John Phillips’ Beautiful Plate Book: Mexico Illustrated

Very Rare & The Most Desirable Issue: Full Color

Click thumbnails to open zoomable images.

483. PHILLIPS, John. Mexico Illustrated, with Descriptive Letter-press, in English and Spanish, By John Phillips.... London: Published by E. Atchley, Library of Fine Arts, 106, Great Russell Street, Bedford Square, London, 1848. [2, title, verso blank], 25 leaves of letterpress text (all versos blank, text in English and Spanish), 26 full original color lithographs on heavy paper (illustrated title with view of Veracruz, city and landscape views, a few military scenes and interiors) by Day & Son Lithrs. to Queen after original drawings by Alfred Rider. Folio (56.5 x 38.5 cm), publisher’s original dark red roan over original red silk moiré cloth, upper cover with gilt illustration of the Mexican symbol (eagle with snake on cactus) and lettered in gilt below (Mexico), spine lettered in gilt (Mexico Illustrated with Description in English & Spanish). Professionally recased, binding neatly repaired and with some moderate wear, darkening, and a few stains. Interior with light uniform browning and scattered mild foxing, neat repair to lower blank corner of title, plate images very fine and fresh. Very rare, especially this issue with all the plates in full color.

Plate List

Sheet size for all is 55.6 x 36.5 cm; dimensions below are for image and border. All plates with Day & Sons, Lithrs. to the Queen (at right below image at left). Titles at beginning in brackets match those in the accompanying letterpress text; titles in image follow and are in italic.

[1] [Illustrated title, with oval top] Mexico Illustrated, in Twenty-Six Drawings by John Phillips and A. Rider with descriptive Letterpress in English and Spanish. Lithographed by Messrs. Riders and Walker. [below image] Published by E. Atchley, Library of Fine Arts, 106 Gt. Russell St., Bedford Sqre., London. [in image below view, at right] Near Vera Cruz. 41.8 x 28.3 cm. View on the road from Veracruz to Mexico City, with snow-covered peaks in distance.

[2] [Campeachy] [in image at lower left] Lagos. 26.2 x 39 cm. Wonderful view of the fortressed town of San Francisco de Campeche as seen from the Bay of Campeche on the Gulf of Mexico. Several boats of different size ply the green water with whitecaps and sea gulls.

[3] [Vera Cruz] [in image at lower left] Verz Cruz [lower left below image] Alfred Rider. 24.9 x 38.7 cm. “Vera Cruz has frequently been subjected to the horrors of war. In April 1847 it was captured by the American forces under General Scott and suffered severely from the bombardment on that occasion.” A peaceful view from the shore opposite the city with large sea wall, and to the right the fortress and prison of San Juan de Ulúa. Sandweiss, Stewart & Huseman, Eyewitness to War: Prints and Daguerreotypes of the Mexican War, 1846-1848, pp. 260-262 (illustrated): “This 1848 lithograph after a sketch by Englishman John Phillips is one of a number of published views by Europeans of Mexico’s principal port of Veracruz, but it is perhaps the only one that is roughly contemporary to the American invasion. Although the exact date is not known, Phillips may have made his original sketch sometime just prior to or during the American occupation.”

[4] [Jalapa] [in image at lower right] Jalapa. 26.3 x 39 cm. Letterpress text commentary includes: “The scenery is remarkably beautiful, and glows with a peculiar richness of verdure, while mountain rises above mountain, clothed with extraordinary forests almost to their summits. In the background of the picture, the mountains called the Coffer of Perote is seen, elevated 13,414 feet above the level of the sea.” Mules loaded with straw baskets and people walk up a path overlooking Xalapa with its characteristic red tile roofs and large mountains. Sandweiss, Stewart & Huseman, Eyewitness to War: Prints and Daguerreotypes of the Mexican War, 1846-1848, pp. 297-298 (illustrated): “John Phillips probably painted the sketch for this lithograph of the town of Jalapa before the war, but it nevertheless conveys some idea of what the town must have looked like to the American troops as they advanced along the National Road after the battle of Cerro Gordo. [Footnote 1: Richard F. Pourade claims that Phillips’s ‘sketches were of scenes of Mexico before the war’ but unfortunately offers little proof for this.... Until more is known about Phillips, there remains a slight possibility that some of the sketches might have been done during the American occupation].” Libura, et al., Echoes of the Mexican-American War, p. 119 (illustrated).

