Earliest Published View of Austin, Texas
79. [LAWRENCE, A. B. (attributed)]. Texas in 1840, or the Emigrant’s Guide to the New Republic; Being the Result of Observation, Enquiry and Travel in That Beautiful County. By an Emigrant, Late of the United States...With an Introduction by the Rev. A. B. Lawrence, of New Orleans. New York: Published by William W. Allen, and Sold by Robinson, Pratt & Co., 73 Wall Street, Collins, Keese & Co., 254 Pearl Street, and by the Booksellers Generally, 1840. [2 blank], [iii]-275 [1 blank] pp., hand-colored lithograph (or possibly engraved) view: City of Austin the New Capital of Texas in January 1. 1840 [lower left] Drawn by Edward Hall [lower right] Lithog by J. Lowe; image: 9.7 x 18.3 cm; image with caption: 10.2 x 18.3 cm. 12mo, original brown blind-stamped ribbed cloth, spine gilt-lettered and decorated. Headcap of spine detached (but present), cloth moderately spotted and rubbed, joints weak, first few leaves (including title and plate) heavily stained. Former owners’ signatures on endpapers (including Frances R. Cragin of Walpole, New Hampshire), text browned. Front flyleaf lacking one-inch across top where name was torn away.
First edition. Adams, Herd 2276: “Rare.” Agatha, p. 23: “Pithy in style and valuable for information...on early conditions in Texas... From the geological, zoological, and botanical points of view the book is worthwhile as an addition to scientific material on Texas.” BAL, Vol. I, p. 371 (citing for the presence of William Cullen Bryant’s poem “Prairies of Texas,” pp. 274-275). Basic Texas Books 120. Bradford 2939. Clark, Old South III:248: “One of the better descriptions of Texas for the use of emigrants.” Field 895. Howes L154. Raines, p. 203. Reps, Cities on Stone, plate 1; Cities of the American West, pp. 136-39. Sabin 95122. Siebert Sale 951. Streeter 1361: “An important Texas book.”
Authorship is attributed to Rev. A. B. Lawrence, editor of the New Orleans Presbyterian; on pp. 29-80 is the diary Lawrence kept of his journey from Galveston to Austin via Houston, Washington-on-the-Brazos, Rutersville, La Grange, and Bastrop. The attribution is verified by another clergyman, William Y. Allen, who in later reminiscences (published in the Texas Presbyterian, 1876 and 1885) states that Rev. Lawrence and a Philadelphia publisher came to Houston in 1839wanting to hurriedly write a history of the Republic. The description of Austin is one of the most extensive of the period. The work is dedicated to David G. Burnet. Rev. Lawrence preached a sermon in the new wooden capitol and baptized Burnet’s son. The most extensive interview was with Gen. Edward Burleson, and it is thought that the material on campaigns against Texas tribes in the outlying regions is from interviews with Burleson. Chapter 9 contains discussion of how simple it is raise cattle herds in Texas and states that cattle left running wild will increase on their own, “doubling their number every three or four years” (p. 131). He also states that large horse herds are present in the countryside and may be captured in abundance. On a lesser note, he states that sheep, goats, and swine can also be successfully raised.
Although several accounts and guides to Texas were published before this one, Lawrence’s Texas in 1840 appears to be the first to contain an eye-witness lithograph. The frontispiece print, which presents a bucolic bird’s-eye view of Austin in 1840, was drawn by Edward Hall, a supporter of President Lamar. Hall may have been motivated to show a pleasant, peaceful Austin, which Lamar had just made capital of the Republic, over objections by Sam Houston and others who thought the new seat of the Republic was too far north to be safe from Native depredations. Ron Tyler, in unpublished research on nineteenth-century lithographs of Texas, comments: “While this 1840 view of Austin is probably the first lithograph of the state made after an eye-witness drawing, there are several perplexing questions associated with it. First, is it a lithograph? [Printmaker] Lowe lists the medium as ‘lithog’ in the lower right hand corner, but the print is made up of lines and cross-hatching that one would expect to find in a crude engraving and exhibits none of the tonal qualities that artists are able to achieve with lithographs. Close examination of the print seems inconclusive, because many early lithographers, particularly poorly-trained ones, drew on the stone in a manner similar to an etching or engraving and did not take advantage of lithography's finer qualities. This would have been particularly true of an engraver, such as Lowe, doing perhaps the only lithograph of his career. Nor does the paper show any evidence of the ‘bite’ that would be associated with an intaglio print such as an etching or an engraving. Perhaps Lowe redrew and engraved Hall's drawing in Galveston, and the image was transferred to the lithographic stone in New York, where the book was published. In Lowe's defense it might be said that he was working from a crude line drawing that had none of the tonal qualities that one would associate with a lithograph.”
Subsequent issues of the book came out in 1842, 1844, and 1845 (Streeter 1361A-C), but the print of Austin appears in only two versions, the later version redrawn, uncolored, and probably an engraving. Dr. Kelsey (Engraved Prints of Texas 1554-1900, figure 361) includes the redrawn print in his survey. Comparing the two side by side, the view in this first issue seems to have more qualities of lithography, while the later view appears to be an engraving.
Regardless of the conjectured medium of the present view of Austin, the view is the earliest bird’s-eye view of Austin, a very early view of Texas, and an early bird’s-eye view of any town in the West. ($750-1,500)
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