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'Photographs Showing Landscapes, Geological and Other Features, of
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Descrizione dell'oggetto

(Washington, D. C.: War Department Corps of Engineers, 1874-75), an album containing 49 albumen prints by Timothy O'Sullivan and William Bell, many numbered in the negative, each on the two-toned Wheeler Survey mount, the photographers credit, title, plate number, survey information, and decorative cartouche in letterpress on the mount, 1871-73.  Elephant portrait folio, reddish brown 1/2 morocco, spine with semi-raised bands in six compartments, tooled and lettered in gilt, Library of Congress book-plate on the front marbled pastedown, all edges gilt; accompanied by 'Ancient Ruins in the Cañon de Chelle, N. M.' by O'Sullivan, albumen print, on the two-toned Wheeler Survey mount, the photographer's credit, title, 'No. 11,' and survey information in letterpress on the mount, 1873 (1 album and 1 loose print)\nAlbums from the Wheeler Survey are extremely rare at auction.  At the time of this writing, it is believed that a complete set of 50 photographs has not appeared at auction in more than three decades.  In the years following the Civil War, the United States of America experienced a golden age of survey photography.  Large-scale government-sponsored expeditions led by Clarence King, Ferdinand V. Hayden, John Wesley Powell, and George M. Wheeler, employed photographers to document the opportunities for and challenges of continental westward expansion.\nIn 1871, Timothy OSullivan joined Lieutenant Wheelers survey party exploring and documenting the geology of the United States west of the one-hundredth meridian for the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers.  William Bell joined the Wheeler Survey in 1872 when OSullivan temporarily transferred back to the King Survey to document the recently completed Central Pacific Railroad.  In 1873 and 1874, OSullivan replaced Bell and rejoined Wheelers survey team, producing some of the best images of the American West ever made.\nRecognized from the first as a monument of its kind, OSullivans photographs from the Wheeler Survey were praised by early historians and photographers alike.  Beaumont Newhall and Ansel Adams championed OSullivans Wheeler Survey images and re-introduced them to the public in the groundbreaking exhibition The History of Photography: From 1839 to the Present Day held in 1937 at The Museum of Modern Art.  Of these photographs Adams said, A few photographs are extraordinary as fine as anything I have ever seen.  Adamss own copy of the Wheeler Survey album was in the exhibition, opened to OSullivans iconic image of Ancient Ruins in the Cañon de Chelle.\nIn his essay Viewing the Archive: Timothy OSullivans Photographs for the Wheeler Survey, 1871-74 (The Art Bulletin, vol. 85, no. 4, 2003), to which this entry is indebted, Robin Kelsey describes in detail the complex history of the Wheeler Survey albums.  Between 1874 and 1875, 50 albums of 50 photographs were produced.  Each was comprised of 35 photographs by OSullivan and 15 photographs by Bell.  Smaller albums with only 25 photographs were also produced in a larger edition and with different plate sequencing.  The loose print of Ancient Ruins in the Cañon de Chelle offered here with plate number 11 in letterpress on the mount was likely originally from an album of 25 photographs.\nAccording to Kelsey, between 1875 and 1878, Wheeler sent bound albums of 25 or 50 photographs to nearly 30 government officials.  Noteworthy recipients include President Rutherford B. Hayes, the Secretary of the Department of Interior, and The Library of Congress.  Unlike other photographically illustrated volumes of the day, such as Gardners Photographic Sketch Book of the War, the Wheeler Survey albums were not available by subscription.\nComparable bound albums with 50 plates have been located in the following institutions: The Library of Congress, Washington, D. C.; The Museum of Modern Art, gift of Ansel Adams; the Gilman Paper Company Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection at Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, New Haven, acquired in 1876 from Alphonso Taft, Attorney General and Secretary of War under President Ulysses S. Grant.  The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, acquired an album from Arnold Crane that was augmented (possibly later) with 10 plates from the 1874 survey.  Disbound or incomplete albums are also in the collections of The New York Public Library and The Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth.
US
NY, US
US