[5] [Orizaba] [in image at lower right] Orizaba. 25.8 x 39.5 cm. Letterpress text commentary includes: “Orizaba, the Citlaltepetl, or ‘Star Mountain’ of the Mexicans, situated to the South-West of Vera Cruz, is elevated 17,371 feel above the level of the sea.” A pastoral scene with cattle grazing, two men view the distant peak, as a rider plods down a path. Sandweiss, Stewart & Huseman, Eyewitness to War: Prints and Daguerreotypes of the Mexican War, 1846-1848, pp. 260-261 (illustrated).

[6] [Plains of Perote] [in image at lower left] Plain of Perote. 26 x 38.8 cm. “The high road from Vera Cruz to Mexico, after traversing the hot country bordering on the coast, the magnificent environs of Jalapa and the elevated and cold regions of Las Vigas, passes by the town and castle of Perote, and then enters upon a level tract of country of vast extent, forming the plains of Perote; a large portion of which, called the Mal Pais, is a bleak and arid desert, composed of lava from the neighbouring volcanoes.... Rude crosses mark the spots where murders have been committed. Orizaba, towering high above the black mountains which surround it, looks cold and frowning; and, although admiring the grandeur of the scenery, the traveller is glad to pursue his journey, and to find some leagues onward that the barren lava has given place to extensive plantations of aloes and fertile fields of corn.” Four armed men standing on high rocks in the foreground scrutinize a small band of riders on the vast plain who cast long shadows. In the background are ominous mountains. Three groups of Texans in the Republic era involuntarily toured those regions and the dungeons of Perote. Sandweiss, Stewart & Huseman, Eyewitness to War: Prints and Daguerreotypes of the Mexican War, 1846-1848, p. 299 (illustrated): “About twenty-four miles west of Jalapa on the National Road lies the Castle of San Carlos de Perote, an eighteenth-century fort that chiefly served as a prison. The castle guarded a broad high plain, seen in this lithograph after a sketch by John Phillips. The first Americans reached the fort in late 1847; they found it abandoned and filled with Mexican munitions. The American army maintained a garrison there until the end of the war, using the fort as a base for anti-guerrilla patrols.”

[7] [Puebla] [in image at lower right] Puebla. 26 x 39.2 cm. Letterpress text commentary includes: “In extent and population, and the number and magnificence of its buildings, it is second only to the capital. The streets are straight,broad, and cross each other at right angles, as in Mexico. They are well paved, and have wide footpaths, which are very clean. The houses are in general large and lofty, with flat roofs. The numerous religious edifices are splendidly decorated.” Figures including a musician playing a guitar stand by a stone entrance to the city, behind which are two snow-covered peaks. Sandweiss, Stewart & Huseman, Eyewitness to War: Prints and Daguerreotypes of the Mexican War, 1846-1848, pp. 301-302: “Although this view by English artist John Phillips is probably not contemporary with the American occupation, it may give a rough idea of what the city looked like at the time. The view is taken from the eastern district of the city and approximates what Ballentine and others described. In the distance, between the snow-covered mountains of Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl, is the cathedral. Several other churches are visible (the city is famous for its large number of churches).... Phillips may have copied Carl Nebel’s view of Puebla in the latter’s Voyage pittoresque et archéologique [see NEBEL herein]. Except for changes in the foreground figures, the compositions are virtually identical.” Libura, et al., Echoes of the Mexican-American War, p. 122 (illustrated).

