An evocative hand-colored engraving after Karl Bodmer, originally issued as Vignette 3 in the atlas to Prince Maximilian of Wied's famous travel account of the Western Plains, Travels in the Interior of North America (1839-43).
Maximilian’s monumental account first appeared in German (1839-41), followed by a French translation in 1840-43 and an English edition in 1843. A Paris-issued pictorial atlas contained eighty-one aquatint plates (48 "imperial" folios and 33 smaller "vignette" plates often called quarto in size), engraved and etched on metal plates, after paintings by Karl Bodmer, and which accompanied all three editions. The plates are renowned for their outstanding authentic depictions of the western plains and Native Americans by a highly skilled European artist. Bodmer avoided romanticizing his subjects, and attempted to record the people and places he encountered as true to life as possible.
The present landscape print is a tranquil view of the town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. There are three captions and imprint statements in German, French, and English; a reference to Bodmer can be seen in the inscription in the lower left "Ch. Bodmer pinx. ad. nat." and the date is included in the London imprint: "London published by Ackermann & Co. 96 Strand October 15th 1839."
According to Brandon K. Ruud, this view is based on Bodmer's incomplete watercolor View of Bethlehem on the Lehigh:
In that work the pencil outline of trees and foliage atop the pigment suggests that Bodmer considered adding this framing device to the print's composition. The artist rejected this addition to the Vignette III, but did insert the figures of a man and woman in the center foreground.
According to Howes, the vignette plates in the original issue of the pictorial atlas did not have the special blindstamp with Bodmer's name which is requisite on first issues of the larger folio plates. The atlas was reprinted in 1844 by the London engraver Edward Lumley. There was also a later 1922 Leipzig edition with the plates restruck on India paper and mounted on thicker sheets. The present print appears to be one of the reissues, but not the restruck version on India paper.