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Trading Post on the Missouri by Karl Bodmer

A beautiful hand-colored engraving of a frontier scene on the Missouri River, after Karl Bodmer, and originally issued as Vignette XXXI 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 sheets, after paintings by Karl Bodmer, and which accompanied all three editions. The plates are 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.

This print has the three captions in German, French, and English; a reference to Bodmer can be seen in the inscription in the lower left "Ch. Bodmer pinx. ad nat."; the print is undated.

The present delightful view shows Major John Dougherty's trading post at Bellvue, near present-day Omaha, on the Missouri River, reached by Maximilian and Bodmer in May 1833. The scene is very detailed and evokes the sparsely settled frontier as seen firsthand by Bodmer. Neat wooden buildings including the home of a blacksmith, paddocks, white settlers including a woman, an ox cart and a Native American family including a small child.

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.


Condition Description
Hand-colored engraving. Coloring is vivid and nice, and enhanced with gum arabic. Somewhat odd ghosting in the blank area of the printing plate. 20th-century paper.
cf. Streeter Sale 1809. Wagner-Camp 76. Howes M443a.