overall: 8 3/4 in x 11 1/4 in; 22.225 cm x 28.575 cm
United States: New York, New York City
Rip Van Winkle, a short story by celebrated American author Washington Irving, was first published in 1819 without illustrations in “The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.” Best known for his popular stories of Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Irving achieved acclaim in Europe and the U.S. over the course of his successful writing career. Rip Van Winkle was included in “The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent” while Irving was living in Europe. Thus, he was one of the earliest American authors to survive merely on his writing. Irving’s stories have remained an emblem of American culture as they were some of the first short stories that aimed to entertain rather than educate. The two best known Irving stories- Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow have inspired artists to create beautiful illustrations like the one included in this print.
The gothic story Rip Van Winkle tells of an ordinary 19th century man who lives in the Dutch Kaatskills (currently the Catskills of New York). He struggles with his nagging wife, Dame Van Winkle, and in an effort to escape her on an especially bad day, he flees to the woods with his dog and his gun. While in the woods, he meets a stranger who is a representation of the spirits of Hendrick Hudson, and is instructed to serve these spirits a precious drink. Tempted, he tries the drink as well and ultimately becomes so drunk that he falls into a deep sleep. When he wakes, he thinks that it is merely the next morning, but it becomes clear that 20 years have passed. He is now an old widow with Loyalist sentiments that show he is living in the past, prior to the American Revolution. The story ends with Rip Van Winkle living a peaceful life in the home of his daughter, finally free from his wife’s nagging.
This print shows Rip Van Winkle sitting among a group of fellow wise and philosophic men. When his wife, Dame Van Winkle, became especially verbally abusive, he would go to this small local inn and sit on the benches in front of it with his group of friends. Rip Van Winkle can be seen in the center of this print, sitting with two men to his right and two men to his left. They are listening intently as the man with glasses who is the local schoolteacher, Derrick Van Bummel, reads a newspaper to the group. According to the story, they will later discuss the newspaper in great detail, which presumably was brought to the group by the traveler, who stands between Nicholas Vedder and Rip Van Winkle. Nicholas Vedder is the fat old landlord of the inn, who sits on the left as he smokes a long pipe.
Sarony, Major, & Knapp was one of the largest lithographic firms at the end of the 19th and the early of the 20th centuries. However, before it achieved this success it started out small in 1843 when Napoleon Sarony and James P. Major joined together to start a business. Later in 1857, Joseph F. Knapp joined the company making it Sarony, Major, & Knapp. At the time that this was printed, Knapp was not a part of the business, so it was just Sarony & Major.
Felix O. C. Darley (1822-1888), the artist behind the twelve best-known illustrations for The Legend of the Sleepy Hollow, is considered one of America’s best illustrators. The publisher was the American Art Union, (1839-1857) a subscription organization created to educate the public about American art and artists while providing support for American artists. For $5.00 members would receive admissions to the gallery showing, a yearly report, and an engraving of an original work, as well as any benefits each chapter might provide. Two special editions of the story, each with a set of six of Darley’s illustrations were published; the special edition including this illustration was published in 1850. This print is bound with five others at the back of a rebound book. The cover is of the earlier Rip Van Winkle edition published for the American Art Union but the title page and text are of Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.