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.