First edition. A landmark in topographical book illustration, the first of the great view books of India.
‘Probably but not certainly’ (Abbey) the first issue with fewer text leaves than the later issue, and without the publisher’s imprint and uncoloured.
Contains the first substantial series of aquatint views of India, including the first printed depiction of the Taj Mahal (shown in the background of plate 16 ‘A View of the Fort of Agra’).
Following the increasing affluence of life in the cities as the Presidencies of Madras, Bombay, and Bengal developed during the eighteenth century, British portrait artists were attracted to India by the prospect of patronage, amongst these were John Zoffany, Tilly Kettle, and Ozias Humphrey.
It was not until 1780, however, that the first person to practice professionally as a landscape artist came to India, namely William Hodges, formerly the official artist on Captain Cook’s second voyage to the South Seas, and a pupil of Richard Wilson. Hodgers disembarked at Madras and made his way to Calcutta in 1781 where he met Warren Hastings who became his life-long friend and patron.
Many public buildings and mansions were under construction in Calcutta at this time and the city made an immediate impression upon him: “The vessel has no sooner gained one other reach of the river than the whole city of Calcutta burst upon the eye”. He likened the various colonnades of the city to Grecian temples and was completely captivated by Indian, as opposed to British, architecture. In the same year Hodges made three journeys up-country, recording his observations. Arriving back in London in 1784, he single-handedly produced the prints for this publication from his drawings and paintings. The aquatint technique, then in its infancy, was used with exceptional fluency by Hodges to preserve the atmospheric quality of his original sketches.
The series was published inn 12 parts between 1785 and 1788, with a description of each scene in English and French. The first part was probably published by Hodges, the next six parts were published by John Wells until August 1787, when another publisher, J. Grives, took over. Except for a view of Tanjore in the south, all the prints are based on drawings made during Hodges northern tours.
Folio (56.5 x 44cm). Single-volume issue with title-page, dedication and text in French and English, 48 aquatint plates, printed in bistre, by and after Hodges. (Lacking list of plates in vol.I, title and list of plates in vol.II and the map of the River Ganges, Jumna, Goomty & Gogra, some plates with marginal waterstaining, scattered light spotting.) Contemporary tree calf, rebacked, corners and edges reapired, an attractive example.
Provenance: Hugh Lupus, 1st Duke of Westminster (1825-1899; bookplate).
Abbey Travel 416; Tooley 263.
Stock ID: 92244