Practising Peeping! New Notes and Comments on the Collection Des Prospects of New York City

Christopher Pierce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Building on earlier, broader studies of the subject, this article has three principal objectives: it seeks to clarify the sources of Balthazar Frederic Leizelt’s and François Xavier Habermann’s New York perspective views; to investigate the practices and motives governing this popular print type; and to present the social and political agenda which make these images irrepressible artefacts raising key questions about our comprehension of colonialism. It is the first in-depth study of this particular subject in New York City’s visual history. Seen in conjunction with outputs 2 and 4, this essay is the most recent attempt to broaden the generally narrow cultural view of New York City’s colonial history. The central pivot of this research is Pierce’s interrogation of the city’s material history as delineated in contemporary engravings. There are only eight contemporary views of early New York that are significant in this context, six of which form part of the 'Collection des Prospects', engravings designed to be viewed through optical devices and published in Augsburg around the time of the American Revolution. While this article focuses its attention on these six perspective views it also contextualizes claims to authenticity of competing views, while extending the socio-cultural message of these six engravings in Europe. The research on which this article is based was supported in part by a Fellowship in American Civilization from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History (2000). Imprint (, a peer-reviewed journal (established in 1976), is the major bi-annual publication of the American Historical Print Collectors Society (AHPCS). Imprint articles are abstracted and indexed in RILA (International Repertory of the Literature of Art) through 1900, and BHA (Bibliography of the History of Art) after 1990, Williamstown, Massachusetts, and in Historical Abstracts and/or America: History and Life, Santa Barbara, California.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-24
Number of pages15
JournalImprint: Journal of the American Historical Print Collectors Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2007


  • American Civilization, Print, New York History


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