AUCTION 23

 

The Avenue of Volcanoes

Engravings after Humboldt’s Original Drawings

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191. HUMBOLDT, Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander. Volcans des Cordillères de Quito et du Mexique. Par Alexandre de Humboldt. Paris: Gide et J. Baudry, Libraires-Éditeurs, 5 Rue Bonaparte [verso of half title: Paris—Imprimé par E. Thunot et Ce., 26, rue Racine], 1854. [1-5] 6-15 [1] pp. (text printed in double columns), 12 engravings (volcanoes in Mexico and the Cordillera mountains of South America—9 views in sepia tone, 2 uncolored maps, and uncolored comparative profile of mountains of the world), mostly after original artwork by Humboldt. Oblong 4to (25.7 x 31 cm), contemporary tan sheep over mottled boards (neatly rebacked in tan sheep, black leather spine label). Old ink number on title verso (slight bleed-through to title recto). Other than occasional extremely mild foxing, very fine, plates excellent.

Plates & Map

1. Le Pichincha (4,853m) [below image] Stock, d’aprés une Esquisse de M. de Humboldt. | Gravé par E. Lebel. [lower right] Imp. de F. Chardon ainé. R. Hautefeuille, Paris. Toned engraving. Image & imprint: 11.5 x 15 cm; plate mark: 14 x 22-1/2 cm.

2. Le Cayambe-Urcu (5,900m) [below image] Stock, d’aprés une Esquisse de M. de Humboldt. | Gravé par E. Lebel [lower right] Imp. de F. Chardon ainé. R. Hautefeuille, Paris. Toned engraving. Image & imprint: 11.5 x 14.8 cm; plate mark: 14 x 18-1/2 cm.

3. Le Corazon (4,815m) [below image] Stock, d’aprés une Esquisse de M. de Humboldt. | Gravé par E. Lebel [lower right] Imp. de F. Chardon ainé. R. Hautefeuille, Paris. Toned engraving. Image & imprint: 11.7 x 14.8 cm; plate mark: 14 x 22 cm.

4. Le Chimborazo (6,540m) et Le Carguairazo (4,775m) Vues de la plaine de Tapia [below image] Hildebrandt, d’aprés une Esquisse de M. de Humboldt. | Gravé par E. Lebel [lower right] Imp. de F. Chardon ainé. r. Hautefeuille, Paris. Toned engraving. Image & imprint: 11.6 x 18.8 cm; plate mark: 14.2 x 21.2 cm. Humboldt considered his near-complete ascent of this peak as among his finest achievements.

5. L’Autel ou Capac-Urcu (5,320m) [below image] Schinkel, d’aprés une Esquisse de M. de Humboldt. | Gravé par E. Lebel [lower right] Imp. de F. Chardon ainé. r. Hautefeuille, Paris. Toned engraving. Image & imprint: 9.7 x 14.8 cm; plate mark: 14 x 21.7 cm.

6. Le Cotopaxi (5,853m) [below image] Stock, d’aprés une Esquisse de M. de Humboldt. | Gravé par E. Lebel [lower right] Imp. de F. Chardon ainé. r. Hautefeuille, Paris. Toned engraving. Image & imprint: 11.4 x 15 cm; plate mark: 14 x 31.7 cm.

7. Les pyramides d’Ilinissa (5,315m) [below image] Hildebrandt, d’aprés une Esquisse de M. de Humboldt. | Gravé par E. Lebel [lower right] Imp. de F. Chardon ainé. r. Hautefeuille, Paris. Toned engraving. Image & imprint: 11.6 x 14.8 cm; plate mark: 14 x 21.8 cm.

8. Iztaccihauatl (4,786m) et Popocatepetl (5,400m) Stock, d’aprés une Esquisse de L. Martin.| Gravé par E. Lebel [lower right] Imp. de F. Chardon ainé. r. Hautefeuille, Paris. Toned engraving. Image & imprint: 11.6 x 14.6 cm; plate mark: 14 x 22.6 cm.