[8] [Rio Frio] [in image at lower left] Rio Frio. 26 x 39 cm. Letterpress text commentary includes: “[Rio Frio] contains a few Indian huts and a comfortable roadside inn. It is a strong military position, being at the entrance to a wild pass called El Pinal.” Rio Frio is situated on the high road from Puebla to Mexico. Crossing the river is a horse-drawn carriage with a brass-colored cannon. On the far side of the river a large number of troops are marching up the hill, while a few bystanders sitting in front of the inn watch the procession. Sandweiss, Stewart & Huseman, Eyewitness to War: Prints and Daguerreotypes of the Mexican War, 1846-1848, p. 303 (illustrated): “In this print, after a John Phillips original that was probably executed before the war, Mexican infantry are seen on the march with an artillery unit crossing the stream of Rio Frio.... When the Americans reached the top of the pass just beyond Rio Frio, they had their first view of the Valley of Mexico. [Footnote 1: Although Phillips’s picture has the spontaneity of an eyewitness wartime view, it would have been highly difficult for him to make such sketches during wartime. As an Englishman sketching Mexican troops movements in a war zone, he might have been treated as a spy].”

[9] [Popocatepetl] [in image at lower right] [Popocatepetl] 36.7 x 27 cm. Letterpress text commentary includes: “Popocatepetl, or the ‘hill that smokes,’is 17,850 feet above the level of the sea. The first European who ascended it was Diego Ordaz, in the year 1519, accompanied by nine other Spaniards.... One of the [1830] party, in describing the ascent, states that the greater part of the mountain is covered with an extensive forest, above which there is a stratum of sand, and above that, the snow, the brilliant whiteness of which, as seen from distant points, can be but very imperfectly conveyed in a drawing.... The scene from the [summit] is said to be indescribably awful. The crater is estimated to be more than a mile across, and the depth inside about 1,500 feet, broken up into hills, some of which are continually emitting smoke.” In the foreground two men stand on a rock below the falls, gazing up at the snow-covered peak.

[10] [Mexico] [in image at lower right] Mexico. 26.8 x 43.2 cm. Letterpress text commentary includes: “The view of Mexico is taken from a point to the North-west of the City, on the way to Toluca.” The city is shown in miniature in the background behind which are the snow-covered mountains of Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl. In the foreground a dark-skinned man in white loincloth kneels on a large rock preparing to catch the lizard sharing the rock with him. At left are two tall palm trees and a stand of agave.

[11] [The Cathedral of Mexico] [in image at lower right] Cathedral Mexico. 24.6 x 39 cm. Letterpress text commentary includes: “The Cathedral of Mexico occupies a portion of the ground which, at the period of the conquest, was covered by the Great Temple of the Aztecs. It is on the northern side of the Plaza Mayor, or Great Square of the city, and is of vast proportions, although deficient in height, which gives to it a less imposing appearance, than, from its extent and fine situation, it would otherwise possess. This defect is, however, unavoidable, on account of the frequent earthquakes to which the city is subject. The celebrated calendar stone of the Aztecs, called Montezuma’s Watch, is fixed to the outer wall of the Cathedral.”

[12] [Interior of the Cathedral of Mexico] [in image at lower left] Cathedral de Mijeco [sic]. 27.1 x 39.3 cm. Letterpress text commentary includes: “The interior of this noble edifice is richly decorated. The altars and screens are profusely ornamented with carved work, pictures and images, some of which are said to be of pure silver. A massive railing, enclosing the high altar, was brought from China, and is considered to be very valuable. The arrangement of the various parts of the interior is generally considered defective, but the effect is nevertheless very magnificent.” A beautiful scene of the interior of the handsome Spanish colonial edifice combining Renaissance, Baroque, and Neo-classic elements, bathed in shafts of light.

[13] [The Church of Santo Domingo] [in image at lower right] St. Domingo. 27.5 x 38.5 cm. In the foreground a horseman stops to drink water, other figures on road. Letterpress text commentary includes: “On the seen the palace of the Inquisition, which tribunal was abolished in 1820; and in the foreground the Custom House of the city, a large and commodious building. The street of Santo Domingo is the northern outlet from the city.” A religious procession at center is set against the background of colonial architecture. Libura, et al., Echoes of the Mexican-American War, p. 170 (illustrated, but incorrectly attributed to Nebel).

