An Exceptionally Fine Set of the Syntax "Tours"

[THE THREE TOURS OF DR. SYNTAX:] IN SEARCH OF THE PICTURESQUE . . . IN SEARCH OF CONSOLATION . . . IN SEARCH OF A WIFE.

(London: R. Ackermann's Repository of Arts, [1812], 1820, [1821]). 235 x 140 mm. (9 1/4 x 5 5/8"). Three separately published volumes. Second Edition of first work; FIRST EDITION, Second State of the second work; FIRST EDITION of third work.

FINE POLISHED CALF, GILT, BY MORRELL (stamp-signed on verso of front free endpaper), covers bordered with French fillets with rosettes at corners, raised bands, spine compartments with floral sprig centerpiece surrounded by a lozenge of small tools, floral cornerpieces, one olive green and two maroon labels, turn-ins with gilt roll of flowers and birds, all edges gilt. With one woodcut illustration, one engraved tailpiece, and 80 ARTFULLY HAND-COLORED AQUATINT PLATES BY THOMAS ROWLANDSON (including two engraved titles). Front pastedowns with engraved armorial bookplate of Catherine Cole (first two works) or Arthur Cole (third work). Spines faintly and uniformly sunned, occasional small patches of foxing or trivial marginal soiling, but AN EXCEPTIONALLY FINE SET, the text fresh, clean, and free of the usual offsetting from the plates, and THE BINDINGS LUSTROUS AND UNWORN.

Offered here in tasteful bindings little changed since the day they left the workshop, this is an especially appealing set of the comical Syntax "Tours," featuring a pedantic clergyman and schoolmaster meeting with an onslaught of amusing misfortunes in the course of earnest holiday travels. Told through a combination of Combe's comic verses and Rowlandson's caricatures, these misadventures constituted one of the most popular literary publications of the 19th century. The original "Tour" was conceived of as a parody of the books of picturesque travels then enjoying considerable popularity, and when it met with a great popular response itself, two more tours, as well as a considerable number of imitations of the Syntax books, followed.

A painter whose special forte was caricature, Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) illustrated his subjects with pen drawings that captured the foibles and fashions of his day. William Combe (1741-1823), satirist, journalist, and society man, had travelled in his younger years with Sterne on the second lap of his "Sentimental Journey." An author who specialized in writing verses made to order for the creations of comic artists, he was just the man to provide the textual accompaniment for Rowlandson here. The plates are pleasingly colored, and the adjacent pages are without the offsetting that so frequently mars these works.

In her "Modern Bookbindings" of 1906, Prideaux says that the London binder Morrell had a very large business that supplied "all the booksellers with bindings designed by his men," bindings that were "remarkable for their variety and merit." Our bindings are also remarkable for their condition, with no signs of wear or use.
(ST16185)