"THAT MOST NOBLE OF THE BRUTES, THE ELEPHANT": RANKING'S HISTORICAL RESEARCHES, WITH LARGE FOLDING MAP OF ASIA AND TEN ENGRAVED PLATES
RANKING, John. Historical Researches on the Wars and Sports of the Mongols and Romans. London: Printed for the Author, 1826. Quarto, mid-20th century full brown morocco gilt, raised bands, marbled endpapers, top edge gilt. $1600.
First edition, presentation copy, of Ranking's eclectic investigation of the place of pachyderms and other large animals in central Asian history, remarkably illustrated with a large folding map of Genghis Khan's conquests and ten engraved plates, including a spectacular depiction of "The Emperor Kublai" going to war in a pavilion borne atop four elephants.
A book Allibone deems "worthy of the attention of the antiquary" (1740), Ranking's wide-ranging work generally returns to the author's interest in Asiatic and African elephants and his "endeavor to trace the historical proofs that the fossil bones of elephants and wild beasts, which have been found throughout Europe, are the remains of those animals which have been employed in the wars, religious ceremonies and amphitheatrical sports of the Romans and the Mongols" (Preface). The volume, full of "much amusing and instructive matter, industriously accumulated and detailed with conciseness and perspicuity" (American Quarterly Review, March 1827), includes chapters on the lives of the Grand Khans and of Tamerlane, the "Employment of Elephants from the earliest times," "Fossil Remains of Elephants," "Of Roman and Greek Wars in which Elephants were employed," "Sports and Combats in the Circus and Amphitheatre" and "Erroneous Notions respecting Giants. Illustrated with a large folding map (measuring approximately 17-1/2 by 21 inches unfolded), "The Continent of Asia as conquered and governed by Genghis Kahn… and to the Death of Tamerlane," and with ten engraved plates: these include "The Emperor Kublai" (facing page 53); three numismatic plates depicting coins and medals from Roman Britain; the "Defeat of Annibal by Scripio at Zama," portraying a battle with armies, cavalry and elephants; views of the "Amphitheatre of Claudius" and a "Circus" with numerous elephants, giraffes and lions (facing page 317); and a folding map of Hannibal's storied campaign over the Alps "with large armies and numerous Elephants" (facing page 295). Allibone, 1740. Presentation inscription ("Mrs. Squire, with the author's regards") to title page.
Scattered light foxing. Light edge-wear, expert repairs to folding map. Plates trimmed close, affecting some images; light dampstaining to plate facing leaf [2S3]. A scarce work, handsomely bound.