MUYBRIDGE, Eadweard James (1830-1904)
Panorama of San Francisco from California St. Hill
[San Francisco]: Morse's Gallery, 1877. Folding albumen photographic panorama mounted on eleven panels, (7½ x 87¼ inches overall), backed with cloth, caption title, photographic credit, and publisher's imprint printed on center panel. (Old staining to the panels below the photographic prints).
Original gilt cloth binding (some old dampstaining to the lower edge of the covers), cloth chemise, half morocco and cloth slipcase, spine gilt.
Perhaps the most famous early view of San Francisco.
One of the landmarks of 19th-century American photography, and an iconic image of San Francisco. This remarkable panorama dramatically shows the growth of San Francisco nearly thirty years after the onset of the Gold Rush. In the 1870s, San Francisco audiences were hungry for panoramic displays, and the rest of the country was intrigued by San Francisco, the largest city in the West. Muybridge satisfied all appetites by providing a 360° degree view of the city, creating what Rebecca Solnit calls "an impossible sight, a vision of the city in all directions, a transformation of a circular space into a linear photograph." David Harris calls Muybridge's San Francisco panorama "one of the supreme conceptual and technical achievements in the history of architectural photography."
Eadweard Muybridge took the photographs that make up this panorama from a vantage point on the central tower of the unfinished Nob Hill residence of railroad baron Mark Hopkins, then the highest point in the developed portion of the city. The work was done in June or July, 1877, and took some five hours to complete, based on the shifting shadows seen in the image. Muybridge began in the late morning with a view toward the southwest (the tenth plate in the panorama) and proceeded in a clockwise direction, moving his camera away from the sun from one image to the next. Muybridge's view is from some 380 feet above the sea level, and the view reaches some fifty miles into the distance and encompasses a width of fifteen miles. Despite the great scope of the work precise details of the city are visible throughout, and one can clearly see hanging laundry, ships in the harbor, shop signs, and a clock on a tower in the fifth panel reading quarter to two (other copies of the panorama show the clock reading nearly five-thirty). San Francisco spreads throughout the panorama and the dynamism of the city is clearly evident, as many unfinished buildings and roads under construction are also seen. Muybridge's panorama was advertised as being for sale in July 1877, offered for eight dollars rolled or ten dollars accordion-folded and bound, as in the present copy. Buyers could buy the panorama directly from Muybridge, or through Morse's Gallery.
Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) was one of the great photographic innovators of the nineteenth century. Born in England, he came to San Francisco in 1855 and built his reputation on photographs of San Francisco, Yosemite, and other western locales. The year after he produced his San Francisco panorama, Muybridge, at the behest of another railroad magnate, Leland Stanford, produced a sequence of photographs of a galloping horse that proved that all four of the animals hooves were off the ground at the same time. Muybridge's work in sequential photography, in which he photographed animals and humans in motion, laid the groundwork for motion pictures.
A remarkable view of San Francisco, and a high point in the photographic representation of the West.
David Harris, Eadweard Muybridge and the Photographic Panorama of San Francisco , 1850-1880, catalogue item 31, and pp.37-53; Rebecca Solnit, River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West; Paul A. Falconer, "Muybridge's Window to the Past: A Wet-Plate View of San Francisco," in California History (Summer 1978), pp.130-157.