Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2017 Issue

There is always more: Edwin Whitefield

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Poughkeepsie, 1852. By Edwin Whitefield

Recently I was reading Antiques & Arts Weekly and chanced upon a 3-column ad for a Poughkeepsie print.  As it’s within my collecting focus I called the advertiser, Holden Antiques, to inquire and Ed Holden quickly explained he would offer his best price and that would be that.  He apparently had fielded other inquiries but the price had seemed to them a bit steep.  He had it listed at $1,150 but would let it go for $950.  He then quickly excused himself as if to say goodbye as I asked for his mailing address.  “Why” he asked?  “I’m going to send you a check.”  “You are?”  “Yes, and what about the shipping?  He said $200 and I asked him to reconfirm the size:  Frame dimensions were 40.5” x 27.75”, engraving dimension 34” wide x 16.5” high.  This was one of the few known large prints of Poughkeepsie executed by Edwin Whitefield.  Others who inquired may have thought this was the common 5” x 8” version Whitefield had done in 1845.  This larger version is dated 1852.

 

Whitefield was an engraver.  He’s not a household name although records associated with him are in the RBH Database.  Initially I searched for E. Whitefield as that is how his name appeared on the Poughkeepsie print.  Subsequently I realized that E. was for Edwin and ran that search.  The first search had 7 results in the RBH Database and the later 73.  Fifty of the records relate to a book that Whitefield published in several editions in the 1880s.  The balance mainly relates to North American Scenery, published in 1847 and to the occasional large format prints he executed between 1846 and 1865.  According to Donald Heald, the New York dealer who has made a market in Whitefield material for more than twenty-five years, his work is frequently first rate and his skill set, among the best of his era.  Nevertheless he is, and remains, mainly unknown.

 

He both wrote his own books and illustrated other author’s work. 

 

And there have been books written about him.  Hudson River Houses by John Zukowsky [1981] and Bettina A. Norton, in her book Edwin Whitefield – Nineteenth Century North American Scenery published in 1977, wrote about the New York Public Library’s Whitefield sketchbook and mentions:

 

“By the time of the publication [1852] of [the] Poughkeepsie [large format] print, Whitefield’s handling of the foreground was fully developed, and, with its topographically attractive horizon with College Hill, its varying tones, and its skillful drawing, it is one of the most attractive.”

 

May I admit I’m happy neither the dealer nor the other prospective buyers read that.  The price would have been higher and the print long gone when I called.

 

But if its obscure it is also rare.  A check of inventories suggests that New York Public and New York Historical Society have copies.  The Minnesota Historical Society has prints from his later career but no example of Poughkeepsie.  Boston Public also has his material but lists only 4 four Massachusetts scenes among its holdings.  In the OCLC there are references to Whitefield and some of the books he illustrated and there is a reference to the 1852 Poughkeepsie print but no locations given.  In Whitefield’s own records he describes his Poughkeepsie print as No. 27 in his Views of American Cities and the OCLC reference to it seems to be a reference to this list rather than to a specific example.

 

The print is rare.  No question about it.

 

Poughkeepsie was in its golden moment and Whitefield captured it.  This city on the Hudson was important in the 1820 – 1860 era of the Hudson River as America’s Broadway but, by 1852, the pendulum of American growth was swinging west and this survival is one of the clearest images we have of what Poughkeepsie was like then.

 

As to what it’s worth the parameters are size, condition, rarity, importance, significance and of course, how many people care.

 

The printed and hand-colored piece is robust at 16.5” x 34”[image dimension] and the condition very good.  I’m no expert but there are neither tears nor discoloration.  And the print is rare but why isn’t clear.  Was it produced in just a few copies or were they too fragile to survive?  Perhaps both.  Important is to some extent what matters to you.

 

As to significance the image offers a unique highly detailed view.  Ten years later photographic images would begin to appear but no images of Poughkeepsie of any significant size appear for another decade or two.   So this print is probably the best image of the city in that era.  But who knows?  Many people inquired about the print and it was still available when I called.  I think they were confused and I just lucky.  Certainly some, perhaps all, who inquired thought it was an example of the 5” x 8” print of Poughkeepsie he executed 7 years earlier.  That print is worth $200 to $300.

 

Ed Holden remembers another copy coming up at Cal Smith’s auction in Pleasant Valley nearby in 1977.  He recalled that the price was driven by the Banta Family who owned the Steak and Stein Restaurant in Wappingers and that the price was more than $2,000.  What would have been a big price then today, using the calculations provided in Rare Book Hub, is $10,827.40 and that sounds about right. 

In any event it’s a gem and I’m grateful to have it. 

