ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT DEPICTIONS OF THE OPENING OF THE WEST: MATHEWS' PENCIL SKETCHES OF COLORADO, FIRST EDITION, 1866, WITH 23 FINE FOLIO LITHOGRAPHIC PLATES
MATHEWS, Alfred E. Pencil Sketches of Colorado, its Cities, Principal Towns and Mountain Scenery. [New York]: 1866. Oblong folio (13 inches by 19-1/2 inches), original cloth gilt, gilt title device to front cover. Housed in a custom clamshell box.
First edition of one of the half-dozen major illustrated works on the American West produced in the 19th century, with 36 scenes (16 full-page) on 23 tinted and lightly colored lithographed plates.
Alfred Mathews was a pioneering creator of city and country views in the American West. This is his first and most lavish view book, using multiple tint stones on each plate. (Mathews' other notable books, Pencil Sketches of Montana (1868), Gems of Rocky Mountain Scenery (1869) and Canon City, Colorado (1870) employ only one tint stone). This book ranks among the works of Bodmer, Catlin, Moran and Warre as an important, illustrated depiction of the opening of the American West, and is the only one of those to show scenes of mining and of the development of towns and cities, notably Denver. "These views are celebrated for their documentary accuracy—apparently contemporary viewers could identify in the street views the rigs of various townspeople" (Streeter).
Mathews writes in the preface: "The author herewith offers to the public a collection of lithographed sketches of Colorado, embracing its Cities, and most of its Principal Towns together with some of the beautiful Mountain Scenery which abounds in this incomparable territory…[My aim is] to represent that portion of the country to which interest is attached on account of the rich gold and silver mines; and, if possible, to give non-residents an idea of the beauty and grandeur of the natural scenery in the mountains, which will compare favorably, in this respect, with any in the world."
A wonderful set of Colorado views, justly famous for their precision and beauty, and very rare; only a few copies have been on the market in the last several decades.
The plates are as follows:
1.Snowy Range of the Rocky Mountains; from Bald Mountain, near Nevada
2.Denver, City of the Plains
3.F Street, Denver
4.Blake Street, Denver, Colorado
5.Laramie Street, Denver
7.Black Hawk, looking up Gregory and Chase's Gulches
8.Central City; looking up Spring Gulch
9.Central City; from the side of Mammoth Hill looking up Gregory and Eureka Gulches
11.Mountain ranges, two images on one sheet:] a. Russell Gulch, Gilpin County, b. The Chief, Squaw and Papoose, as seen from Idaho
12.Clear Creek County views, 2 images on one sheet:] a. Idaho, b. Fall River
13.Fall River views, 2 images on one sheet:] a. The Old Mountaineer, b. Profile Rock
14.Clear Creek County views, 2 images on one sheet:] a. Empire City, from near the foot of Silver Mountain, looking towards Elizabethtown, b. Elizabethtown, from the Griffith Tunnel
16.Mount Lincoln. The town of Montgomery is seen at its base
18.Pike's Peak and Colorado City
19.Garden of the Gods
20.Monuments, near Monument Creek
21.Mining and Stamp Process, 4 images on one sheet: a. Gulch Mining. - Colorado Gulch, b. Spanish Arastra – on Clear Creek, c. The Stamp Process. - Mr. Sensenderfer's Mill, d. "Shaft or Lode Mining. - Interior of No. 1, on the Gregory, the Black Hawk Co.'s Mine
22.The Keith Process. Hope Gold Company's Works, 4 images on one sheet: a. The Ore Breaking Room. - Blake's Ore Breaker, b. The Furnace, c. The Ore Pit, or Drying Room, d. Amalgamating Room
23.The Smelting Process. James E. Lyon & Co.'s Smelting Works; four images on one sheet: a. Ore Dressing Room – The Buddle and Jiggs, b. Reverberatory Furnace, c. Cupel Furnace, d. Scotch Hearths. With title page, preface leaf and 12 pages of letterpress descriptions, and all 23 plates, including hand-colored frontispiece. Without one blank leaf. Bennett, 72. Deak, Picturing America 808 (ref). Reps, Views and Viewmakers 482. Howes M413. Graff 2709. Streeter Sale 2171. Gift inscription dated 1973.
Light soiling to plate margins; images clean, save for small abrasion to lower right corner of Plate  slightly touching image of Elizabethtown. Minor wear to bottom edge, toward gutter, of final few plates. Gilt bright, original binding extremely good with endpapers and original cloth expertly restored. An exceptional copy of this rarity.