General Washington. G. Murray, engraver.

General Washington.

Philadelphia: J. Maxwell, 1811. Illustrated broadside (23” x 17.5”), copper-plate engraving above text, engraving size, 10.5” x 5”.

A broadside published a little over a decade after General George Washington’s death, featuring a fine emblematic engraving and text extolling Washington’s virtuous character.

Consisting of a lively scene within a border adorned with swags, the engraving allegorizes Washington as a great rock in the sea, standing firm amid crashing waves and a stormy sky with a streak of lightning in the background. The text praises Washington’s “rare endowments”: his even-keeled temperament; consummate prudence; disinterested conduct; the powers of his mind; the dispositions of his heart, and so forth. Also addressed is the intertwinement of his life and the development of America, and the American Revolution:

Washington, placed in circumstances of the most trying difficulty at the commencement of the American contest, accepted that situation which was preeminent in danger and responsibility … He acted as if his country’s welfare, and that alone, was the moving spring … His prudent administration consolidated and enlarged the dominions of an infant Republic…A Conqueror, for Freedom of his Country! A Legislator, for its security! A Magistrate, for its happiness!

The text concludes thus: “His fame, bounded by no country, will be confined to no age. The character of General Washington will be transmitted to posterity, and the memory of his virtues, while patriotism and virtue are held sacred among men, will remain undiminished.” While the identity of the author of the text is uncertain, it enjoyed a certain degree of circulation, later appearing in The Columbian Reader (Boston, 1815), attributed to “Foreign Magazine” (we have been unable to identify a publication with this title).

As noted at the bottom, this broadside was first published in London by W. S. Blake (in 1800), with the same illustration (unsigned) at the top, an eagle with a Federal shield at the bottom, and the text in calligraphic form, the whole printed from a single plate. A scan of a copy at Mount Vernon can be viewed online. George Murray copied the engraving on the London edition for this Philadelphia edition, and minor differences can be discerned, most obviously the treatment of the border.

Born in Scotland, George Murray (d. 1822) was a student of the noted English engraver Anker Smith, and by 1796 was engraving portraits and other images in London. First appearing in Philadelphia in 1800, Murray became a prominent figure in the Philadelphia Society of Artists. Between 1810 and 1811, he organized the bank-note and general engraving firm of Murray, Draper, Fairman & Co., which proved to be a large and successful business. In the U.S., Murray engraved landscapes, animals and several portraits. Since Murray apparently remained in London until some time in 1800, it is possible that he engraved the London edition of this broadside, which, as noted above, was published in that year.

OCLC records just six copies.

REFERENCES: Stauffer, David M. American Engravers Upon Copper and Steel, Vol. I (New York: Grolier Club, 1907), pp. 186-187.

CONDITION: Very good, old folds now flattened, bottom edge trimmed unevenly; no losses to the text.

Item #5435

Price: $1,500.00

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