[14] [Convent of la Merced] [in image at lower left] Convento de Merced. 27 x 39.4 cm. Letterpress text commentary includes: “Many of the convents with which Mexico abounds are of immense size, and their interriors are not only loaded with costly decorations, but they sometimes present very interesting specimens of architecture.... This convent stands in the south-eastern part of the city, in the calle de la Merced.” Charnay remarked on the uninteresting exterior of the convent but added: “No one would stop to look at the Convent de la Merced were it not for its cloisters, the finest in Mexico; they are composed of white, slender columns, in Moorish style, with indented arches, forming galleries which surround a paved court...” (The Ancient Cities of the New World, London: Chapman & Hall, p. 32).

[15] [The Paseo] [in image at lower right] Paseo. 28 x 39.3 cm. Letterpress text commentary includes: “The varied and picturesque costumes of the Mexicans are nowhere seen to more advantage than in the public promenades of the city.... These Paseos are adorned with handsome fountains and avenues of trees. On the occasion of a grand Festival, such as the Anniversary of the Independence, the assemblage of equipages and horsemen is particularly brilliant.” Phillips and Rider create a lively scene to match their words.

[16] [Chapultepec] [in image at lower right] Chapultepec. 28 x 42.8 cm. Letterpress text commentary includes: “In the advance of the Americans upon Mexico, in September, 1847, this strong position, though bravely defended by the Mexicans was stormed by irresistible gallantry by the American troops.” The castle is shown in the background at left, below on the road are troops of cavalry with guidons kicking up dust as they dash forward. Sandweiss, Stewart & Huseman, Eyewitness to War: Prints and Daguerreotypes of the Mexican War, 1846-1848, pp. 322-324 (illustrated): “Phillips’s view must have been taken before the war, or at least before the Mexicans fortified the castle in anticipation of the American advance on Mexico City. Although he mentions the American attack on the building in his text, this only proves that he wrote the text during the American occupation. Details of the picture suggest that it was based on earlier observation. Noticeably absent from this picture, when compared with wartime views, are the parapets, timber screens, and other fortifications as well as the military college’s round tower, known as El Caballero Alto. Contemporary maps reveal that Phillips or his lithographer took considerable artistic license with the composition by moving mountains around and compressing and distorting distances. To suggest the military character of the site, Phillips included a squadron of Mexican lancers galloping by, followed by an artillery unit with two field pieces and limbers or caisson. Perhaps he included some of these details to attract subscriptions for his portfolio from American buyers whose interest in Mexico stemmed from the war.”

[17] [Man’s Hand Mountain... Vista cerca de Caneles] [in image at lower left] Near Caneles—Madre Monte. 25.8 x 39 cm. Letterpress text commentary includes: “Amongst the many remarkable features of the scenery of Mexico are the fantastic forms which the rocks sometimes assume at the tops of mountains.... One of these peculiar formations is seen in the view before us, the rock on the summit of the mountain appearing in the likeness of a man’s hand. It is in the neighbourhood of Caneles, among the mountains which surround the valley of Mexico.” Riders canter along the edge of a river flowing from a high mountain scene.

[18] [San Agustin de las Cuevas] [in image at lower right] San Agustin. 25.3 x 38.6 cm. Letterpress text commentary includes: “The village of San Agustin de las Cuevas is about four leagues from the city of Mexico, charmingly situated in the midst of handsome villas and orchards. It is celebrated for the great fête which is held annually at Whitsuntide and attended by everybody in Mexico who can by any means provide for the occasion.” Hundreds of colorfully attired citizens dance, saunter, eat, drink, and engage in various activities, as two priests at the right look on. Sandweiss, Stewart & Huseman, Eyewitness to War: Prints and Daguerreotypes of the Mexican War, 1846-1848, p. 304 (illustrated): “The artist’s sketch was probably taken shortly before the war.... San Agustín de las Cuevas, also known by its Indian name of Tlálpan, was a popular gambling and recreation center. According to the historian of the Ninth Infantry, the town ‘was crowded to excess the afternoon of the 17th of August, many wealthy and fashionable families from the city being of the number. They had gone there not for recreation only, but to escape from the scene of strife; and, unfortunately, suddenly found themselves in the midst of the invaders.’ Scott’s entire army passed through the town during the next three days; it became a depot and, temporarily, the base of the American army. [Footnote 3: In the foreground of the print are two...uniformed soldiers wearing forage or barracks caps, the most common headgear worn by American soldiers in the Mexican War, suggesting a date during the American occupation].”

