A group of perspective views of New York and Boston during the American Revolution. A perspective view, or "vue d'optiques," was a special type of popular print published in Europe during the eighteenth century. These prints were a form of entertainment meant to be viewed through a device called an "optical machine" or an "optique." This machine used a lens to enhance for viewers the magnification and perception of three-dimensional depth of the prints. A mirror was often used so that the perspective prints could be viewed when laid flat, and this meant the image was viewed in reverse, which explains the appearance of a super-title above each image, printed in reverse so it would be readable when viewed through the optique. The titles are printed "right reading" at the bottom, in two languages as the prints were sold throughout Europe. [ Go to page with other perspective views of all parts of the world ]
A number of perspective prints depicted the American Revolution for a European audience hungry for news of the strange events in the British colonies. These four prints, produced in Germany, were supposed to display events in New York City. The images are not, however, accurate, but rather are creations of the artist's mind based on the accounts he would have received. The street scenes, for instance, are based on a typical European city of the day, not New York City. The prints do, however, beautifully reflect the European understanding of events across the Atlantic, events that were of great interest to Germans, French and the British when these prints were produced.
A series of contemporary prints of the American Revolution from Edward Barnard's History of England. This delightful history was described on one of the prints as "A Work Universally Acknowledged to be the Best Performance of the Kind,-on account of It's Impartiality, Accuracy, New Improvements, Superior Elegance, &c." It was issued at the end of the eighteenth century in response to the growing demand for works on all subjects by a newly educated reading public in England. The history was full of prints on all aspects of English history, including these images of the the Revolution.
[Britannia attacked by her enemies.] Woodcut. 2 x 7 1/8 (image). London, 1783. Chapter ornament for a Preface. Fine condition. Cresswell, 863.
A personification of Britannia accompanied by the British lion with shield and lance fights from left to right a Dutchman, a Spaniard and a Frenchman. Another goddess, probably Liberty, gestures toward a fourth figure behind her which is America in the costume of an Indian with a feathered headdress. The American tries to stab Britannia in the back with a dagger. This ornament was printed for the Preface to Edward Barnard's New, Comprehensive and Complete History of England,p. iii. $275
Robert Dodd. "...the Gallant Defense of Captn. Pearson in his Majesty's Ship SERAPIS, and the COUNTESS OF SCARBOROUGH Arm'd Ship Captn. Piercy, against Paul Jones's Squadron, whereby a valuable Fleet from the Baltic were prevented from falling into the hands of the Enemy..." London: John Harris, 1 Decr. 1781. Engraving by J. Peltro. 12 x 17 1/2. Early hand color. Trimmed to platemarks with a small margin added at bottom. Stable. Very good appearance. Not in Cresswell book but in dissertation #526. Olds, item 76; E. Newbold Smith, item 16; Trumpy, Beverley Robinson Collection, item 198.
One of a number of British prints showing the battle between John Paul Jones' Bon Homme Richard and H.M.S. Serapis. The title does not name Jones' ship and calls attention to the fact that Jones led a squadron against the single British war ship. Subsequent historians have agreed that the strategic victory went to Captain Pearson because he prevented the Baltic fleet from being captured. Statistics on either side of the text show that Jones had twice as many ships and twice as many guns as his adversary. American historians counter that fact with the assertion that British shot and powder was a better quality than that had by the poorly funded Americans. This scene, based on Dodd's famous painting, shows the moment when the Alliance, captained by a jealous and half-mad Frenchman, poured a broadside into both ships when the Bon Homme Richard and Serapis were bound together. This print is a re-engraving of an earlier one by Lerpiniere & Fittler which is larger. B.F. Leizalt used the same image to produce a vue d'optique print of this event. A classic image of an important sea battle. $1,800
Robert Pollard. "Lieutenant Moody." London: R. Pollard, 19 February 1785. Aquatint by R. Pollard. Original hand color. 15 x 20 1/2. Trimmed just within plate marks, but all text and image is present. Small spot and short repaired tear in text area. Otherwise, very good condition.
