BROWN, William Henry (1808-1883)
Portrait Gallery of Distinguished American Citizens, with biographical sketches
Hartford: E. B. and E. C. Kellogg, 1846. Folio. (15 7/8 x 12 inches). 27 tinted lithographed silhouette portraits, 27 tinted lithographed plates of facsimiles of handwriting.
Publisher's half brown morocco, cloth boards with gilt device
First edition of this impressive work, notable for its effective and evocative lithographed portraits of renowned Americans of the antebellum period, each depicted in full-length silhouette profile: "Almost the entire edition was destroyed by fire, and copies are extremely rare" (Harry Peters).
All the portraits, except for the George Washington allegorical frontispiece, are based on sketches made from life by Brown, who was widely celebrated for his scissor-cut silhouettes. Brown was born and died in Charleston, South Carolina, but in the interim traveled widely throughout the United States, his fame as a silhouettist gaining him access to many of the country's leading citizens whose profiles Brown took which amazing speed and accuracy. Alice Van Leer Carrick, an authority on silhouettes, notes that, rather than any existing original portraits, the present work is "the real memorial to Brown's genius, [and it is] now almost rarer than any of the silhouettes themselves." Brown prepared the biographical text himself, and the silhouettes (with appropriate tinted backgrounds) were transferred to stone and printed by one of the best known lithographic firms of the period: Kelloggs of Hartford, CT. The result is a valuable historical and visual record, with subjects including John Marshall, John Q. Adams, Richard C. Moore, Andrew Jackson, John Forsyth, William Henry Harrison, John C. Calhoun, De Witt Clinton, Richard M. Johnson, Joel Poinsett, Alexander Macomb, Martin Van Buren, Samuel Southard, Henry Clay, Henry Wise, Thomas Hart Benton, John Tyler, Levi Woodbury, Thomas Cooper, Daniel Webster, William White, Silas Wright, Nathaniel Tallmadge, Felix Grundy, Dixon Lewis, and John Randolph. Each portrait is accompanied by another plate displaying a facsimile of the subject's handwriting. According to Peters, "almost the entire edition was destroyed by fire, and copies are extremely rare." Furthermore, the book is often found incomplete with plates lacking; the present example complete with all portraits and plates of handwriting.
Cf. Groce-Wallace, Dictionary of Artists in America 1564-1860, p. 90; Howes B871 ("b"); cf. Peters, America on Stone, pp., 116-117; Sabin 8578.