AUCTION 23

 
 

“The very best American battle scenes in existence” (Bennett)

Includes a Texas Scene—“Probably the finest lithographic view of Texas produced in the nineteenth century” (Ron Tyler)

 
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198. KENDALL, Geo[rge] Wilkins & Carl Nebel. The War between the United States and Mexico Illustrated, Embracing Pictorial Drawings of All the Principal Conflicts, by Carl Nebel, Author of “A Picturesque and Archaeological Voyage in Mexico,” with a Description of Each Battle, by Geo. Wilkins Kendall, Author of “The Texan Santa Fé Expedition,” etc., etc. New York: D. Appleton; Philadelphia: George Appleton [title verso: Paris: Plon Brothers], 1851. [i-iii] iv, [1] 2-52 pp. (letterpress text printed in two columns), lithograph map (see below), 12 toned lithographs on handmade paper (see below), colored and finished by hand applying gum arabic highlights (battle scenes, after art work by Nebel, printed and lithographed by Lemercier and Adolphe Jean Baptiste Bayot). Large folio (58.3 x 46 cm), new three-quarter burgundy levant morocco over later bright red linen. Some water staining to edges of binding. Except for mild water staining at right margin of first two leaves of text, very fine. The plates in this copy are superb and exceptionally fresh, with original gum arabic highlights intact, as issued. Map not bound in (supplied from another copy).

Map

[In image at top right] Map of the Operations of the American Army in the Valley of Mexico in August and September 1847 [lower left below neat line] Gravé sur pierre par Erhard-Schiéble, r. Furstenberg 2 [lower right below neat line] Imprimé chez Lemercier, r. de Seine 57, Paris. Neat line to neat line: 27.8 x 44.7 cm. Overall sheet size: 37.7 x 54.4 cm. Blank margins of map trimmed.

Plate List

Listed dimensions are image size; the overall size of each sheet is approximately 55.5 x 44.4 cm. At lower left in each image within oval is: Entered according to act of Congress.

Battle of Palo=Alto [below image] C. Nebel fecit. | Bayot lith. [lower right]. Image area: 27.8 x 42.2 cm. The Battle of Palo Alto (May 8, 1846), fought on Texas soil north of Brownsville, was the first major engagement of the Mexican-American War and the first U.S. victory (Handbook of Texas Online: Battle of Palo Alto). The view, which shows the action from the perspective of a viewer behind the U.S. lines looking south toward the Mexican positions, has been praised for its artistic beauty and historical verisimilitude. Ron Tyler rates the print as “probably the finest lithographic view of Texas produced in the nineteenth century.” Tyler comments: “Nebel adopted a practice in the Palo Alto print, that also turns up in later ones, of picturing the road as it continues behind the Mexican lines through a pass in the fictitious hills, suggesting that another segment in the road to Mexico City—this one the route to Fort Texas and Matamoros—will be open as soon as the American troops have cleared the way.” Sandweiss, et al., Eyewitness to War: Prints and Daguerreotypes of the Mexican War, 1846-1848, Plate 2 (p. 76), No. 5 (p. 109).

Capture of Monterey [below image] C. Nebel fecit. | Bayot lith. Image area: 27.2 x 42.4 cm. Sandweiss, et al., Plate 7 (p. 81), No. 16 (p. 129): “The activities of the figures in the foreground demonstrate not only Nebel’s knowledge of American uniforms and military operations, but his superior technical skills.”

Battle of Buena Vista [below image] C. Nebel fecit. | Imp. Lemercier, r. de Seine 57 Paris | Bayot lith. Image area: 27.4 x 42.5 cm. Sandweiss, et al., Plate 9 (p. 83), No. 38 (p. 163).

Bombardment of Vera=Cruz [below image] C. Nebel fecit. | Bayot lith. Image area: 27.3 x 42.3 cm. Sandweiss, et al., Plate 13 (p. 87), No. 115 (p. 275).

Battle of Cerro=gordo [below image] C. Nebel fecit. | Bayot lith. Image area: 27.8 x 42.3 cm. Sandweiss, et al., Plate 16 (p. 90), No. 125 (p. 296).

Assault of Contreras [below image] C. Nebel fecit. | Bayot lith. Image area: 27.7 x 42.5 cm. Sandweiss, et al., Plate 17 (p. 91), No. 134 (p. 308).