Lt. James Moody (d. 1809), an officer in the 1st. battalion of New Jersey Volunteers, is said to have struck terror into the hearts of New Jersey Whigs. According to the text below the title, Moody heard of the imprisonment of a British soldier who had been captured by the Americans and falsely convicted of a capital crime. In May 1780, Moody made a daring nighttime raid on the jail, freeing the soldier and escaping the "rebel" pursuit. This image is beautifully rendered, showing Moody and his men unshackling the prisoner, who could not believe he was being freed. The scene is particularly dramatic with the central tableau lit only by candlelight. Not long after the event shown here, Moody was himself captured by troops under the command of Gen. Anthony Wayne and placed in irons in a rock dungeon at West Point. This rare British print is unusual in extolling the virtues of an American Tory. $1,600
James Trenchard. "Amelia: or the faithless Briton." From The Columbian Magazine. Philadelphia: October, 1787. Engraving by J. Trenchard. 5 x 3 3/4. Accompanied by text. Very good condition. Cresswell, 344.
This scarce piece of contemporary historical fiction about the American Revolution is from a novel serialized in Charles Willson Peale's magazine, Columbian Magazine. Amelia, a virtuous girl from a farm in New York, has been seduced by a British officer named Doliscus. When she had a child by him, he tries to escape to London, but she follows him. He spirits her away from his London estate and leaves her in a distant slum. The picture shows Amelia about to take her own life with a cup of laudanum when her father, Horatio Blyfield, enters the door. "(To be continued)." $125
"The Distressed Mother." London: G.G.J. & J. Robinson, July, 1788. "Engraved for the Lady's Magazine." Engraving. 6 1/4 x 4 1/4 (plate marks). Light smudge at left. Otherwise, very good condition.
A scarce and unusual picture, issued in Lady's Magazine, showing sentiments in England following the American Revolution. This escapist piece of fiction describes a young woman with child whose husband was serving in the "American War." She received a letter from him saying that he was wounded, but then later was informed by the government that he was dead. After suffering a number of reverses she was about the kill herself and her infant, when at that very moment her husband miraculously appeared and saved her. He sold his commission to be with her and live happily ever after. Ref.: not found in any source we have studied on the American Revolution. $125
"A View of St. John's upon the River Sorell in Canada, with the Redoubts, Works &c. Taken in the Year of 1776, during the late War in America." From Thomas Anburey's Travels Through the Interior Parts of America. London: William Lane, 1789. Engraving. 7 3/4 x 15 3/4. Complete margins; close and remargined at left. Very good condition. Cresswell: 349.
Thomas Anburey was one of Burgoyne's officers who wrote a memoir that was designed to defend his commanding officer and himself from those critical of the British defeat at Saratoga. Historians have criticized Anburey for copying from the writings of Burgoyne, Smyth, Henley and others, but that was the method of the day. What sets Anburey's work apart from others is the fascinating plates showing encampments and scenes from the British viewpoint during the American Revolution. This print shows St. John's, a settlement strategically located on the Richelieu or Sorell River between Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River. It consisted primarily of fortifications. The British built ships there for use on Lake Champlain. Brig. Gen. Richard Montgomery led an attack on the fort, capturing it in November, 1775, but the British retook St. John's the following year. $850
John Blake White. "Gen. Marion in his swamp encampment inviting a British Officer to dinner." New York: James Dalton, 1840. 16 5/8 x 20 3/8. Mezzotint by John Sartain. Very good condition and strong impression.
A rare and exquisite historical mezzotint by John Sartain, one of the well-known Sartain family of engravers. Drawn by John Blake White, the image shows the historic meeting between the "Swamp Fox" and a British officer. British troops in South Carolina were hard pressed by Marion and were hoping for a 'regular' battle in the open rather than a continuation of Marion's guerrilla tactics. The officer, captured by Marion, was surprised to be offered a civil and refined reception by Marion, who the British had characterized as a coarse and crude ruffian. White's image depicts some interesting details: the handkerchief that was used to blindfold the officer and the dinner of sweet potato that Marion invited the officer to share. Artistically and historically a most desirable American print.
The American Art Union (1839-1851) was created to support contemporary American art and to develop a popular appreciation of it. The AAU, organized by James Herring in 1839 as the "Apollo Association for the Promotion of the Fine Arts in the United States," kept this name for its first five years. $3,500
"Capture of Andre, 1780." New York: N. Currier, 1845. Small folio: 8 x 11 7/8. Lithograph. Original hand color. Very good condition. C:804.
From 1834 to 1907 the firm of Nathaniel Currier, and then Currier and Ives, provided for the American people a pictorial history of their country's growth from an agricultural society to an industrialized one. For nearly three quarters of a century the firm provided "Colored Engravings for the People," becoming the visual raconteurs of 19th century America.
