COMPTON, Richard J. & Camille N. DRY
Pictorial St. Louis the great Metropolis of the Mississippi Valley A topographical survey drawn in perspective A.D.1875
St. Louis: Compton & Co, 1876. Oblong folio. (14 1/16 x 19 3/4 inches). Lithographic decorative title with integral vignette, frontispiece after Dry, key plate (printed in two colours), view of the city as it was in 1832 on one sheet (after a painting by L.D. Pomarade), 110 plates numbered from 1-110 after Dry, each plate with letterpress text on the verso. (Occasional small repaired tears to the margins).
Publisher's half black morocco and russet pebbled cloth boards, upper cover blocked in gilt (joints starting)
An important American lithographically-illustrated work as well as "what is by far the most important city view of St. Louis ... No other American city view came close to matching this in its careful delineation of almost every feature of the urban landscape" (Reps).
All parts "of St. Louis of 1875 can be explored by the use of Dry's view supplemented by Compton's text. The preparation and publication of such a view would be a remarkable achievement even today with modern surveying equipment and instruments and the availability of aerial photographs for reference purposes. More than a century ago it represents a near-impossible accomplishment that remains a monument to the artists, printers, and publisher who conceived and carried out the enormous task of picturing a metropolis in such all encompassing detail" (Reps),
According to the prospectus, the work was the "most costly and magnificent publication ever issued in the interest of any city in the world" and includes what is essentially a single giant bird's eye view panorama of an area covering nearly seventy square miles as pictured on 110 full-page lithographs drawn up by Dry and his assistants. Most of these images include a series of numbers on individual buildings - these are then tied to identifying notes at the foot of the relevant image. This information is then supplemented, in the case of the commercial operations, by the text on the verso of the plates (these usually amount to advertisements for the businesses concerned and the publisher was probably paid for each firm he included).The detailed perspective lithograph views, show all the streets, private homes (in most cases noting the property owners), railroads, docks, public buildings, schools, churches, businesses, parks, mills, distilleries, factories, etc. The views are rendered more realistic and lively by the inclusion of horse-drawn carriages, pedestrian traffic (at times heavy in the busy downtown districts), river steamers, and smoking chimneys and smokestacks.
The genesis of this work is given in the Preface: "The preliminary drawings for this work were made early in the spring of 1874. After a careful consideration of the subject, it was determined to locate the point of view so that the city would be seen from the southeast, believing that to be the most advantageous in all respects ... A careful perspective, which required a surface of three hundred square feet, was then erected from a correct survey of the city, extending from the Arsenal Island to the Water Works, a distance of about ten miles, on the water front; and from the Insane Asylum on the southwest to the Cemetries on the northwest. Every foot of this vast territory within these limits has been carefully examined and topographically drawn in perspective, by Mr. C.N. Dry and his assistants, and the faithfulness and accuracy with which this work has been done an examination of the pages will attest."
Howes C655, "b."; Reps Saint Louis Illustrated pp.126-53.