[19] [Real del Monte] [in image at lower left] Real del Monte [lower left below image] John Phillips. 26 x 39 cm. Letterpress text commentary includes: “The town of Real del Monte is distant about 60 miles north from the city of Mexico, in the midst of mountains traversed by numerous mineral veins.... It has long been celebrated as a mining district, and produced a large amount of wealth during the last century. Since the year 1824 the mines have been worked by an English company.” A few folks walk or loiter on a high road leading to the town in the distance. This was the location of the Company for which Phillips worked. It was the Cornish miners brought to Mexico with the Real del Monte company who introduced soccer to Mexico.

[20] [Church of Zimapan] [in image at lower left] Zimapan [below image at right] John Phillips. 26.3 x 39 cm.   Letterpress text commentary includes: “Zimapan a town situated about 42 leagues north from Mexico, is the capital of a district, the mines of which were formerly very productive.... It suffered greatly during the revolution in 1810, and remains in a half ruined state. The church stands at one corner of the square.” Small groups of people engage in various activities outside the walled church.

[21] [Mountains in El Doctor] [in image at lower right] El Doctor. 26.1 x 38.8 cm. Letterpress text commentary includes: “The district of El Doctor, whose mountains form a part of the Sierra Madres, is one of the most extraordinary and inaccessible in Mexico.” A goatherd and his charges rest high on a plateau in the dramatic Sierra Madre range of steep mountains cut through with canyons.

[22] [Lagos] [in image at lower left] Lagos. 25.4 x 39 cm. Letterpress text commentary includes: “Lagos is one of the towns which lies between between the two great mineral capitals of Guanaxauto and Zacatecas. It is picturesquely situated on the border of a wide but shallow river, which is fordable in the dry season.” Against the backdrop of the walled town is the river with small bridge; in the foreground, a man sits and smokes, and a man riding riding a horse is accompanied by a woman walking beside him.

[23] [Zacatecas] [in image at lower left] Zacatecas. 26.5 x 40 cm. Letterpress text commentary includes: “The approach to Zacatecas from the south is through the small town of Guadalupe, which lies at the foot of the hills and comprises within it a large convent, founded for the purpose of preparing missionaries for the Californias.” Most of the Spanish missions in what is now Texas were established and staffed by Franciscans from two missionary colleges, the College of Santa Cruz de Querétaro (founded 1683) and the College of Guadalupe de Zacatecas (founded 1703–1707). As usual, the artist chooses a view of the city far in the distance, with people in the foreground.

[24] [San Luis Potosi] [in image at lower left] San Luis Potosi. 26.3 x 39.1 cm. Letterpress text commentary includes: “[San Luis Potosi] contains many large buildings, amongst which are the Government Palace occupying one side of the Plaza de las armas, the Franciscan and Carmelite Monasteries and Churches. The exterior architectures of these and others is heavy and overloaded with ornaments and statues, although at a short distance they give a magnificent appearance to the town.” Two men and a woman rest atop a promontory at a small distance from the city from which over a dozen domes and cupolas rise.

