Selected plates

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Author
WILLIAMSON, Thomas and Samuel Howitt.
Title
Oriental Field Sports being a complete, detailed, and accurate description of the wild sports of the East and exhibiting, in a novel and interesting manner, the natural history of the elephant, the rhinoceros, the tiger ... and other undomesticated animal
Published
London: Edward Orme, [1805-] 1807 [plates and text watermarked 1804-1805]
Description
1 volume, bound from twenty original parts, large oblong folio (18 x 22 inches). Additional title produced in eight colours using stencils, letterpress title (verso blank), 1p. dedication to the King (verso blank), pp. [i]-ii preface, pp.1-146 text, pp.147-150 index, 1p. list of plates (verso blank). 40 fine hand-coloured aquatint plates by H. Mercke (37), J. Hamble (2) and Vivares (1), all from drawings by Howitt after designs by Williamson. Original upper blue paper wrapper to part 20 bound in at the front, the wrapper with a coloured design produced using the same stencils as used on the additional title with the number "20" added in a contemporary manuscript hand. (Minor creasing to the title, additional title, dedication and first leaf of preface). Contemporary diced russia, covers with an elaborate gilt border composed of small tools, expertly re-backed to style, flat spines divided into six compartments with decorative roll tools, lettered in the second compartment, the others with a repeat decoration in gilt, contemporary marbled endpaper, marbled edges. Housed in a red morocco backed folding box. Provenance: Thomas Hutton (early armorial bookplate). First edition, early issue of "the most beautiful book on Indian sport in existence" (Schwerdt) and one of the greatest English colour-plate books. This copy with a very rare original wrapper from the parts issue and in a lovely binding. Williamson served in a British regiment in Bengal and was an avid sportsman while there. After being recalled to England, "Williamson's knowledge of wild life and Oriental sports had come to the notice of the Orme family" (Rohatgi & Parlett). The Orme's contracted with celebrated painter Samuel Howitt to prepare finished watercolours based on Williamson's original sketches during his time in India, and published the work, originally in 20 parts, between 1805 and 1807. The result was "the most beautiful book on Indian sport in existence" (Schwerdt). The work, however, is not merely a sporting book. As Williamson writes in the Preface, the work "is offered to the public as depicting the Manners, Customs, Scenery, and Costume of a territory now intimately blended with the British Empire, and of such importance to its welfare, as to annex a certain degree of consequence to every publications, that either exhibits, or professes to impart, a knowledge of whatever may hitherto have been concealed, or that remains unfolded to our view." The plates, engraved by H. Merke or J. and Vivares Hamble, display the best of early 19th century colour aquatint. Howitt and Williamson's images are vivid depictions of both the chase and the Indian scenery. Of particular note are the four plates treating elephants, described by Williamson as possessing "the energy of the horse, the sagacity of the dog, and a large portion of the monkey's cunning." The eleven plates devoted to the tiger are each riveting. The work was published to great acclaim. An 1807 issue of The Monthly Review declared: "Much entertainment for the eye, and much information for the mind will be found in this very splendid volume." The Review continues by lamenting the high cost of the work: "Twenty guineas may be a trifle in Nabob's pocket: but Nabobs are not numerous in England; and we should suppose that the sale of such a work as this cannot be very widely diffused." This no doubt contributed to the work's present-day rarity. This copy is an early issue, with pre-publication watermarks and Tooley's first state of plate XXXI (with the plate captioned "Hunting Jackalls"). The early issues of the work, generally subscriber's copies, are bound from the original parts and contain "the finest impressions of the plates" (Tooley). Subsequent editions, i.e. the second edition of 1808 and the quarto edition of 1819, are considered by Tooley as "inferior." #25143.

Coloured plates in order:

1. (Engraved vignette title, from original blue wrapper from part 20).
2. (Same engraved vignette title as above, but without the manuscript number '20' written).
3. Hunters going out in the Morming. No.I
4. Beating Sugar Cane for a Hog. No.II
5. The Chase after a Hog. No.III
6. Hog-Hunters meeting by surprise a Tigress & her Cubs. No.IV
7. The Hog at Bay. No.V
8. The Dead Hog. No.VI
9. The Return from Hog-Hunting. No.VII
10. Driving Elephants into a Keddah. No.VIII
11. Decoy Elephants catching a Male. No.IX
12. Decoy Elephants leaving the Male fastened to a tree. No.X
13. A Rhinoceros hunted by Elephants. No.XI
14. A Tiger prowling through a village. No.XII
15. A Tiger seizing a Bullock in a pass. No.XIV
16. Shooting a Tiger from a platform. No.XIII
17. Driving a Tiger out of a jungle. No.XV
18. Chasing a Tiger across a river. No.XVI
19. The Tiger at Bay. No.XVII
20. A Tiger springing upon an Elephant. No.XVIII
21. The Dead Tiger. No.XIX
22. Shooters coming by surprise upon a Tiger. No.XX
23. A Tiger hunted by Wild Dogs. No.XXI
24. A Tiger killed by a poisoned arrow. No.XXII
25. Shooting a Leopard. No.XXIII
26. Exhibition of a battle between a Buffalo & a Tiger. No.XXIV
27. Hunting an old Buffalo. No.XXV
28. Peacock Shooting. No.XXVI
29. Shooting at the edge of a jungle. No.XXVII
30. Driving a Bear out of Sugar Cane. No.XXVIII
31. Death of the Bear. No.XXIX
32. Hunting a Kuttauss, or a Civet Cat. No.XXX
33. Hunting Jackalls. No.XXXI
34. Chase after a Wolf. No.XXXII
35. The Common Wolf Trap. No.XXXIII
36. Smoking Wolves from their Earths. No.XXXIV
37. The Ganges breaking its banks: with fishing &c. No.XXXV
38. Killing Game in Boats. No. XXXVI
39. Dooreahs or Dog Keepers leading out Dogs. No.XXXVII
40. Sices, or Grooms, leading out Horses. No.XXXVIII
41. Hunting a Hog Deer. No.XXXIX
42. The Hog Deer at Bay. No. XL
References
Abbey Travel II, 427; India Observed 93; Mellon, Books on the Horse and Horsemanship 88; Nissen ZBI 4416; Rohatgi & Parlett, pp. 252-254; Schwerdt II, 297; Tooley 508; Bobins I 276.
Hand coloured plates
42
Binding/Size
L=FOLIO
Category
India, Sports/Hunting
Value
$25,001-100,000
Stock ID
1314