This scene celebrates and identifies three American patriots who captured the British Major John Andre with plans for the American fort at West Point, and documents related to Benedict Arnold, the American arch traitor. The irregular Americans are shown rejecting a bribe by Arnold, thus making Williams, VanWart and Paulding heroes. $600
A patriotic rendering of the first prayer in the Continental Congress on September 7, 1774. Matteson created his painting based on a first had drawing made by one of the delegates to the Congress. The painting was purchased by and auctioned off by the American Art Union and also engraved into a this fine print by H.S. Sadd. The founding fathers, including George Washington, are shown in solemn prayer, preparing to face the needs of the nation. It is a moving scene from the founding of our nation and a fine example of nineteenth century printmaking. $750
F.O.C. Darley. "Wyoming." New York: W.H. Holbrooke, 1852. Engraving by J.C. McRae. 18 1/4 x 25 1/2. Hand color. Very good condition.
A dramatic, large engraving based on F.O.C. Darley's drawing of the Wyoming Valley massacre. Darley is perhaps best known as America's first great illustrator, producing numerous images for books and magazines in the nineteenth century. He also, though, produced many historical images which were made into separate folio prints. Indeed, such was Darley's influence through his illustrations and prints that he must be seen as seminal in the forging of the American national identity. This print shows the fight on July 3, 1777 between Patriot militia and Loyalist troops supported by Indian allies in the Wyoming Valley in northern Pennsylvania. After a brief but fierce battle, the militia troops fled, only to be pursed, especially by the Indians, who killed and tortured those they could catch. This "massacre" became a rallying point for Patriots leading to retaliation in the Sullivan-Clinton campaign against the Iroquois in 1779. This print was supposed to be "First of a Series of national Engravings" to be issued by W.H. Holbrooke, or both New York and London, but none others seem to have been issued. $1,200
Peter F. Rothermel. "Patrick Henry Delivering His Celebrated Speech In The House of Burgesses, Virginia. A.D. 1765." Philadelphia: Art Union of Philadelphia, 1852. 22 1/2 x 17 3/4. Engraving by Alfred Jones. Strong impression. Slight blemishes in margins, not affecting image. Else, very good condition. With Art Union blind-stamp.
Like the American Art Union, the Art Union of Philadelphia was formed in the mid-nineteenth century for the appreciation of American art. Historical depictions were one of the favorite topics of the prints issued by the Union for its subscribers. This print is a dramatically realized scene showing Patrick Henry delivering his famous speeches to the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1765. "Caesar had his Brutus--Charles the First, his Cromwell--and George the Third may profit by their example," and then to cries of 'treason,' "If this be treason, make the most of it." Peter Rothermel, best known for his famous image of the Battle of Gettysburg, presents the historic tableau in dramatic fashion, Henry standing calmly in the center of the turmoil of the other delegates, pointing to the higher authority of heaven. A emotional and patriotic rendering of this early Revolutionary episode. $1,250
Emanuel Leutze. "Washington Crossing the Delaware." Boston: Saml. Walker Jr., 1854. 4 5/8 x 7. Steel engraving by F.O. Freeman. Hand color. Very good condition.
This print is after a painting, executed in 1851, by Emanuel Leutze. Born in Germany in 1816, Leutze is known mainly as a historical and portrait painter. One of the most famous pictorial images produced of the American Revolution. This scene depicts Washington and his men crossing the Delaware River on Christmas night 1776. In November of 1776, Washington was forced to abandon New York City and retreated down in to New Jersey. He crossed the Delaware on December 11, to cover the capital at Philadelphia. The British troops under Cornwallis did not attempt to follow and went into winter quarters. Washington saw his opportunity to attack, and on Christmas night, crossed the river and landed nine miles north of Trenton. He surprised the Hessian troops stationed in Trenton and captured them easily. Washington came back to Pennsylvania, with his prisoners, and later returned to Trenton on December 30 and 31, to occupy the town. Even though this is a very stirring and patriotic image, there are a number of historical inaccuracies. The boat is the wrong size and shape; the flag shown was not in use until six months later; and Washington himself would most likely have been thrown overboard on that stormy night. Even with these embellishments this print is a testament to the spirit of the occasion. $175
Tompkins Harrison Matteson. "The Spirit of - 76." Philadelphia, 1862. Mezzotint and etching on steel by H.S. Sadd. 15 7/8 x 19. Trimmed to image at top and sides and to title at bottom. Some scattered surface abrasions, but image bright and crisp.
