America Was Beautiful

edited by Alice Watson. Barre, $12.50. Miss Watson has selected pictures and fragments of text from Picturesque America, a handsome two-volume monster published in the early 1870s. It contained descriptions from all over the country—one of them concerned the first official expedition into the Yellowstone—and was most lavishly illustrated with drawings by an assortment of artists, most of them notably efficient professionals. Each number (the book was issued to subscribers in installments) came in a blue paper-cover and included a detachable steel engraving “suitable for framing.”It was a book based on love, pride, and wonder, and it is a pleasure to find even part of it retrieved from limbo, especially since so many of the land and waterscapes it meticulously recorded are now defaced, polluted, or destroyed. The distinctive texture of the engravings has not survived reduction and reproduction, but the pen and brush drawings are unimpaired.