Travelling Panoramic Bird's-Eye Views of Mexico City by William Bullock's Son

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60. BULLOCK, William, Jr. (artist). Description of the Panorama of the Superb City of Mexico, and the Surrounding Scenery, Painted on 2700 Square Feet of Canvas, by Robert T. Burford, Esq. from Drawings Made on the Spot, at the Request of the Mexican Government, By Mr. W. Bullock, Jr. Now Open for Public Inspection Opposite the Atheneum, Pearl Street, Boston. Boston: Printed by J. H. Eastburn, No. 60, Congress-St., Price, 12 1-2 Cents, 1828. [1-3] 4-16 pp., folded lithograph plate: Explanation of a View of the City of Mexico, exhibiting in the Panorama, Leicester Square [divided into two images: upper image: 13 x 40 cm (including key); lower image: 13.5 x 40 cm (including key); overall sheet size: 31.5 x 46 cm. 8vo (21.2 x 13 cm), original plain grey paper wrappers, original stitching (broken). Wrappers chipped with minor losses, small stains, wrinkled, title page dusty and with a small stain, plate somewhat foxed and wrinkled at left edge. Overall, a very good copy of a very fragile item.

     This ephemeral publication was reprinted at every venue, and it is well nigh impossible to sort out the pollo from the huevo. Sabin 9219. Not in American Imprints. The text here is the same, with minor corrections, that was first published as Description of a View of the City of Exhibiting in the Panorama, Leicester-Square (London, 1826). The panorama takes its title from that first exhibit. In 1959 Manuel Romero de Terreros published an annotated facsimile of one of the editions of the pamphlet. The plate, which appears to be the same as that used in the London pamphlet, shows two bird’s-eye views of Mexico City from different perspectives. Both images have an accompanying key with 71 identified locations. In his text, the writer gives a brief history of Mexico and Mexico City, followed by comments on some of the places and sites shown in the panorama. One of the cites located is the shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Despite the writer's obvious sympathies for Mexico, certain prejudices show through, as in his remark that the Cathedral has only some good paintings and that the homeless Indians, of whom there are about 30,000, spend most of their time at menial tasks and getting drunk, “thus passing their time pretty equally between work, drunkennes [sic], and imprisonment” (p. 7).

     The present work is that of William Bullock, Jr., son of William Bullock, Sr. (see preceding entries). Bullock, Jr. made the drawings from which Robert Burford created the panorama, exhibited in Boston, Philadelphia, Charleston, Washington D.C., New York (see next entry), London, Mexico City, and possibly other places. Artist Robert Burford (1791-1861), who worked with Bullock, Jr., was also known for his panoramas of Lima, Niagara Falls, and Madrid. As late as 1853, Burford was still exhibiting the panorama at Leicester Square in London.

     Details are somewhat sketchy regarding the life and work of William Bullock, Jr. (fl. 1820s), son of William Bullock, Sr. (ca. 1773-1849), and the entry for William Bullock in DNB only confuses the matter. M.P. Costeloe ably sorts it out in "William Bullock and the Mexican Connection" in Mexican Studies, Vol. 22, No. 2, Summer 2006, pp. 298-300:

Little or nothing is known about his son William’s early years. His date of birth has not been found, and we know nothing of his education or occupation until the early 1820s, when he begins to appear as an assistant to his father in his various exhibitions at the Egyptian Hall. In December 1822 he left for Mexico with his father, and throughout the six months they spent there, William, a talented artist, sketched or painted the scenes, people and objects which were to appear as illustrations in his father’s book. His work also was used in December 1825, just a few weeks after the closure of his father’s exhibition at the Egyptian Hall, in another major exhibition about Mexico. John and Robert Burford were well-known artists of the time and owners of the Rotunda at London’s Leicester Square. This circular building was used to present large-scale panoramic views of scenes painted by the Burford brothers. Using the sketches made by William Bullock, they painted what was said to be 2,700 square feet of scenes of Mexico City, presented in a 360–degree panorama....

When Bullock [Sr.] returned to Britain in November 1823, he left his son behind in Mexico to look after the mine at Temascaltepec. A few weeks after his father’s naturalization request had been granted, William Jr. had made the same request, and his application was approved by Congress on July 18, 1823. Hence, he had the legal status to engage in mining, but we have no information on what he was supposed to do at the mine nor what, if any, knowledge he had of mining operations.... Like his father, William was an ardent naturalist, anxious to find and acquire any new species of plant or wildlife that he could discover. Much of his time seems to have been spent in these pursuits, rather than at the mine, and we know that this was the case throughout most of 1825.... Bullock collected birds and other natural fauna that he sent back to Britain.... In fact, Bullock Jr. is now described as one of the first naturalists “who ever collected birds in Mexico for scientific purposes.” [When Bullock, Sr. left Mexico], it seems that his son stayed in Mexico. We have no information on what he intended to do, and...his whereabouts and intentions are unknown. It has been stated that soon afterwards, possibly again on one of his naturalist expeditions, he caught yellow fever and died. If this was the case, we have no details of where and when it happened, nor where he was buried.


Sold. Hammer: $400.00; Price Realized: $490.00.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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