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Auction 15: Fine Collection of Californiana Formed by Daniel G. Volkmann Jr.

Lot 210: Incredible Iconongraphy by Vischer

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Vischer’s Pictorial
A Unique and Exceedingly Rare Historical Record of Early California

210. VISCHER, Edward. Vischer’s Pictorial of California. Album and two text volumes, as follows:
Vischer’s Pictorial of California Landscape, Trees and Forest Scenes. Grand Features of California Scenery, Life, Traffic and Customs. San Francisco, April, 1870. [San Francisco]: Joseph Winterburn & Company, [1870]. [4] 4 [129]-131 [1, blank] [8] pp. (title printed in red), 61 photographic plates; [2] pp., 2 photographic plates of text, 26 photographic plates; [2] pp., 12 photographic plates (1 folded); [2] pp., 46 photographic plates; [1] p., 7 photographic plates [for a total of 154 albumen photographs mounted on stiff board and bound on linen hinges (scenes, views, maps, letter sheets, Mammoth Tree Grove, architecture, missions, mining), most after Vischer’s original pencil and washing drawings], letterpress text accompanying photographs in red, purple, and sepia inks.

Folio, original gilt-lettered black morocco gilt, covers with elaborate gilt stamping, spine extra gilt with raised bands, beveled edges, inner gilt dentelles, marbled endpapers, a.e.g. (binder’s ticket of San Francisco’s Bartling & Kimball on front pastedown). Some rubbing to spine extremities and corners, light shelf wear, mild waterstain in lower blank margins of first few leaves, small waterstain to one leaf barely into image area, usual light warping of some mounting boards. Very fine copy, with unfaded photographs in excellent condition.

    First edition, later issue (the first issue had 60 photographs). Cf. Cowan I, p. 241. Cf. Cowan II, p. 662. Cf. Currey & Kruska 376 (third issue, for Mammoth Tree Grove section). Cf. Farquhar, Yosemite 5a (for Mammoth Tree Grove section).

Howell 50, California 914: “Although both the text volume and the supplement on the missions were published separately, they properly form a set.... Vischer, a pioneer merchant and artist, whose announced aim was to be graphic rather than artistic, drew charming but naive sketches which constitute an important historical record of early California. His extensive drawings, made between 1858 and 1867, were photographed and reproduced in volumes such as...Pictorial.” Howell, Americana 555. Howes V131, V132. Graff 4492. Kurutz, California Books Illustrated with Original Photographs 1856-1890 #67. Miles & Reese, America Pictured to the Life 21: “There are no contemporary publications quite comparable to [Vischer’s books] in their eccentric combination of media; the confusion is compounded by the bewildering array of formats, issues, and reissues the artist ultimately produced.”

Rocq 1446 (Mammoth Tree Grove), 17214 (album). Streeter Sale 2877, 2930, 2936. This album does not match in all its points any description given by bibliographers, although all parts appear as issued. As Currey & Kruska point out, after Vischer issued the first 60 plates and the map, he expanded the available photographs (here to 154); thus, it is difficult to determine if later issues are “complete,” although the album here certainly seems to be precisely as purchased and bound originally. Not all of the plates here are reproduced from original Vischer drawings; some are reproductions of printed materials or of actual photographs.

Vischer’s Pictorial of California Landscape, Trees and Forest Scenes. Grand Features of California Scenery, Life, Traffic and Customs. Photographs from the Original Drawings...San Francisco, April, 1870. [San Francisco]: Joseph Winterburn & Company, [1870]. [4] 8 [4] [9]-132 pp., includes the inserted leaf between pp. 8 and [9] listing “Sixty Views of Californian Landscape,” but without other inserted material noted by Currey & Kruska, which they note varies. 4to, original beige wrappers printed in red, original stitching. Some chipping along spine, lower wrapper detaching at upper joint. A fine copy of a fragile item.
    First edition, later issue. Cowan II, p. 262. Currey & Kruska 381 (Format B). Cf. Farquhar, Yosemite 5c. Howes V131. Rocq 17214.

Missions of Upper California, 1872.... Notes on the California Missions: A Supplement to Vischer’s Pictorial of California, Dedicated to Its Patrons. San Francisco: Winterburn & Co., 1872. [2] 44, viii, iv [2] pp. 8vo, original beige printed wrappers, original stitching. Some chipping along spine, wrappers detaching at joints, upper wrapper lightly foxed. A fine copy of a fragile item.
    First edition. Cf. Cowan II, p. 262. Weber, The California Missions, p. 103: “These ‘Notes on the California Missions,’ issued as a supplement to Vischer’s Pictorial of California... (San Francisco, 1870), comprise a wholly separate volume from the hand of one who was ‘preeminently the greatest artist in the early history of our state.” This rare supplement to Vischer’s album discusses and clarifies views that appear in the album itself. Vischer was passionately interested in the missions and missionaries of Alta California and visited them during the 1840s.

    Edward Vischer (1808-1878) migrated from Germany to Mexico at the age of nineteen, and worked with the commercial house of Heinrich Virmond and other German-Latin American companies as supercargo on trading voyages to Pacific ports in the Americas and to the Orient. Dispatched to California in 1842 by Virmond, he became enamored of the area while pursuing his employment and visiting Monterey, Yerba Buena, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles. Vischer began to paint and sketch many of the scenes and other aspects of California life and its landscape that interested him, particularly the missions. Determined to publish some of his artwork, he first experimented with lithography, but abandoned that method when one of his lithographic stones broke, causing him to lose his investment of the cost of the stone and his time and energy. He began publishing his paintings and drawings by taking photographs of his original artwork. Vischer published portfolios of his drawings beginning in 1862: The Mammoth Tree Grove (1862), The Washoe Mining Region (1862), Pictorial of California Landscape (1870), and Missions of Upper California (1872). Vischer is among the early California photographers, and Dr. Hart considered him the first (see Companion to California). Vischer’s album is a unique contribution to the iconography of California.

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