"A MAJOR OUTSTANDING ITEM, THE RARITY OF WHICH IS BY NO MEANS FULLY APPRECIATED": FIRST EDITION OF BEYER'S SPLENDID ALBUM OF VIRGINIA, 1858, WITH 40 LARGE FOLIO TINTED LITHOGRAPHIC PLATES
(VIRGINIA) BEYER, Edward. Album of Virginia. Richmond: Edward Beyer [Printed by Rau & Son of Dresden and W. Loeillot of Berlin], 1858. Large oblong folio (measures 25 by 17-1/2 inches), period-style three-quarter diced calf with blind and gilt stamping, retaining contemporary cloth covers and original red morocco-gilt title piece on front cover, raised bands. $45,000.
First edition of one of the greatest American view books of the 19th century, with beautiful lithographic vignette title page and 40 extraordinary tinted lithographic plates of Virginia, handsomely bound. This copy from the prominent Wickham family of Virginia, with the contemporary owner signature of William Fanning Wickham on the title page.
When distinguished German artist Edward Beyer visited the United Stated in the early 1850s, he was quick to recognize the almost unparalleled beauty of Virginia and it was there that he concentrated his work. He spent three years in Virginia working on the original drawings for this book. The extraordinary tinted lithographic views depict stunning natural scenes, Harpers Ferry, White Sulphur Springs, railroad bridges and tunnels, views in Weyer's Cave, and scenes at many of the fashionable resorts. "He was taken by the beauty of the Virginia landscape, particularly by the elegant settings of some of the region's watering places… There was probably no Virginia county that Beyer left unvisited in his zeal to present what is, in fact, an affectionate family album of an entire state" (Deák, 721). Deák praises Beyer's "delicate and precise style" and "characteristic refinement of proportion." "The 40 very beautiful scenic plates which adorn this famous book were actually made in Dresden and Berlin. This is a major outstanding item, the rarity of which is by no means fully appreciated" (Bennett). Originally issued in five parts; the titles/contents from the original paper wrappers of each part have been clipped and mounted to the front pastedown in this copy. Howes B413b. Sabin 5125. Bennett, 10. Not in Reese, American Color Plate Books. Original owner signature of William F[anning] Wickham, Hanover Co., Virginia, dated 1859, on title page. Wickham [1793-1880] owned a large plantation known as Hickory Hill in Hanover County, VA. His father was John Wickham, the constitutional lawyer, and his grandfather was Gen. Thomas Nelson, Jr., one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and a Governor of Virginia during the Revolutionary War. Wickham's son Williams Carter Wickham was an important Confederate cavalry general who fought in the Virginia campaigns during the Civil War.
Plates expertly cleaned, with some evidence of foxing. An excellent copy with distinguished Virginian provenance.