Graphica Americana - Eccentric biography (1834)

Wilson, Henry (fl. 1820-30)

Wonderful characters; comprising memoirs and anecdotes of the most remarkable persons of every age and nation.

Published: New-York: William Burnett; Harper & Brothers

Date: 1834

pp. 510, [1], engraved title-page, frontispiece and 14 engraved plates

J.Q. Loring (engraved bookplate: "Faire sans dire")

"The great Lord Bacon has remarked "that it would much conduce to the magnanimity and honour of man, if a collection were made of the ultimities (as the schools speak) or summities (as Pindar) of human nature, principally out of the faithful reports of history "(...) The wonders of human nature should be collected with judgment and diligence, on the plan of Valerius Maximus and C. Plinius." --from the preface. A reference to Francis Bacon's desire for a collection of the extraordinaries and wonders of human nature is cited in the preface with the aim of lending scientific and scholarly support to the enterprise. (W. Ernst, Histories of the Normal and the Abnormal 2006)

This type of collective biography of sensational characters, behaviour, or talent was pioneered by printseller and author James Caulfield (1764–1826) in the late eighteenth century and became widely popular throughout a good part of the nineteenth century. With this edition, Wonderful Characters makes its debut in North America, illustrated with plates newly engraved by British born engraver and lithographer Stephen Henry Gimber (1806 or 1810-1862). Gimber emigrated to America with his wife around 1829 and was active in New York for a time with A.L. Dick. Naturalized in 1843 and moved to Philadelphia. Slight variations with the English plates can be observed, notably with regard to the eyes and expression of some of the subjects. The biography of Matthew Robinson Morris (Lord Rokeby), includes an extensive exposition on the history of the beard, including the female beard throughout history (pp. 201–7).

Sixteen plates engraved by Stephen Henry Gimber

Occasional foxing

Bound by Gould. Contemporary half calf gilt with decorative spine.


Offered by Christian F Verbeke Rare Books