BEAUTIFUL LARGE FOLIO, WITH 76 HAND-COLORED AQUATINTS OF SCENERY ALONG THE THAMES
(BOYDELL, John and Josiah). [COMBE, William]. An History of the River Thames. London: W. Bulmer for John and Josiah Boydell, 1794-96. Two volumes. Folio (measures 13 by 16-1/2 inches), contemporary full calf (Volume I expertly rebacked with original spine neatly laid down), raised bands, marbled endpapers. $23,000.
First edition, first issue, of this wonderful visual record of the River Thames, with 76 lovely folio hand-colored aquatints by Stadler after Farrington of prospects along the banks—including three very large folding plates—and a large folding map by John Cooke of “The Course of the River Thames from Its Source to the Sea.” An excellent copy in contemporary calf.
"The most important art publishers and dealers in our history are the two Boydells, John and his nephew Josiah, who, though their munificence was chiefly directed towards painters and engravers, also issued a few fine books with colored aquatint plates, notably the History of the River Thames" (Prideaux, 266). The scenery along the Thames was a popular subject for publication. Joseph Farrington was one of a group of Romantic artists and writers in search of the picturesque, whose portrayal of the wild and rugged landscape transformed public opinion toward the sublimity of nature. His landscape paintings were influential in attracting tourists to the English Lake District in the early 19th century. For the Boydells, the Thames project would contribute greatly to the reputation of their Shakespeare Gallery, the purpose of which was to "establish an English School of Historical Painting." This copy is a complete first issue, with plates surrounded by aquatint borders and containing general title pages for An History of the Principal Rivers of Great Britain (the publishers planned on covering more rivers, but they abandoned this project after completing the Thames); plates and text watermarked 1794. Engraved head of "Father Thames," sometimes bound as a frontispiece, is bound in Volume I opposite page 255, where it is referenced. Plate list for Volume I bound at the rear of Volume II.
Abbey, Scenery 432. Tooley 102.
A few text leaves in Volume I with mild foxing, a few plates with faint offsetting from text, but generally a very clean copy, hand-coloring fine and bright, with delicate shading, much nicer than often found. A most desirable, about-fine copy of this splendidly illustrated work.