YOSEMITE VALLEY AND BIG TREE VIEWS

Lot Number 25
Author CHARLES LEANDER WEED 1824-1903
Title YOSEMITE VALLEY AND BIG TREE VIEWS
Year Published
Place Printed
Printed By
Description a complete suite of 30 mammoth-plate albumen prints of Yosemite Valley, Mariposa County, and the Big Trees, Calaveras County, California, published by Lawrence & Houseworth, each mounted, with printed title and publishers’ information, and sequential number in pencil on the mount, the publishers’ letterpress ‘Photographic Views of California Scenery’ label on the reverse, 1864, printed no later than 1867; accompanied by a Victorian Carved Mahogany Standing Presentation Case with hinged lid and sliding brass locks and a fielded front panel carved with the following inscription, ‘Photographs of the YoSemite Valley, Presented to the Mercantile Library By Lawrence and Houseworth, San Francisco, Cal., A. D. 1867’ The photographs 17 by 20 3/4 in. (43.2 by 52.7 cm.) or the reverse The presentation box 24 by 19 by 31 in. (61 by 48 by 78 cm.)
Comments This suite of 30 photographs by the early landscape photographer Charles Leander Weed is, as of this writing, one of only two known complete sets of the published images Weed made in Yosemite and environs in 1864. Weed had begun his association with the publishers Lawrence & Houseworth in 1864, and contracted with them to produce large images of Yosemite and adjacent areas. By 1866, the firm listed his mammoth-plate photographs for sale in their catalogue, as follows: ‘Yosemite Valley and Big Tree Views, Negatives by C. L. Weed, Size 22 by 28 inches.’ A year later, in 1867, Lawrence & Houseworth donated the set offered here to the San Francisco Mercantile Library, which was founded in 1851 by local merchants for the educational benefit of working people. In 1870, the publishers still advertised Weed’s photographs, albeit without mention of authorship, and their catalogue for that year lists the titles of the 30 available views, which matches exactly the selection and sequence of images offered here. Weed is widely believed to have been the first photographer to work in Yosemite, and his 1859 trip there, made under the auspices of publisher and Yosemite promoter James Mason Hutchings, yielded approximately twenty 10-by-14- inch views and forty stereo images. For his 1864 photographic expedition to the Valley, Weed was equipped with a larger camera and larger glass plates, and was thus able to produce the impressive mammoth-plate prints offered here, in addition to a new series of stereo views. It was these 1864 images that won the first-place bronze medal at the 1867 Paris International Exhibition. This accomplishment is trumpeted in Lawrence & Houseworth’s 1870 Catalogue of Photographic Views of Scenery on the Pacific Coast: ‘This series of views, together with the stereoscopic collection, were awarded the bronze medal at the Paris Exposition, for their superior excellence.’ The only other extant full set of Weed’s 1864 published mammoth-plate Yosemite photographs is in the collection of the New York Public Library. The contents of these two extant sets is nearly identical, with two variant plates. The New York Public Library set, which does not bear the Lawrence & Houseworth imprint, lacks The Yo-Semite Fall, Near View (Plate 11), and The Mammoth Grove Hotel (Plate 27). In their place, the Library’s set has photographs entitled South Dome—From Little Yosemite, and Little Yosemite Valley. Peter Palmquist, the dean of California photography studies, sets forth the most complete account of Weed’s life, while conceding that, because of the scarcity of biographical facts, the photographer ‘remains a shadowy presence’ (Palmquist and Thomas R. Kailbourn, Pioneer Photographers of the Far West, A Biographical Dictionary, 1840-1865, p. 585). Born in New York State, Weed moved first to Wisconsin with his family and then to California, where he was associated with the daguerreotypist George W. Watson in Sacramento and then with Robert Vance. It was while he worked for Vance that Weed learned the wet-plate process, and his 1859 Yosemite photographs were made with this new method. In 1860, Weed made his first Asia trip, photographing and setting up studios in Hong Kong and Canton. By 1864, when he had returned to San Francisco, partnered with Lawrence & Houseworth, and made his second foray into Yosemite Valley, he was a more skilled and experienced photographer. The difficulties of making