“DO NOT ASK FOR CREDIT, AS A REFUSAL OFTEN OFFENDS”
GRAY, William. Social Contrasts. London: William Oliver, . Oblong quarto, original burgundy cloth respined, gilt-stamped border and centerpiece title, beveled edges, all edges gilt. $1200.
First edition of this poignant social commentary— portrayed in 12 side-by-side pictorial comparisons of British class differences, consisting of 22 tinted lithographs after drawings by Gray, hand-colored in Paris “under the artist’s superintendence.”
Advertised as "one of the handsomest table books of the season," Gray's Social Contrasts brings the desperate conditions of the London poor into the consciousness of well-to-do society at a time when the charitable spirit of Christmas might be aroused. A significant portion of the population of London at the time had no fixed place of work, and indeed many had no fixed place to live. In addition, the city teemed with outsiders, migrants from other parts of Britain and even Europe. Goods were sold by thousands of street-traders, generally lumped together as costermongers. Gray's work focuses on poor women. He conveys a sense of their plight by employing what was then a drastic shock tactic, depicting the "unknown land" of the London slums and creating in the viewer the same "attraction of repulsion" that Dickens' Household Words produced.
Shallow embrowning to margins of plates, title page with expert paper restoration to margins. An extremely good copy of this scarce work.