BERNARDO MAY & CO., PUBLISHER
Album pintoresco de la Isla de Cuba. [?Hamburg:] B. May & Co., . Oblong 4° (238 x 318mm). Coloured lithographed title heightened with gold, 26 tinted lithographed plates captioned in Spanish, some with English and German translations, and 1 folding plan of Havana set within border of local views and landmarks. (Spotting throughout, lacking map of Cuba.) Contemporary green blindstamped cloth, title in gilt on upper cover (extremities lightly rubbed, some very minor staining, upper hinge split, front free endpaper and attached tissue guard detached). Provenance: Mr P. Wilder (inscription on front pastedown: 'Mr. P. Wilder Dorchester Mews from his aff[ectionate] son Marshall July 11. 1854.').
A SCARCE AND ATTRACTIVE ALBUM OF CUBAN VIEWS depicting daily life in the mid-19th century: these include countryside scenes, local sights and street views, including a cockfight, with plates 4-6 forming a panorama of Havana. Bernardo May copied the views from Pierre Toussaint Fréderic Mialhe's lithographs printed by Louis Marquier for the series Viage pintoresco al rededor de la Isla de Cuba (Havana: 1847-1848) and sold them in competition with Mialhe's originals at less than half the price. This resulted in Mialhe and Marquier suing May for copyright violation in November 1853 demanding 'the sequestration of the May-plagiarized albums, notification to the press to stop advertisements of said views, and 20,000 pesos as damages'. May denied plagiarism, maintaining that '... after all, ladies in carriages, street sellers, churches, monuments, and landscapes were all there in full view to any artist who cared to paint them'. Despite this spurious argument, May escaped the plagiarism charge on a technicality. The maps of Cuba and Havana were also pirated from different sources, principally an 1847 map by José M. de la Torre. Following the lawsuit May reissued the prints as a set of 27 chromolithographs (c.1855); the tinted lithographs are perhaps preferable, Sabin describing the chromolithographed plates as being 'badly coloured'. There is dispute over the place of printing, Palau saying Havana, Sabin saying Berlin and Cueto arguing for Hamburg by the printing firm C. Adler. NUC records only 4 copies. Sabin 17748; Palau 5421; 167989 (note); Cueto, Mialhe's Colonial Cuba, pp.1-7, 73-77.