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Guide to the American Art-Union Print Collection
 PR 159

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Jenny Gotwals

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on May 03, 2022
Description is in English.

Scope and Content Note

The American Art-Union Print Collection spans the period from 1840 to 1851 and contains prints by American artists issued by the Art-Union to its members. The collection also contains a few prints that were used as frontispieces in the Bulletin of the American Art-Union. The collection is arranged in three series: Membership Prints; Other Prints; and Duplicate Membership Prints.

The prints are housed by size. However, the listing here is by series and thereunder in the order in which the prints were issued, with inventory and housing information noted under each title. Generally, at least three copies of each print can be found in Series I. Several hundred duplicate prints exist for several of the later, and smaller, membership prints; these duplicates can be found in Series III.

Most prints have the artists' signature engraved in the plate. Prints in this collection were made from paintings by Thomas Cole, William S. Mount, Asher B. Durand, and others. Engravers include James Smillie, Felix O.C. Darley, and Alfred Jones.

Series I. Membership Prints contains copies of prints that were issued by the American Art-Union each year from 1840 to 1851. In addition to prints, members also received several books illustrated by etchings. Two of these, with text by Washington Irving, are found here. This series holds copies of all membership prints issued by the AAU, except for three: "Farmer's Nooning" (1843), "A Sibyl" (1847) and "Dover Plains" (1850). Two books issued to members, "Harvey's American Landscape Scenery" (1844), and "Outlines & Sketches by Washington Allston" (1850), are also lacking. This series also includes several proofs for Thomas Cole's "Voyage of Life—Youth" (1849). Additional copies of some of these can also be found in Series III.

Series II. Other Prints holds five prints that were issued for special fund raising drives, given to honorary secretaries of the organization, or used as frontispieces for the Bulletin of the American Art-Union.

Series III. Duplicate Prints contains 525 duplicates of the small folio prints issued in 1851. These came to the New-York Historical Society with the rest of the Art-Union's archive in 1863. The series includes 321 copies of "Marion Crossing the Peedee," 155 copies of "Mount Washington," 32 copies of "American Harvesting," and 17 copies of "Old '76 and Young '48." All the prints here are also represented in Series I.


The collection is organized in three series:

Series I. Membership Prints

Series II. Other Prints

Series III. Duplicate Membership Prints