William Birch. The City of Philadelphia, in the state of Pennsylvania North America. First and Second Editions 1800
The City of Philadelphia, in the State of Pennsylvania North America -- First AND Second editions
Published by W. Birch, 1800
A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY TO ACQUIRE THE FUNDAMENTAL WORKS OF AMERICAN CITY VIEWS. The first edition (Published by W. Birch, Springland Cot, near Neshaminy Bridge on the Bristol Road, Pennsylvania. Dec.r 31.st 1800; uncolored) -- THE BIRCH FAMILY COPY -- and the vanishingly rare second edition (Published by W. Birch, Springland Cot. 1800 [but 1804]; colored). (SEE INDIVIDUAL LISTINGS FOR BINDINGS AND CONDITION.) William Russell Birch (1755-1834) was born and trained in England by no less than Thomas Jefferys, the jeweler and map-seller, and Sir Joshua Reynolds, founding President of the Royal Academy. He brought this expertise to the New World, settling in Philadelphia in 1794. Whereas engraved city views were long-established in Europe, no collection of them had ever been printed and published in America. Birch's City of Philadelphia inaugurated the genre in the country, which would flourish and continue through the XXc with Currier and Ives among others. His target audience was wide; the title points to a European market, aiming to encourage emigration to the new-born nation whose Athens -- its capital (until just before the publication of the work) and intellectual heart -- was Philadelphia. The views were exceptionally popular, resulting in several states and four editions within Birch's lifetime. The second edition was fundamentally different from the first, with 20 rather than 28 views, of which 7 were new (6 being revised views from the first edition, 1 de novo). Together, these two volumes provide a nonpareil opportunity to chart the development of city views in America, which were vitally important to emigration and expansion. Both volumes come from the collection of Robert Lincoln McNeil Jr. (1916 2010; his sale, Sotheby's New York 5 December 2013, lots 3 & 4). McNeil was a pharmaceutical executive best known for developing and selling Tylenol. He was raised in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, and became a life-long philanthropist in the region, a collector as well as a patron of the arts a legacy that persists in the Barra Foundation, of which he was founder.