R. Swain Gifford. “Middle Block House, Cascades.” From Picturesque America. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1872. ca. 5 1/2 x 8 1/2. Wood engraving. Very good condition.
Picturesque America, inspired by the prose of William Cullen Bryant, was a publication describing and illustrating the scenery of America. This two volume set and others of its genre were very popular during the mid-nineteenth century. Through their ample illustrations they provided a glimpse of nineteenth century America–much more bucolic than today–its towns, rivers, ports, important architecture, and other areas of interest. Spurred in part by the surge in patriotism generated by the forthcoming Centennial celebration of the United States, to be held in Philadelphia in 1876, this volume celebrates the variety and majesty of the maturing country. As stated by Sue Rainey, in her excellent Creating ‘Picturesque America’, “As the first publication to celebrate the entire continental nation, it enabled Americas, after the trauma of the Civil War, to construct a national self-image based on reconciliation between North and South and incorporation of the West.” (p. xiii)