[MIALHE, Pierre Toussaint Frederic (1810-1881)]
Album Pintoresco de la Isla de Cuba
Berlin: Bernardo May y Co, [circa 1855]. Oblong quarto. (9 1/2 x 13 1/4 inches). Chromolithographic title heightened with gold, 27 chromolithographic plates by Storch & Kramer after Mialhe, each within an elaborate border printed in varying shades of blue and incorporating the plate number, the series title and the individual image title in Spanish, all printed recto only on thin card leaves, 2 folding uncoloured maps printed on thin paper.
Publisher's brown cloth, covers elaborately blocked in blind, upper cover lettered in gilt, expertly rebacked with the original spine laid down
An excellent copy of the finest pictorial record of daily life in Cuba in the 19th century.
French-born Pierre Toussaint Frédéric Mialhe lived in Cuba from 1838 to 1854, initially working for the printing firm Real Sociedad Patriótica to compile a pictorial record of the island. He also taught drawing at the Liceo Literario y Artístico in Havana. He had trained as a painter under François-Édouard Picot in Paris, but his greatest artistic legacy is the series of three lithographically-illustrated works that he produced whilst in Cuba: Isla de Cuba, Isla de Cuba Pintoresca and Viaje Pintoresco al Rededor de la Isla de Cuba .
There are three editions of this last work. The first, Viaje Pintoresco ... was published by Louis Marquire for Mialhe in 1847-8 in Havana, and is now almost unobtainable: only two copies (one incomplete) are listed as having sold at auction in the past thirty five years. The success of this work prompted Bernardo May to issue the second, Album Pintoresco de la Isla de Cuba which contained 26 tinted plates and was printed in either Berlin or Hamburg, with captions in Spanish, English and German, and a series of vignettes printed around the borders of the two maps: this was the first of the pirated editions. May was subsequently taken to court by Mialhe and the publisher, but they failed to prove their case and the present edition appeared shortly afterwards, with the full complement of 27 plates. This present edition is obviously the more desirable of the two as it is completely printed in colours, and the plates give much more detail than in the earlier pirated edition.
The album includes 11 topographical views of Havana, 4 of other ports, 10 views of daily life, street vendors, dancers, cock-fighting, a bull-fight, fishermen, etc, and ending with two views which recall the two main industries of the time: the interior of a casa de calderas on a sugar-cane plantation, and an exterior view of a tobacco plantation.
Cf. Emilio Cueto, Mialhe's Colonial Cuba (Miami, 1994), pp. 1-7, 73-77; Palau 5421, and cf.167989; cf. Sabin 17748 (for the other pirated edition with only 26 plates); cf. G. Sánchez. "Federico Mialhe: diseño biográfico y señalamientos para la estimación de su obra" in Revista de la Biblioteca Nacional (La Habana), año 66, nº 2, 1975.