Artistic Homes of California.


Cartographer(s): Britton & Rey, Frederick Marriott
Date: ca. 1888
Place: San Francisco
Dimensions: See condition notes.
Condition Rating: VG+

In stock

The most extensive collection of pre-1906 Bay Area architectural masterpieces.


An exceptional collection of photolithographic prints (‘artotypes’), this work reflects the opulence of late 19th century California, at least among a certain social class.

Included in this collection are ninety-one images, primarily of Victorian-style mansions in San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose, including the homes of grandees such as Charles Crocker, John D. Spreckels, Leland Stanford, and M.H. de Young. The address and owner of each home is noted. Most of these homes were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire.

Near the end of the collection are images of ‘Business Blocks of San Francisco,’ primarily on and around Market St., including the Phelan Building, Murphy Building, and Palace Hotel. Notably, these images contain not only telegraph lines, gas lighting, and horse-drawn omnibuses, but also novelties like telephone and electrical lines (identified by insulators on telephone poles). Four images depict paintings hung at the old Waterloo Building at Mason St. and Eddy St. depicting scenes from the Battle of Vicksburg during the U.S. Civil War.

These images were photolithographed as artotypes, or collotypes, made directly from original gelatin or colloid photographs, the earliest form of photolithography. They were printed by San Francisco stalwarts Britton & Rey and published as a supplement to the San Francisco News Letter (published by Frederick Marriott) between 1887 and 1890, and also printed and bound on an ad hoc basis, sometimes with advertising interspersed, with differing titles or no title at all.



Establishing a census of this and similar works is difficult since these were ad hoc collections, and due to their existence in a variety of formats (book, microform, ebook). The OCLC notes physical examples at some fifteen institutions (OCLC 51939992, 22961216, 79603175, 1316714955), though these differ considerably in terms of size and number of artotypes (Stanford holds what may be the original photographs, numbering on the order of 300, OCLC 122546579).

These multiple printings have led to confused cataloging, but the present example appears to be a unique collection (with ‘Artotipes’ on the spine), more extensive than most cataloged examples.


Provenance: Bonhams Fine Books and Manuscripts May 2023, lot 129.


Britton & Rey

Britton & Rey (1852 – 1906) was a lithographic printing firm based in San Francisco and founded by Joseph Britton and Jacques Joseph Rey in 1852. Especially during the second half of the 19th century, Britton and Rey became the leading lithography firm in San Francisco, and probably California. Among their many publications were birds-eye-views of Californian cities, depictions of the exquisite landscapes, stock certificates, and no least maps. While Rey was the primary artist, Britton worked not only as the main lithographer but was essentially also the man running the business. In addition to their own material, the firm reproduced the works of other American artists like Thomas Almond Ayres (1816 – 1858), George Holbrook Baker (1824 – 1906), Charles Christian Nahl (1818 – 1878), and Frederick August Wenderoth (1819 – 1884). Following Rey’s death in 1892 Britton passed the form on to Rey’s son, Valentine J. A. Rey, who ran it until the great earthquake and fire of 1906 destroyed most of the company’s assets.

Joseph Britton (1825 – July 18, 1901) was a lithographer and the co-founder of the prominent San Francisco lithography studio Britton and Rey. He was also a civic leader in San Francisco, serving on the Board of Supervisors and helping to draft a new city charter. In 1852, he became active in lithography and publishing, first under the name ‘Pollard and Britton,’ and then ‘Britton and Rey,’ a printing company founded with his friend and eventual brother-in-law Jacques Joseph Rey. Britton and Rey became the premier lithographic and engraving studio of the Gold Rush era, producing letter sheets, maps, and artistic prints.

Jacques Joseph Rey (1820 – 1892) was a French engraver and lithographer born in the Alsatian town of Bouxwiller. At the age of about 30, he emigrated to America, eventually settling in California. Here, he soon entered into a partnership with local entrepreneur and civic leader Joseph Britton. Three years later, Rey also married Britton’s sister, allowing his business partner and brother-in-law Britton to live in their house with them. Rey and Britton were not only an important part of the San Francisco printing and publishing scene but also owned a plumbing and gas-fitting firm. In the early years, both men would sometimes partner up with others on specific projects, but by the late 1860s, their partnership was more or less exclusive.

Frederick Marriott

Condition Description

"Artotype" images mounted to album leaves, each plate individually titled and dated. Wear to the leather on cover and spine. Foxing on some images.

Dimensions: Individual prints (artotypes) are 23.5 x 15 cm (9.25 x 6 in), covers 24 x 31 cm (9.5 x 12 in).