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Arbres de l’Amérique sketchbook


Held at: University of Delaware Library Special Collections [Contact Us]181 South College Avenue, Newark, DE 19717-5267

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Delaware Library Special Collections. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

It is possible that this work was done in France by a French engraver or lithographer called Noel for a small format edition of Francois-Andrew Michaux’s work. There were no editions of Michaux’s work published in France after 1819, although it was the standard work on American trees (which were of great interest to French silviculturists until nearly the end of the century). William McClure bought the plates from Michaux and brought them to New Harmony, Indiana, to print an exclusively American version in 1841-1842. The plates were used to print further editions in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as late as 1871.

Several leaves of wove paper in this volume feature the watermark “J WATHMAN,” a misspelling of the watermark used by English papermaker James Whatman at Maidstone in Kent from the mid eighteenth to the early nineteenth century. Dard Hunter notes that “certain unscrupulous Continental papermakers have duplicated the Whatman watermark and sold their papers without hesitation,” a practice that dates to at least the 1850s.

A head and shoulders watercolor and chalk portrait of a man done by Franz Xaver Winterhalter also features the “J WATHMAN” watermark. Winterthalter was active in the mid nineteenth century.

Hunter, Dard. Papermaking: The History and Technique of an Ancient Craft. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1978.Krill, John. English Artists Paper: Renaissance to Regency. London: Trefoil, 1987.Arcadia Auction Results, “Franz Xaver Winterhalter,” (accessed October 17, 2016) derived from the collection.

This volume, entitled “Arbres de l’Amérique,” consists of 157 original pencil drawings (exact copies reduced to one third of the originals) of engraving taken from paintings by P.J. Redouté and Pancrace Bessa done for Francois-Andre Michaux’s North American Sylva, Paris, 1817-1819. This work may have been done in France by a French engraver or lithographer called Noel for a possible small format edition of Michaux’s work. The plates show branches, leaves, flowers, and fruits of American trees.

The volume contains sketches of specimens belonging to various genera, including oak, maple, birch, ash, willow, elm, spruce, and cedar. Many of the drawings are on a grid of 1.4cm x 1.2cm rectangles, a device used by engravers and lithographers to transfer a drawing to a plate. Some of the plates have been trimmed, resulting in their numbers being cut off.

The order of the plates replicates the 1817-1819 French edition, but with an extra drawing between plates 75 and 76 of “Virgilia lutea.” Two other drawings differ to some extent from the engraved plates; 72 Red birch, “Betula rubra”, of which the engraving has an extra leaf at the foot of the branch, the flower in a different position, and the seed and scale on the opposite side of the plate; and 154, Cedar of Lebanon, Larix cedrus, where the lower cone in the engraving is considerably fatter and the seed is turned in position. Three drawings are reversed from the published engravings: 24 Quercus tinctoria, 25 Q. coccinea, and 47 Acer montanum. The titles added at the foot of the drawings are identical with the titles in post-1817 engravings, though one drawing, 43, Black sugar maple, adds the words “vel tree [i.e., or tree]” after the English title.

The drawings are on wove paper, some bearing the watermark “J WATHMAN,” a misspelling of the Whatman mark used on fine English paper in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The most complete “J WATHMAN” watermark can be found on plate 46 (box elder). Other watermarks include “31” (see plate 31, Butter nut), “T. I.” in script (see plate 69, Mountain laurel), “624” (see plate 102, Pride of India), and “RUBENS” (see title page).

This volume is bound with red paper over boards with unmarked laid paper pastedowns and flyleaves at the back and front. There are gilt bands on the spine and a small, brown leather label that reads “NOEL/AMERIQUE.” There are two wove paper binder’s leaves at the front of the volume and two laid paper binder’s leaves at the back. The second leaf at the front has the watermark “RUBENS” and is inscribed in ink, “Arbres de / L’Amérique.” The body of work consists of 157 leaves of wove paper variously marked, interleaved with leaves of laid paper (chains horizontal). On the rectos of the wove paper there are pencil drawings of branches, leaves, flowers, and fruits of American trees.

Item 0187: Shelved in SPEC MSS 0097

Purchase, 1991

Processed and encoded by Elizabeth Jones-Minsinger, January 2017.

University of Delaware Library Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
Finding Aid Date
2017 January 11
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce isrequired from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library,

Collection Inventory

Arbres de l’Amérique sketchbook, approximately 1850s.
Item 0187
Physical Description

1 volume

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