A classic picture of the soldier gallantly going off to war for family and country. The man of the family accepts a rifle from his elderly father and a sword from his mother. His distraught wife kneels before him while buckling his belt, and his eldest child holds his powder horn. His infant child sleeps in the arms of a nursemaid who holds a copy of the Declaration of Independence, while in the left background a soldier comes to the door bearing the call to arms. Implements of domestic life are scattered about the house interior to signify that they are to be left behind.
This print was published when the American Civil War was completing its second year, and the toll of death and destruction was making recruitment of troops more difficult. Reminding the populace of the heroism of the revolution that founded the country was a way to illustrate the necessity of continuing the heroism. We have seen this picture in later printings, but never before with the notation that it was given by newsboys to subscribers. Customarily given at Christmas time, the print would have been designed to encourage recruitment to military service with the intention to enlist and train men and boys for the coming Spring campaigns. A fascinating look at a patriotic appeal to not only Philadelphians but all Americans during the Civil War. $600
Genl. George Washington. The Father of His Country." Hartford: Kellogg & Comstock, New York: George Whiting, and Buffalo: D. Needham. Lithograph. Ca. 12 x 9. Original hand color. Very good condition.
A portrait of Washington as general in during the War of Independence. Washington is proudly seated on his stallion and in the background is shadowy image of American troops. A nice example of the work by Currier & Ives' chief competitor for popular prints in the middle of the nineteenth century. $325
Max Rosenthal. "The Dawn of Liberty." Philadelphia: William Smith, 1864. 16 x 22 1/4. Lithograph by L.N. Rosenthal. Wide margins. Very good condition.
A patriotic print issued towards the end of the Civil War, reflecting the notion that the belief in Liberty had its roots deep in American history. The Revolutionary War period scene shows General Thomas Gage meeting with a group of children who had been arrested by British troops for 'revolutionary' activity. Gage was so impressed with the boys' bravery and high ideals that he remarks, "The very children here draw in a love of liberty with the air they breathe. You may go my brave boys, and be assured if my troops trouble you again they shall be punished." The Civil War was seen in the North very much as a battle of principles, and prints such as this assured the public that their fight was part of a glorious and noble past. $350
"Declaration of Independence in Congess July 4th: 1776." Subtitle: "The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America." Curving around the bottom, "The Great Centennial Memorial." Two portraits: full length of Washington in center and bust of Thomas Jefferson at base. At the base of the grapevine surround are a pair of quill pens with the credit reading, "The Original Designed and Executed by Gilman R. Russell Prof. of Penmanship." Between the portraits is the copyright notice of 1866 entered by Gilman Russell in the District Court of the East Dist. of Pennsylvania." Lithograph. 25 3/4 x 17 3/4 (full sheet). Deckle edge on all four sides of the sheet. Not in Bidwell.
Printed in the year after the end of the American Civil War, this profound copy among many of the Declaration of Independence is beautiful in design and thought. Featuring both Washington and Jefferson in portraiture, angels and flags along the top and celebratory grapevines around the bottom encircling credit to Gilman R. Russell, who was a professor of Penmanship. During the War Prof. Russell had created another folio sheet to celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation. $4,500
John Binns. "Declaration of Independence. In Congress. July 4th. 1776. The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America." Philadelphia: J. Binns, 1819. 35 1/4 x 25 1/4. Engraving. Second edition published by Henry Sartain, ca. 1865. Excellent condition. Print has been professionally conserved, with original frame fitted to archival specifications. Ref: American Political Prints: 1819-1; John Bidwell's "American History in Image and Text" in Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, XCVIII: pt. 2 (1988): #5.
With the end of the War of 1812 by the Treaty of Ghent in 1814, the American people were feeling secure in the future of their new country, and they realized that the formulators and signers of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were almost gone from American political life. At that time with the rise of intense and often acrimonious political partisanship, printmakers began celebrating the unifying documents and founding fathers with adulatory broadsides that combined texts and pictures. By then the Declaration of Independence had taken on new meaning signifying the unity and history of the nation, so it is not surprising that a number of prints were produced glorifying the document.
