(London: Thomas M'Lean Repository of Wit and Humour, 1822). 432 x 342 mm. (17 1/8 x 13 1/2"). Without text (as issued). FIRST EDITION.
Very appealing late 19th century scarlet crushed morocco, gilt, by Riviere & Son (stamp-signed on front turn-in), covers with French fillet and drawer-handle tool borders, upper cover with gilt lettering; raised bands, spine gilt in compartments with central floral sprig surrounded by small tools, volute cornerpieces, gilt titling, turn-ins with decorative floral rolls, moss green watered silk doublures and endleaves, all edges gilt. WITH 17 ANIMATED AQUATINT ENGRAVINGS COLORED BY HAND (14 plates in "Moments" and three plates in "Byron"). Front flyleaf with bookplate of Ernest G. Mocatta. For "Moments": Tooley 40. See also: Ray, p. 32; Houfe, p. 217. Leather with hints of dulling from leather preservative, but the binding virtually unworn, with a lustrous spine. A couple of trivial smudges to one margin and occasional light offsetting, but A FINE COPY, the plates clean and bright with vivid coloring, and all imperfections insignificant.
With plates that include comical scenes of horsemanship, hunting, soldiers, and disastrous coach rides, this attractively bound book brings together two separately published works by an artist Ray calls "the premier sporting illustrator of his time." The first work, "Moments of Fancy and Whim," was originally published in two parts consisting of seven plates each. There are several different illustrations on every plate, most of which use a play on words or a phrase (especially one of the many uses of the word "fancy") to frame the scene. The illustrations lampoon familiar character types and aspects of English society--particularly those with an affinity for the equine--to wonderful comic effect. The second work here is composed of three plates, each with four separate scenes accompanied by a line of verse from Byron's "Childe Harold" or "The Giaour." In this unexpected pairing, Byron's lyric poetry is given an entirely new lowered context when interpreted through Alken's pen; for example, the line "Tis Greece--but living Greece no more" is depicted as three men sitting down to a greasy dinner of roast duck. Henry Thomas Alken (1785-1851) was the son of a sporting artist. He received early training from his father and later studied under miniaturist J. T. Barker Beaumont. A talent for depicting horses and dogs led to a profitable career in sporting prints. As DNB relates, "The fertility of Alken's pencil was amazing . . . . In all Alken's works there is a freedom of handling and a happy choice of subject which rendered them very popular in their day." The present works are both excellent examples of his signature style and are here in such marvelous condition that they can be fully appreciated for their wit, spirit, and vibrancy. Both are also quite rare on the market, with "Moments" often showing up incomplete and "Byron" appearing only once in ABPC and RBH. (ST16606)
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PJP Catalog: Transatlantic21.027