Baxter’s Map of the Victories of Napoleon III

1) The complete Map 2) A close up of the title, top right of the map 3) Shows the 'three' shades of green used to print it 4 - 10) close up of some of the small vignettes

Baxter’s Map of the Victories of Napoleon III
Baxter’s Map of the Victories of Napoleon III

1) The complete Map 2) A close up of the title, top right of the map 3) Shows the 'three' shades of green used to print it 4 - 10) close up of some of the small vignettes

The print was catalogued by Courtney Lewis in 1908 as CL 373, stating it was “not in colours” with a publishing date as “about 1859”. CL gave minimal other detail or background and very little has been written about the print since.

In the New Baxter Society Newsletter Vol 13 No 2 for November 2020 Roger Smith wrote of a listing in the ‘publications of the month’ section of ‘The Bookseller’ for 30th November 1859 which includes a three line listing giving the map its full title and ‘on sheet coloured Baxter 1/’. Roger stated that, for the first time, we had a confirmed date of publication and that it was ‘in colours’.

Both these statements contradicted my own long held views so I thought it was now time to put together all the information I know about this print to try and make some observations. I am lucky to have a copy of this rare print to hand so can make the following notes:

It is a large print, the size is 53.3 cm x 36.9 cm with at least a 3.5 cm border. The top right hand corner of the map gives the full title, the longest of any Baxter print, and credit line: "Baxter’s Historical Map of the Victories gained by the French and Sardinian Troops in Italy under the Command of the Emperor Napoleon III. Executed by George Baxter, the Inventor and Patentee of Oil Colour Printing, 11 & 12, Northampton Square, London."

The map covers an area just North of the Mediterranean from Marseilles in France to Florence in Northern Italy and going up to the border of Switzerland.

The title tells you exactly what the map shows in what has become to be known as the Second Italian War of Independence, the Franco-Austrian War, the Austro-Sardinian War or Italian War of 1859. The Centenary Baxter book states that there are 15 small vignettes within the map. I can only find 14 all showing important events or battles of the war, 13 titled and one untitled bottom left corner near Marseilles, the titles are:

French Troops Passing the Alps at Mont Cenis - Arrival of French Troops at Turin - The Fortifications of Alessandria - Saluting the Emperor of the French on his arrival in Italy - The French Fleet returning to France with the Victorious Army - Battle near Lake Como - Arrival of the French Troops at Milan - The French capturing the Austrian colours at Magenta - Battle of Montebello - The Emperor of the French leading his Troops at the Battle of Solferino - View of Spezzia - The Meeting of the Emperors of the French & Austria after the Battle of Solferino - Landing of Prince Napoleon at Leghorn.

The war was fought between the French Empire and the Kingdom of Sardinia against the Austrian Empire, it is very well documented and full details can be found on the Internet. The war lasted under 3 months between 26 April – 12 July 1859.

Date of Publication

Looking at the dates of the conclusion of the war and the title of the map, the print couldn’t have commenced until after 12th July 1859. One of the vignettes is titled ‘The Meeting of the Emperors of the French & Austria after the Battle of Solferino’ a battle that took place on the 24th June, so in theory preparation of the design could have commenced from 25th June but I would consider that to be somewhat presumptuous.

The Dogs of St Bernard was published on the 28th November 1859 and is stated in Baxter’s own advertising poster in 1861 as being the last print he published. This means that the map had to be published sometime after 13th July 1859, as that is the earliest possible date for commencement of the artwork and engraving to before 28th Nov 1859. A very small window for Baxter of only 4 months from start to finish. The map is highly intricate and must have taken many, many hours to engrave.

I have seen ‘The Bookseller’ mentioned by Roger but I feel the entry, which is one of many hundreds of entries listed by them that month, is not correct. Possibly Baxter had previously stated it would be published in that month but, like, on many other occasions, perhaps he hadn’t delivered the goods.

Baxter was a quite prolific advertiser, ‘small ads’ advising of ‘just published’ to larger scale adverts promoting his latest print and perhaps others recently released. Throughout 1859 and into the early months of 1860 when he announced his retirement he advertised regularly in such as the Art Journal Advertiser, promoting ‘The Dogs of St Bernard’, Winter and Summer after W E Jones etc but no mention of this map.

I can find no mention of this print in any of Baxter’s adverts and ’The Bookseller’ listing is the only mention of this print amongst many publications that usually review Baxter’s work or have his advertisements.

Was it printed ‘in Colours’?

As mentioned CL listed this as ‘not in colour’ but what is ‘not in colour’? Normally I would presume that to mean in black – Baxterotypes were not published in full colour but they are described as in Sepia not ‘not in colour’. Every copy of the map I have seen is printed from a green key plate, some might describe that as not colour as it is in only one but I could see others describe it as in colour as the colour is green. The Centenary Baxter Book describes the print as being printed in three colours. I feel that they looked at the print and saw three shades of green which is totally true as seen in Fig 3 but my basic knowledge of intaglio printing knows that a shallow, narrow groove holds little ink and prints as a light feint line, something Baxter used widely for shading. A deep or wide groove would hold a lot more ink and produce a block of solid, darker colour. I think this is what the writers of that book saw and described wrongly as three colours when it is in fact various shades of just one colour, green, or not in colour depending on how you perceive that.

We all know how rare this print is. Until 2001 I knew of only one copy in private hands. Over the last few years a few have come on to the market and I now know of six copies in private hands plus at least four copies in institutions, Hatten Gallery Newcastle, Victoria University Toronto, Maidstone Museum & Art Gallery and Reading Museum but feel there may be a few more, is there a copy at the V&A in London? Either way there are only a few copies and it must be very similar to the numbers known of Baxter’s first recorded print in colour, Butterflies.

Conclusion

I would describe this print as not in colours, saying it is in colour would lead to confusion.

I then feel that Baxter never officially published this map and the few copies we see of this very rare item are actual trials or pulls from the plate, this is based on:

• The lack of any advertising or mention of this print in the contemporary press - excluding the ‘The Booksellers’ own listing which although it definitely exists I feel is erroneous.

• The fact that it is in Monochrome i.e. one colour – why would Baxter at the ‘peak ‘ of his career as a colour printer suddenly publish something, uncoloured, something he hadn’t done since about 1843? The little vignettes on the map are perhaps perfect opportunities to make small colour pictures, which I think was Baxter’s initial intention. Hence I feel he never finished his colour blocks enabling the print to be published.

• The plate was not offered for sale in Baxter’s May 1860 auction of his prints, plates and plant. This map would have still been a very relevant subject and I feel, if published, it would have been majored upon in the auction catalogue, just like the plate of Dogs of St Bernard, where it extolled the virtues of this plate having “lately been published”.

• No copies of the print were ever offered at Baxter’s retirement sales in the early 1860’s or appeared in his 1864 republication list, in fact the print was never mentioned by Baxter at any stage and the plate has never been found even though the location of over 120 of Baxter’s plates are known, most for over the last 100 years.