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Reps, John W., Views and Viewnakers of Urban America, Lithographs of Towns and Cities in the United States and Canada, Notes on the Artists and Publishers, and a Union Catalog of Their Work, 1825-1925. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1984. ISBN 0-8262-0416-3. 30x23 cm., xvi, 570 pp., cloth. (PO Box 7088, Columbia, MO 65211, $89.50)

This is not the work of a mere cataloger or compiler - it is the work of a scholar.  There is simply no way to do this book justice in a brief review.  There are three main sections: a general section, biographies of the viewmakers, and a catalog of 4,480 items.  There are 90 illustrations, 13 of which are in color.  The general section deals mostly with the technical and economic aspects of how these views were created.  The discussion of lithography reveals a surprising degree of sophistication in the 19th-century print shops.  Most interesting of all is the discussion of the economics.  Information has been compiled to illustrate subscription sizes (sometimes as low as 25 copies), prices, number of views executed yearly by particular artists, ad infinitum . Information was stored in a computer to facilitate the appropriate crunching and grinding of the data, which is then presented as tables, matrices, maps, etc.  Would that such information were available for engraved maps.  As with wall maps, the mortality rate of these views is high.  Most were preserved by framing.  Nevertheless, there are no known copies extant of some views known to have been printed.  A long discussion shows how to extract useful historical information from these views.  Some, however, were deliberately falsified to lure new residents.  A poor soul arriving at the apparently booming metropolis of Sumner, Kansas, found only a few rickety buildings, and branded the view a "chromatic triumph of lithographed mendacity." For trivia buffs, the largest view is apparently a monstrous depiction of St. Louis on 110 sheets.  The superstitious will not be surprised to find that entry 666 is a view of Washington, DC. How complete is the catalog?  I tried looking up a few views that happened to be around.  An obscure 1882 view of Cuba, NY was found as no. 2497.  An 1879 balloon view of Boston Harbor was no. 1379.  However, two companion views by the same publisher, one from the north and one from the south, were not listed.  Perhaps they did not show sufficient detail to be considered city views.  An 1899 view of the harbor by Geo. Walker was not found, but an apparently identical 1897 edition was found as no. 1388.  Altogether, not a bad record.  This book is now being cited in dealer catalogs, and is destined to become a classic.  This book sets a new standard of excellence to which future authors should aspire.  While the price may seem steep, $90 will scarcely buy one corner of a view in today's market.

David C. Jolly, 1985
 

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