The first obtainable print of Harvard

[James Trenchard, engraver] / The Columbian Magazine, View of the Ancient Buildings belonging to Harvard-College, Cambridge, New England.  [Philadelphia: Printed for the Proprietors by W. Spotswood, ca. Nov.-Dec., 1788.]
Engraving, 3 ¼”h x 6”w plus title and margins, uncolored

A scarce and appealing 18th-century view of Harvard and “the earliest engraving of the College which one may reasonably hope to obtain.” (Bail)

The view is taken from a point in front of the present-day Johnston Gate on Massachusetts Avenue across from Cambridge Common. It shows the three College buildings as they appeared in 1726, from left to right: the second Harvard College, the first Stoughton Hall and the still-standing Massachusetts Hall. The image is based closely on Burgis and Price’s 1743 Prospect of the Colledges of Cambridge in New England, though the ornamentation and enlivening details have been removed to accommodate the smaller format.

The engraving appeared in the December, 1788 number of The Columbian Magazine. Although unsigned, it is almost certainly the work of James Trenchard, a co-owner of the Magazine and the engraver of nearly all the plates that appeared in it. In his Views of Harvard, Bail writes that “In spite of the fact that the print is solely an adaptation, it is important because of its early appearance and relative scarcity.”

Bail, Views of Harvard, #13, plate XVII. Fielding, American Engravers Upon Copper and Steel, #1819.


Gently toned, a couple of minute spots of foxing, and a bit of damp staining in upper margin well away from image