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October 26, 2007

Early Bird’s-Eye of Austin, Texas

24. [BIRD’S-EYE VIEW]. LAWRENCE, A. B. (attributed). A History of Texas, or the Emigrant’s Guide to the New Republic, by a Resident Emigrant, Late from the United States...With a Brief Introduction by the Rev. A. B. Lawrence, of New Orleans. New York: Published by Nafis & Cornish, No. 178 Pearl-Street, 1844. [2] vii-xxii [23]-275 [1 blank] pp., engraved frontispiece bird’s eye view: City of Austin the New Capital of Texas in 1844 (image: 9.7 x 18 cm; image with caption: 10.1 x 18 cm). 12mo (19 x 11.5 cm), original full mottled sheep, spine lettered and decorated in gilt, marbled fore-edges. Front joint cracked (but strong), some shelf wear (edges rubbed, corners bumped with boards slightly exposed), text with mild foxing. Overall the book is very good. Engraving with one tiny abrasion (at lower middle section, very minor loss), closely trimmed at left by binder (only slightly affecting border), otherwise fine and sharp.

            First edition, third issue, with cancel title, and without the dedication leaf to David Burnet. The first issue was published by William W. Allen at New York in 1840 under title Texas in 1840, or The Emigrant’s Guide to the New Republic; being the Result of Observation, Enquiry and Travel in That Beautiful Country. Subsequent issues of the book came out in 1842, 1844 (present issue), and 1845 (Streeter 1361A-C), but the view of Austin appears in only two editions. The first edition of the view is as follows: 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). The second edition of the plate is as indicated in preceding paragraph. There is still conjecture on the media of both editions, but the first edition is generally thought to be a lithograph, and the present second edition is engraved. 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 the first edition seems to have more qualities of lithography, while this second edition of the view appears to be an engraving. There are other variations as well. For example, in the second edition some buildings have been added, and more people are shown in the view. The first edition is usually (but not always) hand-colored, and here it is uncolored. Regardless of the conjectured medium of the present view of Austin, the image is an early bird’s-eye view of Austin reworked from the very first view of the city. The image is also one of the earliest views of Texas, and an early bird’s-eye view of any town in the West. Reps, Cities on Stone, Plate 1 (first edition). Cities of the American West, pp. 135-139 (first edition illustrated: fig. 5.18, p. 138). Also see: David C. Humphrey, Austin: An Illustrated History (Northridge: Windsor Publications, Inc., 1985, pp. 21-24). See below for Ron Tyler’s discussion of this historic view.

            References to book: Adams, Herd 2276 (citing first issue). Agatha, p. 23. BAL, Vol. I, p. 371 (citing first issue for presence of William Cullen Bryant’s poem “Prairies of Texas,” pp. 274-275). Basic Texas Books 1361B: “A valuable work on the Republic of Texas.... The view of the capital is the earliest visual record of the town.” Bradford 2939a. Clark, Travels in the Old South III:248 (citing first issue and noting the present title as well): “This is one of the better descriptions of Texas for the use of emigrants.” Eberstadt, Texas 162:482. Field 895 (citing first issue): “Numerous incidents of adventures with the Indians. Chapter xix, pp. 248 to 256, treats of the Indian tribes of the State.” Howes L154. Rader 3086 (citing first issue and mentioning the present issue). Raines, p. 203 (citing first and fourth issues). Sabin 95091 (cites first and second issues under his entry 95122). Streeter 1361B: “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 1839 wanting 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 lengthy 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 a discussion of how simple it is to 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.

Ron Tyler comments in unpublished research:

The...print is a bird-eye view of Austin from the south. Somewhat crudely drawn by Hall, a New Orleans promoter and speculator and supporter of President Lamar. It is, no doubt, an attempt to show how quickly the recently-designated capital had grown, particularly in the face of widely published complaints by Houston and his friends that Lamar had moved the government to “an inconsiderable hamlet situated on...the extreme verge of the northern frontier.” The editor of the Telegraph and Texas Register, for example, predicted that the “law requiring the removal of the capital...will be repealed” because of Indian raids, but the editor of the newly-established Austin City Gazette expressed confidence that the city’s “many advantages of location not immediately discernible to the traveller who does not look beyond the spot itself....”

Taken from a perspective dozens of feet above the Colorado, Hall shows Congress Avenue stretching into the wilderness. The newly-built capitol is the long structure on the hill at the upper left and President Lamar’s executive residence is on the larger hill at the back right. What apparently is the original drawing for this print, which does not show the river and cabins in the foreground, permits further identifications, because the artist numbered the structures and provided a key. They are, beginning at the left with the large, two-story building with the chimney at either end: Bullock’s Tavern, Samuel Whiting’s Printing Office, James (?) Burke’s Store, the Navy Department Office, the Vice President’s residence, unidentified, and Judge Edwin Waller’s residence. Directly behind the Navy Department is the Attorney General’s Office. On the right, the first two structures are unidentified. Then comes the First Auditor’s Office, the War Department Office, the Adjutant General’s Office, and the Quartermaster General’s Office [For an illustration of what might be the original drawing for this print of Austin, see Austin-Travis County Collection, Austin & Travis County: A Pictorial History, 1839-1939, text by Katherine Hart (Austin: Encino Press, 1975), p. 3].


Sold. Hammer: $900.00; Price Realized: $1,057.50

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