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Yosemite: Its Wonders and Its Beauties (1868) by John S. Hittell

Photographs by Eadweard J. Muybridge “Helios”

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Yosemite: Its Wonders and Its Beauties was an early guide book to Yosemite. Some claim this was the first Yosemite guide book. (I consider Hutching’s Scenes of Wonder and Curiosity (1860) the first, as it has detailed directions and travel advice, was advertised as a guidebook, and latter edtions had the subtitle Tourist’s Guide Book). Hittell’s book was not highly original (it quotes heavily from books and accounts by Josiah D. Whitney, Samuel Bowles, Horace Greeley, and Thomas Starr King). However, the book is interesting because it is the first Yosemite book with photographs. It has 20 original photographs by early Yosemite Photographer Eadweard Muybridge. These were albumen photographs tipped in by hand in every copy of the book. John Hittell commissioned Muybridge “. . . because no engravings could do justice to the scenes, or convey perfect confidence in the accuracy of the drawing of such immense elevations as those of Tutucanala and Tissayac.”

Eldon Grupp notes that an earlier work, Album of the Yosemite Valley, California (New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1866) contains a printed title page and has 30 pirated photographs by Carleton Watkins, according to the a National Gallery of Art webpage.



Photographs by “Helios” (Eadweard J. Muybridge).

  1. General View of Yosemite Valley
  2. Pohono or Bridal Veil Fall
  3. Tutucanula, or El Capitan
  4. Pompompasus, or Three Brothers
  5. Poosenachucks, or Cathedral Rocks.
  6. Yosemite Falls.
  7. Lower Yosemite Fall, from Cascade Avenue
  8. Base of Lower Yosemite Fall
  9. Base of Upper Yosemite Fall
  10. View on the Merced River, looking up the Valley
  11. Loya, or Sentinel Rock
  12. Tocoya, or North Dome
  13. Kekootoyem, or Mirror Lake
  14. Tissayac, or Half Dome
  15. Piwyac, or Vernal Fall
  16. Kahchoomah, or Wild Cat Fall
  17. Yowiye, or Nevada Falls
  18. Mahta, or Mount Broderick
  19. Toloolewack Fall
  20. Scene from Toloolewack Canon

About the Author

John S. Hittell (Bancroft Library) John S. Hittell wrote several books on California for H. H. Bancroft and Company, a major early California publisher. John Shertzer Hittell was born December 25, 1825 in Jonestown, Pennsylvania. His family moved to in Hamilton, Ohio in 1832. He graduated from Miami University in 1843, then studied law, but never completed his studies. He went to California in 1849 and worked as a miner in Shasta County. In 1853, Hittell moved to San Francisco and became the editor writer of the San Francisco Daily Alta California newspaper. John eventually wrote several books on California and religion. His most popular book at the time was The Resources of California (1879), where he eulogized California for its rich natural resources. He never married. John was an active member of the Society of California Pioneers. His brother Theodore H. Hittell was a prominent San Francisco lawyer. Theodore wrote The Adventures of James Caspen Adams, Mountaineer and Grizzly Bear Hunter, of California (1860), otherwise known as “Grizzly Adams” and his bear “Ben Franklin.” John Hittell died in March 8, 1901.

Photography: Eadweard J. Muybridge “Helios”

Eadweard J. Muybridge Eadweard J. Muybridge, born Edward James Muggeridge on April 9, 1830 in Kingston-upon-Thames, England. He changed his name because he believed it was the Anglo-Saxon original of his given name. Eadward began his career as an assistant to landscape photographer Carleton E. Watkins. Eadweard started his career in 1867 with photos of Yosemite and San Francisco. Many of his Yosemite photographs reproduced the same scenes taken by Watkins. Muybridge quickly became famous for his landscape photographs, which showed the grandeur and expansiveness of the West. He published his photographs under the pseudonym “Helios” (Greek god of the sun). In 1874, Muybridge was tried for murdering his wife’s lover, but was acquited as justifiable homicide. Muybridge thought his son was fathered by someone else and put in an orphanage. When his son grew up, he had a remarkable resemblance to Muybridge.

After Muybridge’s acquital, he left the U.S. and photographed in Central America under the name Eduardo Santiago Muybridge. Muybridge returned to the U.S. from his self-exile in 1877. Eadweard is most famous for his invention of high-speed photography. This was to settle a question by railroad baron and then Governor Leland Stanford, Jr. Stanford thought, correctly, that a galloping horse is sometimes completely in the air. This led to Muybridge’s invention in 1879 of the Zoopraxiscope, the predecessor of the motion picture camera. Eadweard Muybridge died May 8, 1904 in Kingston-on-the-Thames.

—Dan Anderson, 2004

Bibliographical Information

Hittell, John S. (John Shertzer) (1825 - 1901). Yosemite: Its Wonders and Its Beauties. With Information Adapted to the Wants of Tourists About to Visit the Valley. (San Francisco: H. H. Bancroft & Company, 1868). 59 pp. + 3 advertisement pages. Folded map. 20 mounted 6 x 9 cm. albumen photographs. 22 cm. Bound in dark green cloth cover with gilt lettering “YOSEMITE” on front cover. Library of Congress Call Number: F868.Y6H6. LCCN: rc 01000628.

This book was reprinted in microfiche in the series Selected Americana from Sabin’s Dictionary of books relating to America by Lost Cause Press, Louisville, Kentucky, 1977. It was also reprinted in microfilm in Everett D. Graff Collection of Western Americana, reel 262, number 2601, by Research Publications in 1975.

Digitized by Dan Anderson, September 2004, from a microform copy made at the Library of Congress. Photographs courtesy of The Yale Collection of Western Americana, The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (October 2005). These files may be used for any non-commercial purpose, provided this notice is left intact.
    —Dan Anderson, www.yosemite.ca.us

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