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Walt Whitman. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> First edition, first issue, SIGNED in block letters by Whitman. 1855. $200,000 to $300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Isaac Newton's copy of John Greave's <i>Pyramidographia,</i> London, 1646. $50,000 to $70,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Colonel John Mosby. Robert E. Lee's autograph letter to Samuel Cooper reporting on Mosby's exploits, with Cooper's autograph note ordering his appointment to Major.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Gyula Halasz Brassai. Large archive of autograph and typed letters, over 260, to his family including his wife Gilberte, 1947-1978. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Archive of drawings and letters from Harper Lee to Charles Carruth, including an inscribed first edition of <i>To Kill a Mockingbird.</i> $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> VESALIUS, ANDREAS. 1514-1564. <i>De humani corporis fabrica libri septem.</i> Basel: Johannes Oporinus, June 1543. $300,000 to $500,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. 1578-1657. <i>De motu cordis & sanguinis in animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Leiden: Joannis Maire, 1639. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> BERENGARIO DA CARPI, GIACOMO. 1460-1530. <i>Isagogae breves perlucide ac uberrimae in Anatomiam humani corporis.</i> Bologna: Benedictus Hectoris, 15 July 1523. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams NY, Mar 11:</b> FRANKLIN, BENJAMIN. 1706-1790. <i>Experiments and Observations on Electricity, made at Philadelphia in America…</i> London, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams NY, Mar 11:</b> BENIVIENI, ANTONIO. 1443-1502. <i>De abditis nonnullis ac mirandis morborum et sanationum causis.</i>Florence: Filippo Giunta, 1507. $8,000 to $12,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, <i>El Ingenioso Hildalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha . . . Nueva Edición,</i> first Ibarra edition, Madrid, 1780. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Illuminated Prayer Book in Latin and French, France, 1530-40s. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin, France, mid-15th century. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b><br><i>Die Ernsthaffte Christenpflicht,</i> earliest known edition of the first complete Mennonite prayer book, 1708. $300 to $500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Georg Agricola, <i>De ortu & causis subterraneorum Lib V.,</i> first edition, Basel, 1546. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Frederick Ruysch, <i>Icon durae matris in concava [convexa] superficie visae,</i> with 2 mezzotints by Jan Ladmiral, first edition, Amsterdam, 1737. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, <i>Eine Neue Art von Strahlen,</i> Würzburg, 1895. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Pietro Carrera, <i>Il Gioco de gli Scacchi,</i> first edition, Militello, 1617. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> William Lithgow, <i>The Totall Discourse, of the Rare Adventures</i> [etc.], London, 1632. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Michel de Nostradamus, <i>The True Prophecies or Prognostications,</i> first complete edition in English, London, 1672. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Pseudo-Methodius, <i>De revelatione facta . . . beato Methodio,</i> Basel, 1504. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 7:</b> Hrabanus Maurus, <i>De laudibus sancte crucis opus,</i> Pforzheim, 1503. $1,000 to $2,000.
  • <b>Chiswick Auctions: Autographs & Memorabilia. February 28, 2019</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 28:</b> Autograph album featuring signatures by prominent actors, politicians, musicians and authors, including Rudolph Valentino. £1,000 to £1,500
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 28:</b> An extremely rare working radio script for Crazy People No 29, the first series of <i>The Goon Show.</i> £600 to £800
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 28:</b> Manuscript prayer book, in German. 8vo, 1755 £800 to £1,200
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 28:</b> Italian Manuscript on Geometry, with diagrams, 18th century. £500 to £700
    <b>Chiswick Auctions: Ornithology, Zoology & Voyages. February 27, 2019</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> Thorburn (Archibald). Sparrowhawk, original watercolour & gouache, signed & dated lower right, 1917. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> Burton (Sir Richard Francis). <i>Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and Meccah.</i> 3 vol., FIRST EDITION, 1855-56. £1,000 to £1,500
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> [Mount (Richard) & Page (Thomas)]. <i>The English Pilot. Describing the Sea-Coasts…</i> 31 engraved maps, W. & J. Mount, T. Page, 1756 £4000 to £6000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions: Ornithology, Zoology & Voyages. February 27, 2019</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> D’apres De Mannevillette (Jean-Baptiste Nicolas Denis). <i>Le Neptune Oriental.</i> Paris & Brest, [1775 – 1781]. £10,000 to £15,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> Loring (Josiah). Terrestrial Globe Containing all the Late Discoveries and Geographical Improvements. Boston, Gilman Joslin, 1846, £800 to £1,200
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Feb 27:</b> Shelley (G. E., Capt.). <i>A Monograph of the Nectariniidae, or Family of Sun-birds,</i> FIRST EDITION, by the Author, 1876-80. £4,000 to £6,000
  • <b>Bonhams: Treasures from the Eric C. Caren Collection: How History Unfolds on Paper, Part VII (Online). March 6-14, 2019</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Albert Einstein A remarkable letter on God in English, one of his most eloquent and quoted, 1 p, July 2, 1945. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Benjamin Lincoln's commission as Major General in the Continental Army, February 19th, 1777. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Broadside. A Poem Upon the Bloody Engagement That Was Fought on Bunker's-Hill. 1775. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Early, full printing of the Star-Spangled Banner in The Yankee, October 7, 1814. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Paul Revere. Engraving, “The Boston Massacre Perpetrated on March 5, 1770," in <i>Massachusett's Calendar 1772.</i> $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Bonhams: Treasures from the Eric C. Caren Collection: How History Unfolds on Paper, Part VII (Online). March 6-14, 2019</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Earliest known newspaper coverage of Babe Ruth, "a St Mary's schoolboy," Baltimore, April 4, 1914. $6,000 to $9,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Franklin, Benjamin. <i>The Independent Whig.</i> First Magazine Published in America, Philadelphia: Keimer, 1723-4. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Smith, Joseph. <i>The Book of Mormon.</i> Palmyra: Printed by E.B. Grandin for the Author, 1830. First printing. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Last Words of Joseph Smith. Autograph Letter Signed from a Mormon disciple, conveying a contemporary account of the Prophet's final words, Nauvoo, July 27, 1844. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> John Brown's Body. Autograph Letter Signed from the daughter of John Brown attempting to arrange the return of her father's body, North Elba, Essex Co, NY, November 29, 1859. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Powell Expedition. Autograph diary of Rhodes C. Allen kept during the Powell Expedition of 1868, June 29, 1868 - November 16, 1868. $20,000 to $40,000

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