamped with a National Character, 2; Sabin 5331; Snyder, "William Birch: His 'Country Seats of the United States'" in The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 81, No. 3 (Jul., 1957), pp. 225-254.


    More Information: [Plate 1] The Capitol at Washington.
    Near fine. Some minor spotting in margins, outside of plate mark, not affecting image. Small white spot on image to the right of the eagle. Minor chips to sheet, three stitching hole pricks to left margin, expertly repaired on verso.

    [Plate 2] The View from Springland.
    Near fine. Minor spotting to margins outside plate mark, two minor spots within plate mark, not affecting image.

    [Plate 3] Hoboken, in New Jersey, the Seat of Mr. John Stevens.
    Near fine. Minor foxing inside plate mark, not affecting image.

    [Plate 4] Hampton, the Seat of Gen'l. Charles Ridgley, Maryland.
    Near fine. Some minor yellow discoloration to image, mostly obscured by the beautiful hand-coloring. Still a lovely print, near fine.

    [Plate 5] Lansdown, the Seat of the late Wm. Bingham, Esq., Pennsylva.
    Near fine. Spot of foxing in the left margin, outside plate mark. Tear to bottom margin (0.75 inches; 20 mm) professionally repaired on plate verso.

    [Plate 6] Echo, Pennsylva., a place belonging to Mr. D. Bavarage.
    Near fine. Three hole pricks to left margin, another to bottom margin, expertly repaired on verso, neither affecting plate.

    [Plate 7] Mount Vernon, Virginia, the Seat of the late Gen'l G. Washington.
    Very good. Tidemark in left margin into plate mark, another to top margin into plate mark, unobtrusively affecting top of image, expert repairs to verso.

    [Plate 8] Fountain Green, Pennsylva., the Seat of Mr. S. Meeker.
    Very good. Similar tidemark as plate [7] to top margin, unobtrusively affecting plate.

    [Plate 9] Solitude, in Pennsylva., belonging to Mr. Penn.
    Very good. Tidemark to top margin, extending into plate mark and image, visible in the sky, other stains (foxing) to margins, not affecting image.

    [Plate 10] Devon, in Pennsylva., the seat of Mr. Dallas.
    Very good. Some minor spotting and discoloration, primarily to margin but some affecting image. Two spots on image to left of the house, some toning to the sky on the left side. Three stitch pricks to left margin expertly repaired on verso.

    [Plate 11] Mount Sidney, the Seat of Gen'l. John Barker, Pennsylva.
    First edition. Near fine. The first state of the plate with, "a picture of the house surrounded by considerably less in the way of trees and shrubbery than was included in the revised plate supplied in the later trade edition," Synder.

    [Plate 12] The Seat of Mr. Duplantier near New Orleans, & lately occupied as Head Quarters, by Gen'l. J. Wilkinson.
    Near fine. Minor spotting, chipping, closed tears but none affecting image and all outside plate mark, expert repairs to verso.

    [Plate 13] Montibello, the Seat of Gen'l. S. Smith, Maryland.
    Near fine. Minor spotting in margin, bottom right corner repaired.

    [Plate 14] Woodlands, the Seat of Mr. Wm. Hamilton, Pennsylva.
    Near fine. Bottom right corner repaired.

    [Plate 15] Sedgley, the Seat of Mr. Wm. Crammond, Pennsylva.
    Near fine. Bottom right corner repaired.

    [Plate 16] View from Belmont Pennsylva., the Seat of Judge Peters.
    Good. As mentioned above, trimmed within plate mark and window mounted to another sheet, imprint effaced, presumably supplied from the second or even later edition.

    [Plate 17] York-Island, with a View of the Seats of Mr. A. Gracie, Mr. Church, etc.
    Near fine. Some spotting and foxing to sheet but outside plate mark, closed tear to bottom margin not affecting plate mark and expertly repaired on verso.

    [Plate 18] Mendenhall Ferry, Schuylkill, Pennsylvania.
    First issue, near fine. Spelling of ‘Mendinhall' (from ‘Mandinghall') corrected in ink (but should have been corrected to ‘Mendenhall' with ‘a' in ‘hall' corrected to ‘e' instead of the ‘i' corrected to an ‘e'). Some minor spotting outside plate mark, repairs to right bottom corner and margin, both outside of plate mark.

    [Plate 19] China Retreat, Pennsyla., the Seat of Mr. Manigaull.
    Very good. Image toned, small hole in left margin within plate mark, not affecting image.

    [Plate 20] View from the Elysian Bower, Springland, Pennsylva., the residence of Mr. W. Birch.
    Near fine. Right corner expertly repaired, minor spotting, some within plate mark, but not affecting image.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2020
    15th-16th Thursday-Friday
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