The Hudson River Port Folio
The Hudson River Port Folio
The Hudson River Port Folio
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The Hudson River Port Folio
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The Hudson River Port Folio

WILLIAM G. WALL, 1821-1825

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The Hudson River Port Folio
William G. Wall, 1821-1825
WALL, William G. (1792-c.1863). [The Hudson River Port Folio. New York: Henry I. Megarey, 1821-1825.]

"The most generally desired American color plate single item" (Bennett). The last complete original issue we trace at auction was in 1948. "The Hudson River Portfolio is arguably the most beautiful color plate book published in the United States in the nineteenth century ... Many of the views in the portfolio combine natural landscapes with benign or idealized images of towns and industries along the Hudson. The additions made by humans complement rather than disturb the harmony of the scenes. In the image of Glenns Falls, for example, the river bridge and mill buildings are a rationalizing element rather than an intrusive structure, balancing the chaos of the untamed falls. It seemed, in Wall's view, that man could shape the landscape without fundamentally altering it" (Creating America).

The twenty plates depict views on the Hudson beginning at its headwaters near Luzerne and ending with a view of New York taken from Governor's Island. "All of the scenes were drawn by an Irish-American artist, William Guy Wall, and engraved in New York by John Hill. Despite the quality of execution, the series was not a commercial success and ended before the full complement of plates was issued" (ibid). Indeed, the idealistic attempt by the two immigrants, Wall and Hill, to produce such a luxurious book of views at this time left some bibliographic oddities: there is no title-page, plate nos. 9 and 12 are incorrectly numbered, and the letterpress for nos. 11, 12, 16 and 18 is also mis-numbered. Wall painted the watercolors in 1820 and it was originally intended that the work be published in six parts, each containing four plates. From 1821-1825 only five parts were completed and published by Megarey. Megarey issued additional prints from the plates until 1827, but in the following year the publication rights were transferred to the Carvills, and the plates were re-engraved to add the names "G. & C. & H. Carvill" in 1828. The last copy with all twenty plates in the original Megarey issue that we trace at auction was sold at Parke-Bernet, 5 April 1948, lot 311. Bennett, p. 60; Creating America 58 (illustrating no. 6, Glenn's Falls "a balance of man and nature"); Howes W-47 ("d"); Koke, "A Checklist of the American Engravings of John Hill," nos. 73-94 (all first state except pl. 22 in second state, re-numbered 18; this accords with NYPL); Sabin 22529 (erroneously calling for 21 plates); Stamped with a National Character 6 (illustrated on dust jacket back cover).

Oblong broadsheet folio (490 x 675 mm). Comprising 20 leaves of letterpress text facing 20 hand-colored aquatint engravings all after paintings by William Wall and engraved by John Hill; except no. 2 finished by Hill [after I.R. Smith], nos. 3 and 5 engraved by I.R. Smith, nos. 2-3, and 5 published by H.I. Megarey and W.B. Gilley in New York and John Mill in Charleston, South Carolina; no. 11 engraved by I.R. Smith and finished by Hill (no. 1 with two hard creases to plate and a short closed marginal tear, letterpress with blank corner replaced and a few repaired closed tears; no. 11 with a blank corner of plate repaired and a small edge chip to letterpress; no. 20 with some light edge-chipping, letterpress with a repaired marginal tear). Modern half red morocco gilt.

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