creator

O'Sullivan, Timothy and William Bell

condition

This is an unusually clean and crisp copy of this rare, seminal work. This volume consists of 49 photographs, each on the two-toned Wheeler Survey mount, bound together as issued. A single plate of 'Ancient Ruins in the Cañon de Chelle, N. M.,' accompanies this volume loose. It is also on the two-toned Wheeler Survey mount as issued. The photographs are in generally remarkable and excellent condition. Judging these albumen prints on a scale of 1 to 10 – a 10 being an albumen print that has deep near-black dark tones and highlights that retain all of their original detail – these prints uniformly rate a remarkable 8 to 10 with very few exceptions. The mounts are generally very clean, with minimal signs of handling. The front and back marbled endpapers are vibrant multicolor. There is a Library of Congress bookplate on the marbled front free endpaper, numbered 'F 594' and 'U581' in ink. There are some fingerprints, soiling, and age-appropriate darkening on the front and reverse of the titlepage. There is a Library of Congress stamp on the reverse of the title page. The upper cover is detached; the spine remains attached to the rear cover. There is significant wear, soiling, and small losses to the leather on the covers and spine. Although the contents have separated from the boards and spine, the linen hinges and binding of the plates remains intact and tight. There are tears to the fly-leaves. The gilt edges are worn at the corners. When examining the volume closed, a very slight bowing along the right edge is visible. A complete collation and notes on specific plates are as follows: Season I, 1871 (all photographs by Timothy O'Sullivan) No. 1 This print rates a 7. As is often the case with illustrated volumes, the first few plates are the weakest in tonality. There is significant ash-colored soiling on the mount, particularly at the right edge. The numbers '19 N1902 W.O.W' are in pencil in an unidentified hand along the upper left edge of the mount. No. 2 This print rates a 6. As is often the case with illustrated volumes, the first few plates are the weakest in tonality. No. 3 This print rates a strong 8. No. 4 This print rates a strong 8 or 9. There is some minor fading at the edges. No. 5 This print rates a strong 7 or 8. Overall, it is a light print. There is some minor fading at the edges, but there is no discernible loss of detail. No. 6 This print rates a strong 8 or 9. The small white dots are flaws in the negative and not a feature of the present print. These spots are also visible in the Dover reproduction. No. 7 This print rates a 9 or 10. The small white dots are flaws in the negative and not a feature of the present print. These spots are also visible in the Dover reproduction. In the lower right corner, there is a white fingerprint that presumably occurred during processing. No. 8 This print rates a 9 or 10. The small white dots are flaws in the negative and not a feature of the present print. These spots are also visible in the Dover reproduction. There is a ½-inch brown thin linear area in upper left quadrant. Upon extremely close examination in raking light, a one-inch linear crease or tear that occurred during mounting is barely discernible No. 9 This print rates an 8 or 9. There is very minor edge fading. The letterpress plate number on the mount is incorrectly noted as 'No 6.' No. 10 This print rates a 9. In high raking light, creasing that occurred during the mounting process is visible. There is a small light-rust-colored deposit in the upper left quadrant. This is an earlier printing than that reproduced in the Dover edition, as the numbering in the negative '10' is not yet present and the numbering along right edge in the negative has not yet been scratched out. No. 11 This print rates a 10. There are 4 small scratches to the emulsion in the upper left quadrant that likely occurred during or as a result of mounting. No. 12 This print rates an 8 or 9. In raking light, several numerical notations on the reverse of the print (including '1871,' backwards) are visible. There is pervasive streaking or liquid staining on the mount, which does not affect the print. No. 13 This print rates a 10. No. 14 This print rates a 10. No. 15 This print rates a 10. There are 2 tiny fox marks on the mount. No. 16 This print rates a 10. Season II, 1872 (all photographs by William Bell) No. 1 This print rates a 10. There is a tiny fox mark along the upper edge of print. There is some more noticeable soiling on the mount. No. 2 This print rates a 10. The small white dots are flaws in the negative and not a feature of the present print. These spots are also visible in the Dover reproduction. No. 3 This print rates