Battle of Churubusco [below image] C. Nebel fecit. | Bayot lith. [lower right]. Image area: 27.4 x 42.6 cm. Sandweiss, et al., Plate 18 (p. 92), No. 136 (p. 312).

Molina del Rey—attack upon the molina [below image] C. Nebel fecit. | Bayot lith. Image area: 27.7 x 42.6 cm. Sandweiss, et al., Plate 19 (p. 93), No. 140 (p. 317).

Molina del Rey—attack upon the casa mata [below image] C. Nebel fecit. | Bayot lith. Image area: 27.4 x 42.3 cm.
Sandweiss, et al., Plate 20 (p. 94), No. 141 (pp. 318-319).

Storming of Chapultepec—Pillow’s attack [below image] C. Nebel fecit. | Bayot lith. Image area: 28 x 42.5 cm. Sandweiss, et al., Plate 21 (p. 95), No. 146 (p. 326): “Nebel’s illustration for Kendall was apparently the first contemporary print to depict with any accuracy the attack by Major General Gideon Pillow’s division on Chapultepec’s western side.”

Storming of Chapultepec—Quitman’s attack [below image] C. Nebel fecit. | Bichebois et Bayot lith. Image area: 27.3 x 41.8 cm. Sandweiss, et al., Plate 23 (p. 97), No. 152 (pp. 335-336).

Genl. Scott’s entrance into Mexico [below image] C. Nebel fecit. | Bayot lith. Image area: 28.2 x 42.8 cm. Gen. Winfield Scott rides into Mexico City’s national square—”the halls of Montezuma,” in the words of the Marine Corps Hymn—to seize power and raise the flag. He followed the same invasion route as the sixteenth-century Spanish conquerors of Mexico. Sandweiss, et al., Plate 24 (p. 98), No. 159 (pp. 345-347): “Nebel’s version of Scott’s entrance sticks closer to the truth and is packed with psychological drama. There is no doubt here that the war is still on. Loaded cannons are posted to sweep the streets, while a body of dragoons in the foreground gathers tensely with drawn sabers near General Scott and his staff. In a particularly effective narrative detail, one of the dragoon officers, on a white horse in the center foreground, glares at a lepero on the left who is preparing to throw a stone. From the street or from doorways and partially closed windows, other citizens watch with fear, curiosity, apprehension, indignation, and in the case of the lepero with the stone and the armed men on the roof, open hostility, an allusion to the violence that broke out shortly thereafter.” In the introduction to the 1994 reprint of the Kendall-Nebel portfolio (pp. xxiv), Tyler comments: “Nebel’s picture of the grand plaza of Mexico, with the cathedral in the center and the National Palace at the right, is almost identical to his earlier print” (in Viaje pintoresco de Mejico; see NEBEL herein).

     First edition. Bennett, American-Nineteenth Century Color Plate Books, p. 65: “The very best American battle scenes in existence.” Christensen, The U.S.-Mexican War, p. 181. Garrett & Goodwin, The Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, p. 31. Haferkorn, p. 47. Tyler, unpublished work on lithographs of nineteenth-century Texas: “An extraordinary portfolio...Palo Alto being the only Texas scene.... Probably the finest lithographic view of Texas produced in the nineteenth century.” Howes K76. Kurutz & Mathes, The Forgotten War, p. 148: “The most brilliant and famous published views of the major battles.” Palau 188868. Peters, America on Stone, p. 295. Raines, p. 132: “Mr. K.’s position on Gen. Taylor’s staff now was in strong contrast to his wretched life as a prisoner of war in Mexico in 1841-42 [Texas Santa Fe expedition; see KENDALL herein]. A great work.” Sabin 37362. Sandweiss, Stewart & Huseman, Eyewitness to War: Prints and Daguerreotypes of the Mexican War, 1846-1848, p. 36: “The eyewitness prints that must be compared against all others are those produced under the direction of George Wilkins Kendall for his book The War Between the United States and Mexico Illustrated.” Tyler, The Mexican War, a Lithographic Record, p. 11: “Magnificently produced portfolio by...the first modern war correspondent”; p. 18: “Of all the Mexican War lithographs, perhaps the dozen by Kendall and Nebel are the most popular.” Tyler, Prints of the American West, p. 78.

