Auction 137, Lot 370

A Rare, Early View of Philadelphia

"An East Perspective View of the City of Philadelphia, in the Province of Pensylvania, in North America; Taken From the Jersey Shore.", Bowles, Carrington

Subject: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Period: 1794 (circa)


Color: Hand Color

16.3 x 9.5 inches
41.4 x 24.1 cm

Optical prints (or vue d’optique) were made to be viewed in a special apparatus that provided the viewer with an illusion of depth (early 3-D). The large mirror employed in the viewing machine showed the image reversed so many of these views have the titles and information engraved forward and backwards to facilitate viewing in the machine or by hand. These prints were only produced for a short period of time (1740 to 1790) and then were replaced with the invention of the smaller steroviewer. These views are some of the most distinctive and interesting images of the eighteenth century, and their distinctive engraving style, striking perspective and bright original color makes them as visually delightful as they are historically fascinating.

This lovely view of Philadelphia is a reissue of Nicholas Scull and George Heap's view, which was one of the first published views of Philadelphia. In response to a request by Thomas Penn, Heap made a drawing of Philadelphia from the New Jersey shore. After Thomas Penn acquired the drawing, he had an engraving made from it, which became one of the most desirable early profiles of the city. Viewed from the east, the mile-long waterfront from present-day South Street to Vine Street depicts the city as a bustling river port. A key at bottom identifies 14 locations in the great town, including the State House, the Court House, a floating Corn Mill, and Christ Church.


Condition: B+

A minor abrasion in sky at right that does not distract. The bottom margin, far from map image, has been trimmed with loss of publisher's imprint.

Estimate: $5,000 - $8,000

Sold for: $3,500

Closed on 9/14/2011