[25] [The Sierra Madre] [in image at lower right] Pass in the Sierra Madre near Monterey. 26.3 x 39 cm. Letterpress text commentary includes: “The portion of the Sierra Madre or great Mountain chain of Mexico represented in the drawing, lies between Monterey and Saltillo.” In the foreground troops head up a mountain road, and at the end of their procession is gun-carriage with a brass cannon drawn by six horses. At left center an armed uniformed officer converses with a seated civilian who points toward the mountains. Sandweiss, Stewart & Huseman, Eyewitness to War: Prints and Daguerreotypes of the Mexican War, 1846-1848, pp. 130-131 (illustrated): “The exact date that John Phillips made the original sketch for this view is not known. However, the print may represent Rinconada Pass, approximately thirty miles west of Monterrey, along the road to Saltillo.... Although Phillips probably sketched the view before the war, he may later have added the infantry, heavy artillery, and a couple of covered vehicles to evoke the more recent event. [Footnote 2] It would be an understatement to add that in time of war it would be dangerous for a foreigner like Phillips to sit and sketch an army on the move.... Phillips no doubt intended the troops to be Mexican since most wear shakos, which American troops apparently never wore in Mexico.” Christensen, The U.S.-Mexican War, p. 151 (illustrated). Libura, et al., Echoes of the Mexican-American War, pp. 79 & 86 (illustrated, 86 shows a detail).

[26] [Matamoras] [in image at lower left] Matamoras. 26.1 x 38.8 cm. This view with clouds and bright beams shining through is from the shore of what is now Brownsville, Texas, with only a few primitive huts, ladies doing laundry, and a few little boats. On the Rio Grande are several boats including a large sail boat with a Mexican flag. On the south side of the river is the substantial town of Matamoros with beautiful old architecture. Letterpress text commentary includes: “Matamoras is situated on the south side of the Rio Grande del Norte, the principal navigable river in Mexico. It has recently come into notice from being the place where hostilities commenced between the Mexican and American troops; and from its position, is probably destined to become a town of much greater importance than at present.... The Valley of the Rio Grande is very fertile, and the climate is salubrious.” One of the two battles of the Mexican-American War fought on Texas soil was at Brownsville. Sandweiss, Stewart & Huseman, Eyewitness to War: Prints and Daguerreotypes of the Mexican War, 1846-1848, pp. 111-112 (illustrated): “Englishman John Phillips apparently travelled to Matamoros sometime before the war, when he made the original sketch or sketches for his view. Exact dates for Phillips’s original sketches have not been determined, but Richard F. Pourade states that the artist ‘saw Matamoros before the ravages of the great hurricane in 1844.’“ Libura, et al., Echoes of the Mexican-American War, p. 58 (illustrated).

     First edition of one of the most beautiful and rare nineteenth-century Mexican plate books, including views of interest for the Mexican-American War. This book issued in three formats: black and white plates, plates tinted two shades, and full color. The present copy is in full color, making it the rarest and most desirable issue. Abbey, Travel in Aquatint and Lithography 1770-1860 671. Allibone, et al., A Critical Dictionary of English Literature and British and American Authors, Vol. II, p. 1668 (notes editions in 1848 and 1849, and two issues at £4, 4s, and £10, 10s, latter in color). Kurutz & Mathes, The Forgotten War, p. 159: “Phillips was in Mexico at the time of the war and three of the prints show Mexican troops.” Mayer, “Phillips, Rider y su álbum Mexico Illustrated,” pp. 291-306 in Anales del Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, No. 76, 2000 (best information on Phillips). Palau 224780. Sabin 62498. Sandweiss, Stewart & Huseman, Eyewitness to War: Prints and Daguerreotypes of the Mexican War, 1846-1848, Nos. 6, 17, 108, 127, 130, 131 & 132; & p. 7; p. 111: “[Phillips’s album] apparently sold in the United States for one hundred dollars.” Tooley, English Books with Coloured Plates 1790- 1860 369. Tyler, The Mexican War: A Lithograph Record, p. 11.

