JAMES NORTHCOTE’S DESIGNS FOR HIS SELECTION OF FABLES, RENDERED IN 201 FINE WOOD-ENGRAVINGS
NORTHCOTE, James. One Hundred Fables, Original and Selected. WITH: Second Series. London: George Lawford; John Murray (Chiswick Press), 1828; 1833. Two volumes. Octavo, late 19th-century three-quarter brown calf, raised bands, elaborately gilt-decorated spines, marbled boards and endpapers, top edges gilt, uncut. $1500.
First edition of artist Northcote’s compilation of 201 fables, “the greater portion of which are of my own invention,” with his headpiece designs for each one and with initial letters and tailpieces by William Harvey, pupil of Thomas Bewick.
“James Northcote was one of a number of prominent painters of the 18th century… Today Northcote is chiefly admired for his portraits, though his paintings of animals found favor in his lifetime. In his later years he devoted an increasing amount of time to history paintings, including some scenes from Shakespeare’s history plays which were exhibited in Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery. Northcote is renowned also for his writing, penning the first full biography of Reynolds in 1813, and later a Life of Titian, as well as a book of Fables lavishly illustrated by woodcuts crafted from his own designs… A prolific artist, Northcote was credited with around 2000 works, and by living frugally in his London house for the last 50 years of his life he died a wealthy man… A second series of the Fables was published posthumously, financed by a clause in his will setting aside between £1000 and £1400 explicitly for this” (Devon Perspectives). Thomas Bewick called One Hundred Fables “a brilliant Book.” Northcote acknowledges that “although the original invention and designs for the prints at the head of each Fable are my own, yet they have been most excellently drawn on wood, and prepared for the engravers, by Mr. Willliam Harvey, one of the most distinguished artists in his profession; and many of them have been improved by his skill.” This set includes both series of Northcote’s Fables, the second being printed at the Chiswick Press. Ray 55 & 56. Brunet IV, 103. Graesse IV, 688. Gift inscription in Volume II.
Half title excised from Volume I, a few stray spots of foxing. Near-fine copies.