9. Pic d’Orizaba ou Citlaltepetl (5,295m) Hildebrandt, d’aprés un Tableau du Bon Gros. | Gravé par E. Lebel [lower right] Imp. de F. Chardon ainé. r. Hautefeuille, Paris. Toned engraving. Image & imprint: 11.5 x 14.5 cm; plate mark: 14 x 22 cm.

10. Plan hyposométrique du Volcan de Pinchincha par Alexandre de Humboldt. [below borderline] Imp. de F. Chardon ainé. r. Hautefeuille, 30, Paris. Measurement of heights of Pinchincha relative to sea level. Border to border: 14.8 x 18.5 cm; plate mark: 22.5 x 14.7 cm

11. Nœuds de montagnes et ramifications des Cordillères de Quito. [below image] Imp. de Chardon aine r. Hautefeuille, 30, Paris. Image area plus imprint: 18.8 x 10 cm; plate mark: 21 x 15 cm. System of Quito mountain ranges, locating the volancoes.

12. Points culminants et hauteurs moyennes des chaines de montagnes de l’Europe, de l’Amérique et de la Asie. [below image] Imp. de Chardon aine r. Hautefeuille, 30, Paris. Image area plus imprint: 11.4 x 18.3 cm; plate mark: 14 x 21.9 cm. Highlights and average height of the mountain ranges of Europe, America, and Asia.

     First French edition, first published as part of Humboldt’s 1853 Kleinere Schriften (Umrisse von Vulkanen aus den Cordilleren, Stuttgart und Tübingen: Cotta, 1853), and this first French edition published as the atlas volume of Mélanges de Géologie et physique génerale, but also found separately. BMC (Nat. Hist.), p. 889n. Fiedler & Leitner, Alexander von Humboldts Schriften 5.4.3.1. Cf. Palau 116998. Sabin 33749. Printer F. Chardon and the talented E. Lebel are best known for an 1856 plan of Paris engraved for the Société des Bibliophiles, and the 1858 Monographie du Palais de Fontainebleau.

     The present engravings feature the area of Ecuador straddled by the imposing Andean Cordillera, running from north to south, and named by Humboldt in 1802 as “the Avenue of Volcanoes.” There is no other place in the world where such a high concentration of volcanoes occurs. Humboldt’s drawings for these engravings were intended to show the most beautiful and regular form of each volcano. His focus was scientific rather than aesthetic, yet the Baron and his able printer and engraver captured the pure, natural beauty of each of these remarkable geologic miracles. “That climates and hence vegetation are ranged in vertically stacked ‘zones’ became Humboldt’s signature idea, memorialized in the famous Tableau Physique of Ecuador’s volcanoes and shown here more pictorially in Chimborazo, Seen from the Plain of Tapia [see HUMBOLDT Vues.... herein]. The fact that Humboldt himself climbed through each zone nearly to the top of Chimborazo—a mountaineering feat unsurpassed for thirty years—helped vivify the idea of climate zones in the public imagination” (Laura Dassow Walls, The Passage to Cosmos: Alexander von Humboldt and the Shaping of America, University of Chicago Press, 2009, pp. 90-91).

     Another section from Wall’s Passage to Cosmos (pp. 54-55) explores Humboldt’s passion for volcanoes: “Why climb the mountain? Humboldt offers two reasons. First, for scientific research into its fascinating volcanic phenomena. But also to revel in ‘the picturesque beauties, which it lays open to those who are feeling alive to the majesty of nature.’ Yet such feelings defy language, and repeated exclamations of admiration are boring. Better, then, to describe the mountain’s unique individual features, and so convey the source of those emotions.... Humboldt’s restless mind turns on itself in frustration. He had climbed to find answers, ‘to form a precise idea’ of volcanic geology, but instead of order and pattern, he finds confusions and puzzles, endless variations that lost themselves in obscurity. ‘Notwithstanding the care with which we interrogate nature, and the number of partial observations which are presented at every step, we return from the summit of a burning volcano less satisfied, than when we were preparing to go thither.’ Where in these tumbled fragments was the whole? Humboldt’s aesthetic sense told him there was one.... But he needed scientific unity too...but ‘volcanicity,’ an intellectual view of ‘Nature in the universality of her relations that would be, in its way, just as sublime.”

($400-800)

Auction 23 Abstracts

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