     John Phillips is often confused with the British geologist (1800-1874) of the same name. The author-artist for the present work is John Phillips, chemist, mining expert, and Secretary to the Board of Directors of the British mining venture Real del Monte Mining Company. Phillips’ dates are unknown or reported variously by different sources (the best source on Phillips is Roberto L. Mayer’s “Phillips, Rider y su álbum Mexico Illustrated” pp. 291-306 in Anales del Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, No. 76, 2000) What we do know is that Phillips travelled to Mexico in 1840 to inspect and administer his silver mining company’s interests. He visited several mines and mining towns and published a paper on his findings in the Railway Register in 1846 (“Descriptive Notice of the Silver Mines and Amalgamation Process of Mexico”). He worked for the Real del Monte Mining Company from 1824 until it dissolved in 1848, after which he served as an agent in England for the successor of the Company. Apparently Phillips had an interest in natural history, and a species of kangaroo-rat endemic to Mexico is named for him. “Mr. John Phillips, who has lately returned from Real del Monte, Mexico, has, at the recommendation of Mr. John Taylor, sent to the British Museum the skins of some very rare and interesting birds.’ And along with the birds came the type specimen of the kangaroo-rat” (pp. 321-322, in Bo Beolens, et al., The Eponym Dictionary of Mammals, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009).

     While in Mexico, Phillips apparently created drawings of the some of the places he visited, on which the present lithographs were based. The illustrated title credits Phillips and A. Rider as the creators of the art work, and the lithographers as Riders (sic) and Walker. (An alternate of Rider’s surname is Ryder. An “E. Walker” was a lithographer for the Day & Son firm in the mid-nineteenth century.) The view of Veracruz credits Alfred Rider as artist. Little is known of Alfred Rider (ca. 1824-1850), who is listed as Phillips co-author. Twenty-year old Rider arrived in Veracruz from New York in 1844, listing his profession as lithographer, and remained in Mexico nine months. Rider went on to Africa where his last work was a drawing of Lake Ngami, recently discovered by David Livingstone. The young artist died of fever, and Livingston included Rider’s drawing of the lake in his book (South Africa.... London, 1857, p. 89; see also letter from Livingstone to J. J. Freeman, Kolobeng, 24 Aug 1850 quoted in Livingstone’s Missionary Correspondence 1961: 153, note 4; also Livingstone’s letter to John Murray, 4 Feb [1857], National Library of Scotland, David Livingstone Papers, Ms 10779/12a).

     In a time of great turmoil in Mexico—both from within and without—John Phillips presents an elegant, serene view of the country, focusing on the beauties of its topography and its handsome architecture. Even the three plates with military elements look more like boisterous troops of brave, manly young warriors in spiffy uniforms on their way to glory, rather than the “horrors of war” aspect seen in many other plates of the Mexican-American War. These military images are conjectured to have been added after Phillips’ original drawings, in order to capitalize on the contemporary market for images of the relentless U.S. war of Manifest Destiny that cost Mexico over half of its territory. The generously sized plates are colored and executed in a captivating style that engages the viewer. The album came out during a time in publishing history when new technology allowed the printing of high quality, large-format plates in color that more closely reflected the aesthetic concerns of the artist. These qualities were compatible with the genre of travel literature, so in demand at that time. One can still enjoy the vicarious thrill of the armchair traveller. The plates are arranged in the order of the preferred tour of Mexico at the time: beginning on the southern rim of the Gulf of Mexico at Campeche and on to Veracruz, where one enters the country. Next are the enchanting regions of Xalapa, Orizaba, and Puebla, and on to the valley and grand city of Mexico, with glimpses of snow-covered Popocatépetl. Gems of Mexican architecture are presented, along with scenes showing the social life of the capital, particularly the lively scene of San Agustin de las Cuevas (Tlálpan) with a huge crowd of revelers and gamblers (this latter an irony, since Scott’s entire army passed through the town during the war and made it a base of their operations). Finally, the artist takes one north through San Luis Potosí, Zacatecas, the wild and beautiful Sierra Madre mountains, and to the mouth of the Rio Grande, with Matamoros and its fine old colonial architecture on one side and the peaceful, sparsely inhabited shore on the other, which would later become Fort Brown and then Brownsville, Texas.


Sold. Hammer: $25,000.00; Price Realized: $30,625.00.

Auction 23 Abstracts

Click thumbnails to open zoomable images.

DSRB Home | e-mail: