Panorama of the Grand Canyon


William Henry Holmes.  “Panorama from Point Sublime.”  Plates XV-XVIII.  From C.E. Dutton’s Atlas to Accompany the Monograph on the Tertiary History of the Grand Cañon District.  New York: Julius Bien, 1882.  Each image 17 3/8 x 30 3/8.   Chromolithographs by Julius Bien.  Very good condition.


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An amazingly detailed and accurate panorama in three sheet of the Grand Canyon, issued in Clarence Edward Dutton’s atlas of the “Grand Cañon District.”  Dutton was born in Wallingford, CT, on May 15, 1841, graduating from Yale in 1860.  He served in the Union army during the Civil War and then joined the U.S. Geological Survey. He worked in a number of places, including Hawaii, Oregon and the American southwest, in particular surveying the Grand Canyon.  In 1882, he issued his atlas of the Grand Canyon survey, a magnificent document of the exploration of one of the last surveyed parts of the United States.  In his preface to the report, Dutton speaks of “. . . exalt(ing) the mind sufficiently to comprehend the sublimity of the subjects. Their sublimity has in fact been hitherto underrated. Great as is the fame of the Grand Cañon of the Colorado, the half remains to be told.”

This is a three part view showing a wide panorama of the Grand Canyon from Point Sublime on the North Rim.  The view was based on first-hand drawings by William Henry Holmes (1846-1933), who accompanied Dutton on his survey.  Holmes had previously worked with Ferdinand V. Hayden on the first survey of the state of Colorado, but his images of the Grand Canyon reached an unprecedented level of quality and realism.  They are simply among the best images of the West made in the period of exploration.  William Goetzmann wrote that Holmes was “the greatest artist-topographer and man of many talents that the West ever produced…his artistic technique was like no other’s. He could sketch panoramas of twisted mountain ranges, sloping monoclines, escarpments, plateaus, canyons, fault blocks, and grassy meadows that accurately depicted hundreds of miles of terrain…his illustrations for Dutton’s Tertiary History of the Grand Canon District are masterpieces of realism and draftsmanship as well as feats of imaginative observation.”  Of particular interest are the two figures shown at the edge of the canyon at the far left.  One is a seated artist making a sketch—this is picture of Holmes—and the other bends over examining the work—this is a picture of Dutton.