The Old Booksellers of New York and other papers<br>By William Loring Andrews
- by William Loring Andrews
Illustrations in the New York Magazine are as delightfully varied in character as are its literary contents. Pictures of birds, beasts and flowers are there to please and instruct the embryo naturalist. Views in foreign parts are presented in great variety. By the magic wand of the artist we are transported in open-eyed wonder from the great Pagoda at Tanjore all the way to Kamschatka, stopping long enough en route to catch glimpses of Mt. Etna in a violent state of eruption, and to stand aghast at the sight of a vessel with its shrieking, living freight, on the point of being engulfed in the Maelstrom of Norway. By way of fashion plates we are furnished with pictures of the Esquimaux Indians, of Hudson's Bay, and the dresses of women in the Isle of Nio, in the Grecian Archipelago.
The titles of the illustrations to the stories suggest their romantic and sentimental character: "Her Sense had fled," "The Cornish Lovers," "Edwin and Angelina," "Alcanzar and Layda," "Despair, or the History of Delia and Lorenzo," "The Death of Adonis," and "The Babes in the Woods." What a waste of the engraver's time and skill! Would that some good fairy could have stood at his elbow and induced him to give us instead of these copper-plate platitudes more pictures of our beloved city in those olden times.
If we omit the portrait of Isaiah, the prophet, which we are hardly justified in believing to be a veritable likeness, we are furnished with only two "counterfeit presentments," those of the Revolutionary heroes, Generals Greene and Wayne.
Scattered through the pages of the magazine are a number of views of places in different sections of the country, of which the most important from an historical or topographical standpoint are the following:
"West Point from the North as it appeared at the close of the War."
"Town of Kaatskill. Hudson River."
"Inside View of the New Theatre, Philadelphia." (A picture of great interest to the collectors of American dramatic illustrations.)
"A View of the Town of Boston from Breed's Hill in Charlestown, and another of the Bridge over Charles River, Mass.," will delight the eye of the Bostonian. When he has secured these prints, the engravings of a similar character that are to be found in the Massachusetts Magazine, Paul Revere's noted engraving of the Boston massacre, and the print of Castle William* [Built by Colonel Romer, A. D. 1704, by order of the General Assembly of the Province of Massachusetts.] in the Harbor of Boston, he will have captured about all the graphic memorials of this early period in the history of his native city that exist.
The local topographical illustrations which give the magazine its unique value and importance to the New York collector remain to be noticed. They are, with one exception—that of Federal Hall—the only existing pictures of the places they represent, made at the period to which the magazine belongs, or, as far as I am aware, at any previous epoch in the history of our city. These engravings number ten in all, and seven of them appear in the first volume. Two views of the Monument and of the Lighthouse at Sandy Hook are of minor importance; the remaining eight subjects are as follows:
"An East View of Trinity Church" (the rebuilding of which had just been completed).
"A Perspective View of the Federal Edifice in the City of New York" (then lately reconstructed. As before noted, a contemporary picture of this building, on a larger scale, is to be found in the Columbian Magazine).
"A View of Columbia College in the City of New York."
"A View of the Present Seat of his Excellency the Vice-President (John Adams) of the United States." This is properly styled a "rural view." It was the famous Richmond Hill House, built by Abraham Mortier, Paymaster General of the Royal forces. It stood embowered in trees and shrubbery near the banks of the North River, at the southeast corner of Varick and Charlton streets, on what was then the road to Greenwich. It was occupied in the summer of 1776 by General Washington as a country residence, and afterward assumed additional historical importance as the residence of Aaron Burr, at the time of his duel with Hamilton. It was sold by Burr's creditors, after his flight, to John Jacob Astor for $25,000.
A View of Hell Gate is the last illustration in Vol. I. With this plate the artist appears to have exhausted for the time being this valuable material for his pencil. No other pictures of buildings in this city appear until 1795, in Vol. V., when we are given a view of Belvedere House, a building erected on the banks of the East River, near Corlear's Hook, in 1792, by thirty-three gentlemen composing the Belvedere Club.