• <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Announcing the Fall 2016 Auction Season
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 1:</b> Autographs
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 18:</b> Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 10:</b> 19th & 20th Century Literature
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 8:</b> Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Colored Plate Books
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  • <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. Sept. 21, 2016</b>
    <b>Bonhams Sept. 21:</b> WARREN, JOSEPH. Letter Signed ("Jos Warren") as Chairman of the Committee of Safety. Cambridge, MA, June 4, 1775.
    <b>Bonhams Sept. 21:</b> WHITMAN, WALT. Leaves of Grass. Brooklyn, NY: [for the Author], 1855.
    <b>Bonhams Sept. 21:</b> JEFFERSON, THOMAS. Printed Broadside Signed ("Th: Jefferson") as Secretary of State. Philadelphia, February 12, 1793.
    <b>Bonhams Sept. 21:</b> CELLINI, BENVENUTO. 1500-1571. Autograph Letter Signed ("Beto. Cellini"). [Florence, c.1566].
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. Sept. 21, 2016</b>
    <b>Bonhams Sept. 21:</b> NAPOLEON BONAPARTE. Autograph Manuscript. [c.1795].
    <b>Bonhams Sept. 21:</b> DICKENS, CHARLES. Great Expectations. London: Chapman and Hall, 1861.
    <b>Bonhams Sept. 21:</b> REED, JOHN. To the Honourable House of Representatives of the Freemen of Pennsylvania this Map of the City and Liberties of Phiadelphia With the Catalog of Purchasers is Humbly Dedicated.... [Philadelphia]: engraved by James Smit
    <b>Bonhams Sept. 21:</b> ELIOT, THOMAS STEARNS. The Waste Land. New York: Boni and Liveright, 1922.

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2010 Issue

Frederick Copley: the passing glance

Newburgh

Newburgh Bay. October 27, 1849


In that era watercolors are an ascendant medium. Several attempts at organizing watercolor societies had taken place in New York in the 1820's and in the 1850's The American Society of Painters in Water Colors takes hold, in a few years to become The American Watercolor Society that continues today. Serious and amateur artists, in the era, are painting in water color, often in a style that begins as an extension of drafting and evolves into more artful and free expression as the decades progress. The first half of the 19th century, it turns out, is the moment when watercolor becomes established in America. Toward the end of era, in the last moments of pre-industrial America, Frederick Copley, perhaps to develop the artful hand he'll need to be a hydrographer in the family business, begins to gather the evidence that today convey clear impressions of many out-of-the-way places, some of which have since declined, a few that prospered, others that simply aged. Better artists painted better pictures. Few painted so many pictures of so many places in New York and New England during this formative period. For this reason the material is unique, possibly important, certainly useful. In many cases his watercolors and sketches are the only visual records we have of these places in that period.

As to the portfolio this is the way many painters kept water colors, often retaining them for decades. It simply mattered more to them than it did to others and such material was not yet collected by institutions. That day would, for the early leading lights, come early, even in their lifetimes during the second half of the 19th century. For Frederick Copley and others who painted without recognition it would be left to generations hence to decide if the perspective and art warrant assessment. For Mr. Copley, these many years his work lost to view, that moment arrives. What he saw on summer days we now see as history.

For each drawing there must have been a ritual, packing them up for the trip on or home. In time what were random efforts became a collection, a personal history of youth and travel. That is what we have today, a window, his window on a passing moment.

Leaf through his watercolors to see what he saw: an America on the verge. To paraphrase John Adams, "Copley lives."

About his work

Written in an elegant hand on the back of watercolors mounted in a folio volume is the name Frederick S. Copley, the oldest examples dating to 1847. These images, 150 watercolors and 30 pencil sketches, range from discarded studies to detailed images, 3" by 5" to 9" by 12." More than sixty are large, most of the others about 5" by 8". The sizes are uneven, the sheets of apparently hand cut.

Mr. Copley, long forgotten if ever known beyond a close circle, emerges through his watercolors as fresh perspective on an extraordinary moment in the history of the Hudson Valley, New York and New England: the years 1848 to 1852: America in the embrace of the industrial revolution and incipient social upheaval. In these few years he captured the details of daily life, busy river settings, villages and towns, boats, horses, canals and people - then the pedestrian that today has become historical perspective. Mr. Copley's America is one of youth and expectation, a nation of farmers soon to become a country of burgeoning towns and cities.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop.</b> (DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION, Chicago, 1968). <i>Collection of papers of John M. Bailey, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, concerning the convention</i>. Various places, 1968.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> (ARMSTRONG, NEIL.) VERNE, JULES. <i>A Trip to the Moon.</i> New York: F. M. Lupton, September 9, 1893. Signed by Neil Armstrong, first man to walk on the moon.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> KEY, FRANCIS SCOTT. <i>A Celebrated Patriotic Song, the Star Spangled Banner.</i> 1814.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> [COLUMBUS, CHRISTOPHER, Amerigo Vespucci ..] Bernardus Albingaunensis .. Dialogo nuperrime edito Genue in 1512.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> (WATKINS, TABER &c.). <i>An album of 32 photographs of the Yosemite and American West Various places</i>, c. 1890s
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> (BATTLE OF CONCORD.) <i>Powder horn used by Minuteman Oliver Buttrick at the Battle of Concord</i>, April 19, 1775.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> (CIVIL WAR.) <i>An Extraordinary Confederate Photograph and Autograph Album of Dr. R. L. C. White</i>, 125 original mounted salt prints. 1859-61.
  • <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Leaves from<br>George Washington's Own Draft <br>of His first Inaugural Address. An Extraordinary Rarity!
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Declaration of Independence: Benjamin Tyler 1818 - First Print with Facsimile Signatures.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Thomas Jefferson Signed Act of Contress Authorizing Alexander Hamilton to Complete Famous Portland Maine Lighthouse.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Emanuel Leutze. Silk Flag Banner designed by Leutze, created by Tiffany & Co., and presented to Gen. John A. Dix, 1864.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> The "greatest of early American maps … a masterpiece" (Corcoran). Thomas Holme.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Lincoln Summons His Cabinet for a Historic Meeting to Discuss Compensated Emancipation.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Albert Einstein. Autograph Letter Signed. Einstein Counsels His Son ... Meaning of Life.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Normal Rockwell. Painting/Drawing Signed. Rockwell's "Barbeshop Quartet", 1936.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Frederick Douglass. Autograph Letter Signed to unknown correspondent. Washington, D.C.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Harry Truman. Autograph Manuscript Notebook for Kansas City Law School Night Class.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Robert E. Lee. Autograph Letter Signed, June 11, 1782. Hours after the Battle of Culpeper Court House, Lee Escapes Again.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> George Washington. Letter Signed, as Commander-in-Chief, Continental Army, to Elias Dayton, Headquarters, [Newburgh, N.Y.], June 11, 1782.

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