a 10. Upon close examination, there are fingerprints along the upper edge of print and a few rust-colored fingerprints along the left side of mount. No. 4 This print rates a 10. There is significant streaking or liquid staining on the mount, which does not affect the print, as well as some noticeable soiling. No. 5 This print rates a 10. No. 6 This print rates a 10. The visual disturbances in the central portion of the image are in the negative and not a feature of the present print. These are also visible in the Dover reproduction. There is minor soiling on the mount and in the upper portion of the image. No. 7 This print rates a 10. In raking light, there are a few scratches visible in the sky area. No. 8 This print rates a 10. The visual disturbances in the image are in the negative and not a feature of the present print. These are also visible in the Dover reproduction. No. 9 This print rates a 9 or 10. The visual disturbances in the image are in the negative and not a feature of the present print. These are also visible in the Dover reproduction. This print appears to be a slightly different cropping of the negative than that in the Dover reproduction; the present print has less visual information along the left and right edges. No. 10 This print rates a 10. There are some fingerprints on the mount. No. 11 This print rates a 9 or 10. No. 12 This print rates a 10. The visual disturbances in the central portion of the image are in the negative and not a feature of the present print. These are also visible in the Dover reproduction. No. 13 This print rates a 10. No. 14 This print rates a 10. The visual disturbances in the central portion of the image are in the negative and not a feature of the present print. These are also visible in the Dover reproduction. In raking light, a long scratch running down 3/4 of the right side of the image is visible. No. 15 This print rates a 9 or 10. Season III, 1873 (all photographs by Timothy O'Sullivan) No. 1 This print rates a 10. There is a small loss to the lower right corner of the mount. No. 2 This print rates a 10. No. 3 This print rates a 10. No. 4 This print rates a 10. No. 5 This print rates a 7 or 8. Overall, it is a very light print. There does not appear, however, to be any degradation of detail. No. 6 This print rates a 10. No. 7 This print rates a 10. No. 8 This print rates a 10. No. 9 This print rates a 10. No. 10 This print is lacking. No. 11 This print rates a 10. No. 12 This print rates a 10. No. 13 This print rates a 10. No. 14 This print rates an 8 or 9. No. 15 This print rates a 9 or 10. No. 16 This print rates a 10. No. 17 This print rates a 7 or 8. There is some minor edge fading. No. 18 This print rates an 8. No. 19 This print rates a 7. 'Ancient Ruins in the Canon de Chelle, N. M.' - This iconic photograph is in generally very good condition. On a scale of 1 to 10 – a 10 being an albumen print that has deep near-black dark tones and highlights that retain all of their original detail – this print rates an 8. The print is a somewhat light, but its tonality is consistent. It is likely that the lightness of the print is due to the way it was printed. There is no loss of detail in the print: the textures of the imposing rock face, structure of the ruins, and the tiny figures in the midground are all very clearly presented. There is a thin band of light yellowing along the left, right, and lower edges. In high raking light, the following are visible upon close examination: a few tiny deposits of original retouching; and in the lower left corner a small (1/2-inch) slightly raised area, which likely occurred during the mounting process. The mount is appropriately age-darkened, primarily at the periphery, and there is occasional minor soiling. There are 2 thin abrasions along the upper edge of the mount from previous hinges. In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.

dimensions

Each photograph approximately 8 by 10 3/4  in. (20.3 by 27.3 cm.) or the reverseThe album approximately 21 1/2  by 16 1/2  in. (54.6 by 41.9 cm.)

literature

Dover Publications, Wheeler's Photographic Survey of the American West, 1871-1873 (New York, 1983) (the complete set reproduced)

provenance

The album: Collection of the Library of Congress, Washington, D. C. Acquired from the above, 1970s Ancient Ruins in the Cañon de Chelle, N. M.: Acquired from William L. Schaeffer/Photographs, Connecticut


*Nota: il prezzo non corrisponde al valore odierno, ma si riferisce soltanto al reale prezzo di aggiudicazione al momento dell'acquisto.

*Nota: il prezzo non corrisponde al valore odierno, ma si riferisce soltanto al reale prezzo di aggiudicazione al momento dell'acquisto.


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