An Irish immigrant who became a Philadelphia journalist and publisher, John Binns, was the first to conceive the idea of a "splendid and correct copy of the Declaration of Independence, with fac-similes of all the signatures," for which he sought subscribers in 1816. Because of the care which he took in producing his print-using the work of several artists, carefully copying the state seals, and borrowing accurate portraits for his medallions-it took over three years before the print was finally completed in 1819. In the meantime, Benjamin Owen Tyler, who had undoubtedly learned of Binn's project, rushed a less expensive and simpler facsimile to market, beating Binns by over a year and cutting into his market. To counter this, Binns got permission to add a statement from Secretary of State John Quincy Adams that the signatures on his print were exact duplicates of the originals. And while not first in production, Binns' print of the Declaration was the first to be conceived and was a finer production than the cheaper Tyler print.
Binns broadside is a most impressive engraving, reproducing the text of the Declaration of Independence with beautiful calligraphy and including accurate facsimiles of all the original signatures, the whole encircled by seals of the original thirteen states. At the top is an American eagle beneath which George Washington's portrait is surrounded by spears, flags, trumpets of war and the cornucopia of peace and prosperity. On either side of Washington are portraits of Thomas Jefferson and John Hancock. Binns' print spawned many imitations; it is one of the rarest and most important American political prints of the early nineteenth century. $25,000
John Trumbull. "Declaration of Independence of the United States of America. July 4th 1776." New York: W.L. Ormsby, ca. 1830. Restrike ca. 1876? 20 1/4 x 30 1/4. Engraving by "W. L. Ormsby after Durand." Hand color. Print has been professionally conserved and backed with rice paper. Three tears into image expertly repaired. Some chipping in margin which has been filled with rice paper backing. Margins trimmed to plate mark but ample for framing. Some scuffing in image and margins. Wear in title indicating a later strike. Else, fine condition.
John Trumbull was a participant in the American Revolution and a friend of most of the great figures of his day, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. After he left the army, Trumbull found his way to the London studio of fellow American Benjamin West. West was an innovator who had established that painting images of historical scenes in the grand European style was a respectable theme for an artist. Inspired by his instructor, Trumbull conceived of a series of canvases on the history of his own country. He painted scenes of the Battle of Bunker's Hill, the Death of General Montgomery, and the Declaration of Independence. For the latter of these Trumbull resolved to show only accurate likenesses of the signers, in line with his concern of presenting a true memorial to this historic event. Trumbull drew images in person where he could, using other life portraits or portraits of the sons for any of the other signers who were no longer alive or available.
It was difficult to make a living from the sale of such paintings, and Trumbull thought there might be a better chance of profit from selling engravings. Thus he had prints made of Bunker's Hill and the Death of Montgomery, but these did not sell well and Trumbull did not proceed on the Declaration. However, with the success of his larger version of the painting, commissioned to be hung in the U.S. Capitol, Trumbull decided to again try the market with a print of this scene. He had American engraver Asher B. Durand produce a large image of the Declaration, which subsequently became one of the most popular American patriotic scenes, leading to a number of other versions in different sizes. This is the finest of the derivative images, engraved by Waterman Lilly Ormsby (1809-1883). Ormsby was a New York engraver who was famous for founding the Continental Bank Note Company of New York. He invented a ruling machine, a transfer press, and a "grammagraph," according to Stauffer a device for engraving directly on steel from medals and medallions. This print, approximately the size of Durand's original is an exquisite example of Ormsby's fine and strong work with the addition of a delicate and complete key etched at the bottom margin. This print is most likely a restrike or a later printing issued for the Centennial in order to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence one hundred years earlier. $2,400
"Battle of Princeton." Chicago: Louis Kurz, 1911. 17 1/2 x 25 . Chromolithograph. Very good condition.
A bright and attractive print showing the famed Revolutionary War battle. Washington is shown leading his troops against the Red Coat lines. Nassau Hall is shown in the distance and the ground is covered with snow. $550
Reference book on prints of the American Revolution
Donald H. Cresswell. The American Revolution in Drawings and Prints. Washington, 1975. Cloth. Very good condition. Out of print.
The most comprehensive listing of contemporary prints of the American Revolution, based on the collection in the Library of Congress. Lists and describes various types of contemporary images, with a particularly interesting section on cartoons and allegories. $275.00
For more information call, write, fax or e-mail to:
8441 Germantown Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19118
(215) 242-4750 [Phone]
(215) 242-6977 [Fax]
©The Philadelphia Print Shop, Ltd. Last updated January 26, 2018