SPL Hand Coloured Rare Book Collection Featuring Norman R Bobins

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WILLIAMSON, Thomas and Samuel Howitt.
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

'The most beautiful book on Indian sport in existence' (Schwerdt), Oriental Field Sports is a valuable record of the sporting activities of British officers serving in India in the early nineteenth century. Captain Williamson was an extremely talented amateur artist who had built up a fine collection of sketches suitable for turning into aquatint. He teamed up with Howett - a notable sportsman as well as an industrious engraver of animals to produce this magnificent work, widely considered to contain the finest images of field sports of the Orient. By their very nature aquatint books were always very expensive, but the British public had a great curiosity about India, and Williamson's work helped satisfy this desire to know more about the customs of Britain's new addition to its empire.

London: Edward Orme, [1805-] 1807 [plates and text watermarked 1804-1805]
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.
London: Edward Orme, [1805-] 1807 [plates and text watermarked 1804-1805]

One 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). Forty 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 has a scarce original wrapper from the parts issue and a lovely binding. Williamson served in a British regiment in Bengal and was an avid sportsman. After being recalled to England, "Williamson's knowledge of wildlife 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. They 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 publication, that either exhibit, 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 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 morning. 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