Northampton: Published by J. H. Butler, 1842. 4to. 280 x 220 mm., (11 x 8 3/4 inches). 75 pp. Illustrated with 14 full-page lithographic plates (one folding) and 37 wood engravings in the text, one highlighted in color. Original brown ribbed cloth, title gilt on upper board; some fading to the cloth, corners and edges lightly worn, minor lost at head and tail of spine; lightly foxed throughout, plates clean and bright.
Originally published as a part of the Geological Report for the State of Massachusetts (1841), the text and images were issued separately for the "lovers of fine scenery" in the cities and towns of the Commonwealth. Edward Hitchcock, a polymath in fields of the natural sciences, worked with the scientist Benjamin Stillman and took his degree in theology at Yale College. He was one of the most notable American scientists to wed the two disciplines and was admired by members of both schools of thought for his judicious application of rationalism and faith. He was the President of Amherst College from 1845 to 1854, President of the American Association of Geologist and elected to the National Academy of Science.
His geological survey for Massachusetts took he and his wife Orra from one end of the state to the other and in addition to recording geological information he wrote a narrative of the natural beauty of the state that was highly regarded at the time. His work is beautifully illustrated with lithographs and wood engravings by his wife Orra White Hitchcock and H. I. van Lennep. They originally appear in the 1841 Final Report of the Geology of Massachusetts, published in Amherst and Northampton. The lithographs were beautifully printed by the noted lithographer Benjamin W. Thayer of Boston.
Mrs. Hitchcock is known to have illustrated many of her husband's scientific works and is referenced in all the biographical dictionaries consulted. Recently the Mead Art Gallery at Amherst College and the American Museum of Folk Art in New York presented large exhibitions of her work and placed her in the pantheon of women artists and scientists. Although there are remnants of her original drawings, paintings, and sketches in the archive at Amherst College she is mostly remembered for her published illustrations that elucidated her husband’s scientific publications.
In the introduction to the exhibition at the American Museum of Folk Art the statement reads, "In the early years of the nineteenth century, when the natural world was a place of wonder, Edward Hitchcock, theologian and scientist, saw the interconnectedness of God’s created world, and Orra White Hitchcock made it manifest through her art for all to comprehend and marvel."
Sabin 32249. Peters, American on Stone, p. 382. Robert L. Herbert and Daria D’Arienzo, Orra White Hitchcock (1796-1863): An Amherst Woman of Art and Science (Amherst, Mass.: Mead Art Museum and University Press of New England, 2011). Charting the Divine Plan: The Art of Orra White Hitchcock (1796–1863) American Folk Art Museum, June 12, 2018–October 14, 2018 https://folkartmuseum.org/exhibitions/charting-divine-plan-art-orra-white-hitchcock-1796-1863. (356). Item #356