SPL Hand Coloured Rare Book Collection Featuring Norman R Bobins

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[An album of 29 mounted original watercolour and gouache drawings]

Madras: circa 1825 [watermarks dated 1815-1825].
Madras: circa 1825 [watermarks dated 1815-1825].

Folio (19 1/4 x 13 3/4 inches). 29 (untitled) original watercolour and gouache drawings (17 measuring 16 x 10 3/8 inches and 12 measuring 12 3/8 x 7 3/4 inches), on two different stocks of western laid paper, one Whatman with a watermarked date of 1822, the other with Britannia watermark and an 1825 date. Mid 19th-century dark blue half sheep over patterned cloth covered boards, longitudinal red morocco label to spine lettered in gilt 'Indian Drawings'. Freshly bound in black leather, with green board cloth, original spine relaid. A fine early collection, including images of the incarnations of Vishnu, portraits of courtly figures, various Brahmin caste men and women as well as a group of workers, and a possible self-portrait. In addition to the fine design sense and excellent execution, the relatively large size of the predominant full-sheet drawings makes this album exceptional. The way the drawings are presented suggests that they were collected in India and then mounted and bound, probably after their owner returned to Britain. There are three distinct groups: 6 half-sheet drawings of workers going about their daily tasks; 6 half-sheet images showing six of the ten different incarnations of Shiva; 16 full-sheet drawings of individuals (mostly high caste, including a number from the lyengar sub-caste of Brahmins, most usually found in southern India). In addition there is a single full-sheet drawing of the Hindu 'Churuk Puja' or Hook-Swinging Ceremony. The most interesting group is the 16 full-sheet drawings of individuals: these are clearly by a single hand, and include an image of a Thenkalai artist at work which may well be a self-portrait. Others depicted include a priest, 5 richly-dressed woman, and 4 richly-dressed men, perhaps members of a princely court. This group is completed with five images of men and women at work. The presence of the lyengar caste marks on a number of the people depicted are an indication that the drawings probably originated from southern India, and can therefore be attributed to an artist from the Madras school. *Rebinding and restoration work on this book was carried out by Ron Norman of Hartlepool. (Ronnorm@aol.com)* Plates are not captioned.