New York July 14 1832
Permit me to introduce to your notice the Plan of a work, the design of which is to honour those eminent men of our own country who deserve it, to add somewhat to the literature and fine arts productions, and by opening a field for imitation endeavour to bring them up to an equality at least with such as take the highest rank abroad—The Prospectus is however, sufficiently full on that head—The work is in a state of forwardness and such engravings as have been finished are considered by artists to exceed any ever before produced in the country.
As each monthly part will contain 3 subjects, we have concluded to adopt them from 3 eras—1 from about the period of the revolution, 1 from the last war and 1 of the present day, whether Political, Literary on Professional. Your high literary talents and your intimate acquaintance with the most eminent men of our country, renders you favorable opinion of our efforts an important consideration to us. It is from distinguished citizens in every part of the Union we expect to be favored with our literary matter. If it will not be asking too great a sacrifice of your time, We shall be very much gratified if you will prepare a sketch of the life and character of Genl Washington. The time which you may think necessary to take in its accomplishment will be at your choice, as we do not think it necessary to commence our publication with him. The average length of the articles will be about 8 pages, but will probably vary from 2 to 20—We sincerely hope your inclination will lead you to gratify us in this respect, particularly as it is of the highest importance that the memoir of Washington should be written by the hand of a Master—We shall take care that the Biographical Sketches of all our Presidents are so written. With sentiments of profound respect I am, Sir Your most Obedt Sevt.
James HerringSecy. A. A. F. A.
New York, 1832.
In sending you a copy of a Prospectus of a work which is intended to rival the best foreign productions of art, it will only be necessary to say to you that it is not intended to undertake it unless 3000 subscribers can first be obtained. I shall therefore depend much upon the interest of my personal friends, and their friends, to aid me in this new enterprize; with their assistance, and the national spirit which will be brought into action, I am sanguine of success. Very respectfully yours,
NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY.
Proposals for publishing by subscription, by James Herring, of the city of New York, under the superintendence of the Board of Directors of the American Academy of the Fine Arts, a National Portrait Gallery, containing the Portraits and Memoirs of distinguished Americans, who have rendered service, or contributed to the honor of their country by the exercise of their talents.
The Portraits shall be engraved on steel, in the first style of the Art. So far as the skill of American Artists can be employed in the production of a work of superlative beauty, it shall be preferred, and the most generous means shall be used, to excite and stimulate the rising genius of the country to a successful competition with the most celebrated foreign Artists. Biographical Sketches will accompany each Portrait, to be written by American Authors of acknowledged ability; and whenever it is possible, Autobiography will be given.
The work will be published in monthly parts, each containing three Portraits, and at least twenty four pages of letter press, 8vo., at $6 a year, payable on the delivery of the first part.
Preparations will be made for the publication, so soon as it shall be ascertained beyond doubt, that it will be amply supported by the patronage of the American public, and that no risk will be encountered by the parties concerned.
Whilst foreign artists and foreign authors, are employed in the production of works of genius and taste, and their works are eagerly sought for in the United States, it is a reproach to our country that so few efforts are made to rival or excel them.
The time has arrived when the effort may be made with the promise of success. Give us but the means of rewarding the sons of genius in our own country, and the rich mines of talent with which it undoubtedly abounds shall be explored and brought to light.
To Americans then, who take a pride in their country, is the appeal now made to patronise and foster a work, projected with the avowed object of exciting native talent to an honorable and profitable emulation.
To the patriot it will be a source of pleasure to know that he is perfecting the independence of his country, adding to its honor abroad, and at the same time perpetuating the lineaments and characters of those who have contributed to its happiness and glory by their genius, talents, learning, virtues, and love of country.
To the gentleman of taste it will afford a splendid addition to his Library, and to the lady, an appropriate accessary to her Boudoir.
To the Artist it will be a work of the highest importance, as it will afford to such the best means of improvement, and the stimulus to it; displaying the rank to which each is entitled in his profession, and enabling him and the public to judge by the best specimens of art, the comparative merits of native and foreign Artists.
All may rest assured that it is intended to produce only such a work as shall be honorable to the country, and those who feel disposed to subscribe to it, are requested to leave or send their names to the publisher, at the Enterprize Library, 389 Broadway, New York.
RC and enclosure (DLC: Dolley P. Madison Papers). The enclosure is a printed prospectus. James Herring was secretary of the American Academy of Fine Arts.