     In the 1991 the Texas State Historical Association reprint of the present work, Tyler comments (pp. xxiv-xxv): “Kendall and Nebel’s book was a masterpiece of lithography and typography. The success of Lemercier’s experimentation is apparent in the sophisticated, hand-colored prints that he produced after Nebel’s paintings.... Darker colored areas of the prints have been varnished to intensify and protect the rich color. Lemercier’s ability to print tones greatly aided the colorists’ work, but in the end, the success of these images is due to the masterful and painterly coloring that Kendall demanded.... The French typography used for the text is equal to the illustrations.... [Kendall’s] reputation as a best-selling author of the Narrative of the Texan Santa Fé Expedition obviously did not hamper the book’s reception. ‘The literary part of the work, comprising very careful and particular accounts of these events, is excellently written—so compactly and perspicuously, with so thorough a knowledge and so pure a taste, as to be deserving of applause among models in military history,’ the editor of The International Magazine commented.”

     Kendall was America’s first great war correspondent and wrote an eyewitness account of the Texas-Santa Fe Expedition. An ardent proponent of the necessity of the United States’ war with Mexico, when hostilities broke out, he went at once to the Rio Grande where he accompanied the Rangers and later attached himself to Scott’s invasion. For this work he keyed his text to the individual plates and this combination affords a detailed illustrated account of each battle. The plates of the twelve major clashes of the war are the work of Carlos (or Carl) Nebel (1805-1855), of German or Swiss origin, trained in Germany, Italy, and France in engineering, architecture, and drawing. He resided in Mexico from 1829 to 1834 and created one of the most renowned illustrated works on that country (Voyage pittoresque et archéologique dans la partie la plus intéressante du Mexique, Paris, 1836; see item herein).

     Kendall notes in his preface: “Of the twelve illustrations accompanying this work...the greater number were drawn on the spot by the artist. So far as regards the general configuration of the ground, fidelity of the landscape, and correctness of the works and buildings introduced, they may be strictly relied upon. Every reader must be aware of the impossibility, in painting a battle scene, of giving more than one feature or principal incident of the strife. The artist has ever chosen what he deemed the more interesting as well as exciting points of each combat.... In the present series of illustrations the greatest care has been taken to avoid inaccuracies.” Kendall drew on “the official reports of the different commanders and their subordinates” for the text, but “was present at many of the battles” and “personally examined the ground on which all save that of Buena Vista were fought.”

     The work was published by D. Appleton in New York and Philadelphia, but the lithographs were produced in Paris. Both Kendall and Nebel felt that the Paris lithographers alone were qualified to produce their images, and they both spent some time in Europe overseeing the production of the work, for which they shared all the costs. Although Kendall became quite impatient with Nebel for various reasons, their choice of lithographer proved to be inspired. As Sandweiss, et al. observe: “The firm in question was that of Rose-Joseph Lemercier, and Kendall could hardly have chosen a better artisan for his efforts. Lemercier was an innovative technician who had developed a number of new processes, including a method of obtaining delicate shadings by spreading powdered crayon on a stone that had been slightly warmed. By the early 1840s his firm was the center for experimentation among a number of painters who sought to achieve a new range of painterly effects through the medium of lithography. Looking at the prints from Kendall’s volume today, one is struck by the soft ink washes and delicate tonal areas that underlie the watercolor. Highlights seem to have been either reserved with a waxen substance...or carefully scraped into the surface of the stone to yield understated areas of support for the hand coloring” (p. 36). Although Kendall farmed out the work to colorists in England, France, Belgium, and Germany, “the coloring in all the copies of the prints that have been examined is uniform in technique and masterly in its effects” (p. 37). As Tyler observes, “The result was similar to that achieved by aquatint, which by the time Kendall and Nebel began work on this portfolio was a vanishing art because lithography offered a simpler and aesthetically competitive alternative.” In any case, the result is twelve superb lithographs.

     An article on Kendall in the December 1965 issue of American Legion Magazine notes that “few [copies of this work] were printed, and some destroyed in a fire at the Picayune” (Tom Mahoney, “Our First Great War Correspondent”). According to Kendall, however, four months after publication, he had sold nearly a hundred copies at full price, which would seem to belie the book lore that his copies were burned (Sandweiss, et al., p. 38).

($20,000-40,000)

Auction 23 Abstracts

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