by Casilear, George W.
Seven volumes of engravings collected by George W. Casilear. Casilear was an engraver and landscape artist in New York from 1847 to 1852, working with his brother John W. Casilear from 1847 to 1848. In 1851, he produced, with Henry Bainbridge, A View of San Francisco, published by Sarony and Major in 1851. About the same time, he produced a view of Sacramento, also published by Sarony. He also produced the sketch used by G.V. Cooper for the frontispiece in Lett's Pictoral View of California. See George C. Groce and David H. Wallace, The New-York Historical Society's Dictionary of Artists in America 1564-1860 (New Haven: Yale Univerity Press, 1957), 114.
Casilear then worked as an editor, secretary and solicitor of patents from 1852 to 1857. In 1862, he became Chief of the Engraving Division of the Bureau of Printing and Engraving. Casilear was instrumental in the redesign of United States currency in 1864. One contemporary news account called his engraving of the landing of Columbus "superior to that of the original." (The Farmer's Cabinet, Amherst, New Hampshire, January 21, 1864). But in May 1878, Casilear was accused of "gross misconduct" and a congressional committee chair urged President Rutherford B. Hayes to remove him from office (Herald Tribune, New York, May 2, 1878). Casilear remained in office, and he would lead an investigation of counterfeiting of United States bonds based on evidence found by the Secret Service in Chicago (Herald Tribune, New York, October 1, 1880). See also Ben. Perley Poore, Congressional Directory (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1872 and 1881).
Casilear was finally removed from office in 1885, being replaced by John A. O'Neill of Hoboken, New Jersey. News accounts stated that no charges of wrongdoing had emerged, and Casilear was "considered one of the best engravers in the country" (New York Times, April 17, 1885). But a subsequent news account stated that Casilear's replacement would "bring new life to a division that has been charged with a lack of ingenuity and freshness." The same account averred that Casilear had "never touched a graver or a plate in the production of a government note," noting his focus on designing silver certificates and bonds" (New York Times, April 18, 1885). Possibly, politics was a factor, the Democratic Cleveland administration having recently replaced the Republican Arthur administration.
The seven volumes include well over 500 engravings mostly from England, continental Europe, with some from the United States. There is no apparent format of organization, but some points are worthy of note. One volume, labeled "Miscellaneous Engravings" includes a number of English engravings attributed to James Virtue, the National Gallery and the Royal Collection. Another, labeled "Engravings," also has a number of items attributed to Virtue. A third volume, labeled "Scrap Book-Engravings and Etchings by the Old and New School," includes mainly English, French and German items, with translations into English of some of the French captions. A fourth volume, labeled "Scrap Book," includes annotations with handwritten biographical information about many of the engravers and descriptive information about the engravings. A fifth volume includes an engraving of President Chester Arthur with a facsimile signature and date, along with French, English, German and American engravings.
Five of the seven volumes are bound in half leather, marbled paper-covered boards. One is bound in leather, gilt decorated, and one half leather, cloth boards. Casilear's bookplate is on the front pastedown of each volume. The volumes are rubbed and scuffed at the edges, and there is some foxing.