mammoth-plate negatives on glass in Yosemite’s wilderness were considerable: wind, dust, heat, altitude, and the lack of water made the execution of an acceptable negative challenging. Weed overcame these impediments to produce images that are not only technically proficient, but aesthetically sophisticated renderings of the Yosemite landscape. In subsequent years, Weed would go on to photograph in Hawaii, China, and Japan, but his reputation as a photographer rests primarily on his work from the 1860s in Yosemite Valley. The set of 30 photographs offered here has remained intact since it was given by Lawrence & Houseworth to San Francisco’s Mercantile Library in 1867. This set, with its original ornate wooden presentation case, is a remarkable surviving artifact from the early history of photography in America. The plates are as follows: 1. Yo-Semite Valley, from the Mariposa Trail, Mariposa County, Cal. 2. Yo-Semite Valley, from the Coulterville Trail, Mariposa County, Cal. 3. The Bridal Veil Fall, and Three Graces, Yo-Semite Valley, Mariposa County, Cal. 4. Cathedral Rocks, 3,000 feet high, Yo-Semite Valley, Mariposa County, Cal. 5. Lower Cathedral Rock, Yo-Semite Valley, Mariposa County, Cal. 6. El Capitan, 3,300 feet high, Yo-Semite Valley, Mariposa County, Cal. 7. El Capitan, River View, Yo-Semite Valley, Mariposa County, Cal. 8. The Three Brothers, 4,000 feet high, Yo-Semite Valley, Mariposa County, Cal. 9. The Sentinel Rock, 3,270 feet high, Yo-Semite Valley, Mariposa County, Cal. 10. The Yo-Semite Fall, 2,634 feet high, Yo-Semite Valley, Mariposa County, Cal. 11. The Yo-Semite Fall, Near View, Yo-Semite Valley, Mariposa County, Cal. 12. The Yo-Semite Fall, Front View, Yo-Semite Valley, Mariposa County, Cal. 13. View down the Yo-Semite Valley. Mariposa County, Cal. 14. The North Dome, 3,725 feet high, Yo-Semite Valley, Mariposa County, Cal. 15. The South Dome, 6,000 feet high, Yo-Semite Valley, Mariposa County, Cal. 16. North and South Dome and Clouds' Rest, Yo-Semite Valley, Mariposa County, Cal. 17. Mirror Lake and Reflections, Yo-Semite Valley, Mariposa County, Cal. 18. The Vernal Fall. 350 feet high, Yo-Semite Valley. Mariposa County, Cal. 19. The Cap of Liberty and Nevada Fall, Yo-Semite Valley; Mariposa County, Cal. 20. The Nevada Fall, 700 feet high, Yo-Semite Valley, Mariposa County, Cal. 21. The South Dome, Distant View, Yo-Semite Valley, Mariposa County, Cal. 22. The South Dome, from the Lake, Yo-Semite Valley, Mariposa County, Cal. 23. Mount Starr King, 5,600 feet high, Yo-Semite Valley, Mariposa County, Cal. 24. Looking up Yo-Semite Valley, Mariposa County, Cal. 25. Sugar Loaf Mountain, Little Yo-Semite Valley, Mariposa County, Cal. 26. The Cascade Fall, Little Yo-Semite Valley, Mariposa County, Cal. 27. The Mammoth Grove Hotel, Calaveras County, Cal. 28. The Sentinels, 315 feet high, Mammoth Grove, Calaveras County, Cal. 29. The Original Big Tree, 32 feet diameter, Mammoth Grove, Calaveras County, Cal. 30. The Fallen Tree Hercules, 325 feet long, Mammoth Grove, Calaveras County, Cal. The letterpress label on the reverse reads, ‘Photographic Views of California Scenery, 22 x 28 inches; also, Stereoscopic and Album Sizes. Published by Lawrence & Houseworth, 317 and 319 Montgomery Street, San Francisco. Catalogues sent to any part of the World free of Postage.’ Photographs County, and the Big Trees, Calaveras County, California, published by Lawrence & Houseworth, each mounted, with printed title and publishers’ information, and sequential number in pencil on the mount, the publishers’ letterpress ‘Photographic Views of California Scenery’ label on the reverse, 1864, printed no later than 1867; accompanied by a Victorian Carved Mahogany Standing Presentation Case with hinged lid and sliding brass locks and a fielded front panel carved with the following inscription, ‘Photographs of the YoSemite Valley, Presented to the Mercantile Library By Lawrence and Houseworth, San Francisco, Cal., A. D. 1867’ The photographs 17 by 20 3/4 in. (43.2 by 52.7 cm.) or the reverse The presentation box 24 by 19 by 31 in. (61 by 48 by 78 cm.)
References
Provenance Acquired from John Howell Books, San Francisco
Estimated Price USD 250,000.00 - 350,000.00
Actual Price USD 374,500.00

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AUCTION DETAILS

Auction House Sothebys
Website http://www.sothebys.com/
Auction Name Photographs
Sale Number #NO8885
Auction Date October 3, 2012 - October 3, 2012
Book Images