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To celebrate Independence Day in the United States on July 4, we feature "American Scenery Volume I & II" by Nathaniel Parker Willis with illustrations by William Henry Bartlett.
Bartlett, a Londoner, became one of the foremost illustrators of topography of his generation. In 1835, he first visited the United States in order to draw the buildings, towns and scenery of the northeastern states. The 118 finely detailed steel engravings Bartlett produced were published in 1840 uncolored and with a text by Nathaniel Parker Willis as "American Scenery; or Land, Lake, and River: Illustrations of Transatlantic Nature". Willis writes a travel dialogue for each engraving by addressing the reader as a prospective tourist visiting the Horseshoe Falls at Niagara, Yale College or Harper's Ferry. His use of historical vignettes and poems to express his views and add color to his writing may explain how he became the leading magazine writer of his time.
American Scenery was originally published in London in 30 monthly installments from 1837 to 1839 and later as bound editions beginning in 1840. Bartlett's impressions of Canada were collected in 1842 and he collaborated with Willis again using the same format. The result of their collaboration was published as "Canadian Scenery Volume I & II" and is also available here at fadedpage.com.
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