A Rarely-Seen Complete (and Fine) Copy Showing the British Invasion of Rangoon, With Richly Colored Plates of Conflict and Lush Landscapes of the Country


(London: Thos. Clay, [1825-]26). 483 x 330 mm. (19 x 13"). Two series in one volume. FIRST EDITION.

Expertly bound to style in reddish-brown straight-grain half morocco over boards with the original lithographed upper wrapper to series I, part I inlaid on the upper cover and the original lithographed upper wrapper to series I, parts II/ III, on the lower cover, smooth spine, gilt. Engraved decorative title incorporating the dedication by R. W. Smart after Thomas Stothard, engraved "Subscribers" leaf with large mezzotint vignette by J. Bromley after Thomas Stothard, lithographic section title to the second series with vignette after Marryat, three leaves of lithographic facsimile reproducing manuscript subscribers list (two of these leaves folded), and 24 FINE HAND-COLORED AQUATINT PLATES by G. Hunt, H. Pyall, T. Fielding, and Reeve jnr., after J. Moore, F. Marryat, and Captn. Thornton, eight of the plates marked 'proof' in lower right margin (two in first series, and all six in second series). Front pastedown with evidence of bookplate removal. Abbey Travel 404; Tooley 334; Sadleir 1610 (and 1610a). Original wrappers scuffed and with many light scratches (as expected), but nicely preserved and attractively presented inset in the newer binding; internally IN VERY FINE CONDITION, the plates entirely clean and bright, with none of the foxing or spotting that could well be expected.

This is quite a fine copy of an outstanding illustrated record of the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824-26), documenting key moments of the British invasion of Burma (present-day Myanmar) as well as the lush landscapes and impressive pagodas in and around Rangoon (present-day Yangon). In 1824, with Burma having lately expanded their borders into the northeast region of India (thus threatening the interests of the East India Company), the British responded by sending a naval force of more than 10,000 men to take control of the area. The present series of images begins in May 1824, with the first plate showing British vessels preparing to set sail from the Harbor of Port Cornwallis on the Island of Andaman (off the northeast coast of India). This is followed by the British landing at Rangoon, the storming of various stockades and forts around the city, the capture of a Burman gilt war boat, and naval battles involving dozens of ships. Interspersed with these military spectacles are more traditional "scenic" views of the country's landscape and pagodas--especially the Shwedagon Pagoda (called the "Great Dagon Pagoda" in the present work), the most sacred Buddhist site in the country and one of the first places occupied by the British when they arrived. The presence of idling British soldiers in the foreground of many of these scenes is a subtle reminder of the power dynamics at play. The hand-coloring here is first rate, and it brings to life every aspect of the time and place, from dramatic sea battles and swarms of red-coated soldiers, to dense forests and shining stupas. The present works were originally published as two separate series: the first series was issued in three parts (containing six plates per part), with drawings by Moore; and the second series was issued in one part (six plates), with drawings by Marryat. Our copy contains all 24 engravings, as well as the preliminary dedication leaf and subscriber leaf, and three lithographed leaves of subscribers in India (as called for by Abbey), plus a rare section title to the second series not mentioned in any of the bibliographies we consulted. Two smaller text booklets were printed separately to accompany the series, but, as Tooley notes, "they are rarely present," and each series can be considered complete in and of itself without the text. While Sadlier distinguishes first and second issue points within the first edition based mainly on the presence of the word "Proof" on various plates, Abbey asserts that "it does not seem that the appearance or non-appearance of the word 'Proof' can be made into an issue point, and, in fact, it seems that all the plate differences must be described as states, not issues." Joseph Moore, a Lieutenant in the 89th Regiment, and Captain Frederick Marryat (1792-1848), a senior naval officer, both served in Rangoon during the First Anglo-Burmese war. The present series seems to have been the most important artistic work in their respective careers, although Marryat also became a popular novelist (and occasionally turned out a caricature or two when his luxurious lifestyle demanded extra cash). Although individual plates and incomplete sets appear at auction regularly, it is rare to find a complete set of both works on the market--let alone in the fine condition seen here.

Price: $32,500.00