Our Notes & References
Exceptionally rare edition in Spanish of one of the most successful illustrated books of the time, specifically conceived for South America: a remarkable example of transatlantic commercial publishing.
“Following the capture of Buenos Aires by the private enterprise of Commodore Sir Home Popham and Colonel Beresford in 1806, and the sending home of 1,100,000 worth of ‘Treasure’, paraded through the streets of London in eight wagons, each drawn by six horses, British interest in South America had boomed”. Even though the British forces were pushed back the next year, a vast number of British merchants went to Buenos Aires, and “by 1824 there were at least 3,000 British subjects [… A] mania for speculation in South America swept Britain, huge sums being invested in companies and in South American Government Bonds” (Abbey).
The celebrated London publisher -and acute businessman- Rudolph Ackermann (1764-1834) was among those English entrepreneurs to expand his business into the New World: from 1823 he published the magazine Variedades o Mensagero de Londres and in 1824, he sent his young son George (1803-91) to Mexico so that he could open a bookshop and establish sales outlets in Mexico City, Caracas, Bogota, Guatemala City, Lima and Buenos Aires. This allowed Ackermann to become a leading publisher in Spanish in Latin America: “Ackermann… published over 100 books in Spanish, including textbooks which played an important part in the education of the newly independent republics” (Ford). By the end of 1828 however he had to shut down his business in Latin America because of “the volatile economic and political climate and the frequent pirating and selling of his books by the French” (Harris).
Ackermann included a Spanish version of Gerning’s bestseller in his output aimed at South America, and stated this clearly on the title page: the book is published in London by Ackermann, “y en su establecimiento en Megico : asimismo en Colombia, en Buenos-Ayres, Chile, Peru, y Guatemala”.
A Picturesque Tour along the Rhine, first published with illustrations in 1820, was one of his most successful illustrated publications, “perhaps the most famous magnificent work of the early Rhine Romanticism” (Schmitt). The new publication includes a title, an introduction and plates explanations in Spanish, whereas the 24 plates are the same as the first English edition, all engraved in aquatint after watercolours by the late German artist Christian Georg Schütz Jr. (1758-1823), and here subtle hand-colouring from Ackerman’s celebrated London workshops and still with English captions dated 1819.
The original German text, Die Rheingegenden von Mainz bis Cölln, had been written by the German diplomat Johann Isaak von Gerning (1767-1837) and first came out in German without illustrations in 1819. Abbey suggests that Ackermann was already working on his edition at that time as he commissioned the text and plates in 1819. Gerning’s work opened Ackermann’s famed series of “Picturesque Voyages” (1820-28) that would later include the explorations of the Seine, Ganges and Thames among others. “There is no more attractive figure [in the publishing world] than that of Rudolph Ackermann, through whose extraordinary enterprise and spirit of adventure, aquatint was successfully applied to the illustration of books” (Prideaux).
The book offers attractive topographical descriptions of the so-called Middle Rhine from Mainz to Cologne, as well as short insights about the local history and traditions (with for example a full plate showing a salmon fishery), which altogether contributed to the romanticisation of the region, particularly favoured by English tourists. For the Spanish edition, Gerning’s text was replaced with an introductory text and explanatory notes by the writer and educator José Joaquín de Mora. This publication was very timely, resonating with the growing local romantic aspirations which were particularly fulfilled in the works of one of the main Latin American Romantic authors, Esteban Echeverría (1805–51), in the 1830s.
Very rare: this edition mentioned, but not owned by Abbey. Worldcat could not locate any copy in US or European libraries, showing only one copy, at the Biblioteca Nacional de Mexico. Apparently only one example at auction in recent decades, in 2010.
A fine, clean example, in contemporary binding and with the original, subtle colouring keeping its lovely freshness.
Cf. Abbey 271 and 442-444; Prideaux, Sarah Treverbian, Aquatint engraving; a chapter in the history of book illustration, 2018, 120-23; Schmitt, Michael, Die illustrierten Rhein-Beschreibungen : Dokumentation der Werke und Ansichten von der Romantik bis zum Ende des 19 Jahrhunderts, Verlag, Böhlau, 1996; Katherine D. Harris. “Rudolph Ackermann”, The Encyclopedia of Romantic Literature, 2012; John Ford, “Rudolph Ackermann”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004.