“THE VERY BEST AMERICAN BATTLE SCENES IN EXISTENCE”: KENDALL AND NEBEL’S EXTREMELY SCARCE WAR BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES AND MEXICO, WITH TWELVE SUPERB HAND-FINISHED FOLIO COLORED PLATES, A BEAUTIFUL COPY
KENDALL, George W. and NEBEL, Carl. The War Between the United States and Mexico Illustrated, Embracing Pictorial Drawings of All the Principal Conflicts by Carl Nebel… with a Description of Each Battle by Geo. Wilkins Kendall. New York and Philadelphia: D. Appleton; George S. Appleton, 1851. Large folio (19 by 23-1/2 inches), contemporary marbled boards rebacked and recornered in morocco-gilt, original morocco-gilt front cover label. $24,000.
First edition of one of the most important and impressive pictorial chronicles of the Mexican-American War, boasting 12 superb folio hand-finished full-color lithographic plates.
Founder of the New Orleans Picayune and America's first war correspondent, George Kendall "filed many reports… of combat during the Mexican-American War. Many newspapers reprinted Kendall's reports and Americans knew him to be [an] ardent annexationist and partisan supporter of the United States… After the war Kendall commissioned Carl Nebel, a noted German-born artist and resident of Mexico, to provide 12 hand-colored lithographs that would accompany Kendall's 52 pages of battle descriptions… Nebel's approach was in contrast to most print-makers or illustrators of his day… [He] portrayed soldiers, military units and the terrain realistically, eschewing much (but not all) of the standard 19th century heroic and romantic styles. Other contemporary prints of battles of the Mexican-American War were rendered by illustrators who had not been in Mexico and took liberties with all aspects of what they drew. Kendall provided officers' after-action reports to Nebel, who visited the site of the battle a few months after the event and then painted the scene" (Dawson, Louisiana History 38:2, 236, 237).
While the work was published in New York and Philadelphia, the lithographs were produced in Paris. Kendall and Nebel judged only Parisian lithographers qualified to produce the images, and both men spent some time in Europe overseeing the production, for which they shared costs (three shillings per print). They employed the firm of innovative lithographer Rose-Joseph Lemercier; he "developed a number of new processes, including a method of obtaining delicate shadings by spreading powdered crayon on a stone that had been slightly warmed… Looking at the prints from Kendall's volume today, one is struck by the soft ink washes and delicate tonal areas that underlie the watercolor. Highlights seem to have been either reserved with a waxen substance… or carefully scraped into the surface of the stone to yield understated areas of support for the hand coloring" (Sandweiss et al., Eyewitness to War, 36). The prints, three years in the making, "received good press notices even before they left Europe. The Paris correspondent for the Herald referred to the set as 'one of the most superb works of art ever achieved in Paris.' He reported that the plates were 'colored in the highest style of art,' and that they were so carefully done that the best artists of London, Paris and Brussels were able to finish only one per day. 'The fidelity of the landscapes, and the truthfulness of every point introduced into the pictures, cannot but be at once acknowledged and appreciated by the best connoisseur'" (Tyler, Southwestern Historical Quarterly 77:1, 19). "The very best American battle scenes in existence" (Bennett, 65). Because many copies have been broken for the framing of plates, the complete work is today quite scarce. With 12 plates: 1)The Battle of Palo Alto; 2)The Capture of Monterey; 3)The Battle of Buena Vista; 4)The Bombardment of Vera Cruz; 5)Battle of Cerro Gordo; 6)The Assault at Contreras; 7)The Battle at Churubusco; 8) and 9)Battle of Molino del Rey; 10 and 11)The Storming of Chapultepec; 12)General Scott's Entrance into Mexico. Also includes folio map of operations. Sabin 37362. Howes K76.
Expert cleaning to text and plate extremities not affecting images, and occasional minor marginal paper repairs; original marbled boards expertly restored. A bright, beautiful copy, original coloring vivid.