SPIRITED FORE-EDGE PAINTING OF A FOX-CHASE ON SOMERVILLE’S “THE CHASE,” 1802, ILLUSTRATED BY THE BEWICKS
(FORE-EDGE PAINTING) SOMERVILLE, William. The Chase; a Poem. London: W. Bulmer (Shakespeare Printing Office), 1802. Square octavo, late 19th-century full green morocco gilt rebacked with original spine laid down, raised bands, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt (with fore-edge painting). Housed in custom slipcase. $2200.
Later illustrated edition of “The Case,” “held in high esteem by sportsmen,” with 13 fine wood-engraved vignettes by John and Thomas Bewick, and sporting a wonderful early fore-edge painting of the hunt, handsomely bound.
Country gentleman William Somerville was devoted to field sports. He managed his extensive kennels himself, which consisted of “about twelve couples of beagles, bred chiefly between the small Cotswold harrier and the southern hound; six couples of fox-hounds, rather rough and wire-haired; and five couples of otter-hounds” (Sporting Magazine, 1832). Somerville’s reputation as a poet rests chiefly on “The Chase,” first published in 1735 and “held in high esteem by sportsmen. Many editions of it have been published, the finest being that of 1796, with illustrations by the brothers Bewick, of whose art it exhibits some of the best examples” (DNB). John Bewick drew the designs on the blocks (he died shortly afterwards) and Thomas Bewick engraved them. “The works of this young artist will be held in estimation; and the engravings to ‘Somerville’s Chase’ will be a monument of Fame of more celebrity than marble can bestow” (Gentleman’s Magazine). This copy of the 1802 Bewick edition is further embellished with a wonderful fore-edge painting depicting a hunting scene. Fore-edge paintings were popular from the mid-18th century onward, with the majority of examples found on books published in the early 19th century— this one among them. Extra-illustrated with an engraved frontispiece portrait of Somerville. Lowndes, 2441. Hugo 181. See Podeschi (Mellon) 73. Bookseller label of Korner & Wood of Cleveland, one time gathering place of such notables as Houdini and Blackstone, Sinclair Lewis and Elbert Hubbard.
Fine condition all around.