TWO CLASSIC WORKS ON THE ANCIENT COSTUME OF GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND, WITH A TOTAL OF 84 FOLIO HAND-COLORED AQUATINT PLATES, BEAUTIFUL LARGE-PAPER COPY
SMITH, Charles Hamilton. The Costume of the Original Inhabitants of the British Island from the Earliest Period to the Sixth Century. WITH: Selections of the Ancient Costume of Great Britain and Ireland, from the Seventh to the Sixteenth Century. London: for R. Havel; William Bulmer and Co. for Messrs. Colnaghi and Co., 1815, 1814. Two volumes. Large folio (13 by 16-1/2 inches), contemporary full red straight-grain morocco, raised bands, elaborately gilt-decorated spines and boards, all edges gilt. $8500.
First editions, large-paper copies, of two classic illustrated surveys of English and Irish medieval costume, with a total of 84 beautiful hand-colored aquatint plates, often against full backgrounds depicting castles, interiors, etc., very handsomely bound in contemporary straight-grain morocco-gilt.
These two works trace the evolution of clothing, arms and decorations from the "earliest period to the sixth century" (Meyrick and Smith's Costume of the Original Inhabitants of the British Island, with 24 hand-colored aquatints) and from the Anglo-Saxon eighth century through to the reign of Henry VII (Smith's Selections of the Ancient Costume of Great Britain and Ireland, with 60 hand-colored aquatints), depicting images of men and women, royalty and peasants, occupations and pastimes, and even naval vessels; specific individuals depicted include Edward the Black Prince, Edward III, Richard II, Henry VI and numerous ecclesiastical figures. "These two books on the costume of Great Britain have ever since been one of the principal sources from which illustrators of ancient costume have derived their material, and it is scarcely possible to open any pictorial English history, or any work bearing on the dress and manners of our ancestors, without recognizing some groups of figures appropriated or adapted from Smith's drawings" (Martin Hardie, 155). Of Costume of the Original Inhabitants, the British Museum has noted that "this was one of a number of books that had been inspired by William Stukeley's work on Stonehenge, which had brought Druids and ancient Britons to the forefront of the romantic imagination… [these works] developed Stukeley's ideas within a strongly patriotic framework. These pictures of ancient Britons in these publications show a mixture of influences. In part they resemble the images of native Americans that appeared in early travel literature, but the figures are in poses like those of the classical gods that travelers saw in Greek and Roman sculptures while on the Grand Tour." Each image with accompanying text description. First edition, second (though preferred) issue of Selections of the Ancient Costume—four plates were redrawn as the first edition was being prepared: "Plates 6, 30, 34 and 49 were redrawn and these, though second, are the best issue, being superior both in drawing and engraving" (Tooley 457). Selections originally issued in 15 separate parts, 1811-13. Each volume with hand-colored engraved title page; Selections with list of subscribers and errata. Abbey, Life 427, 431. Tooley 326, 457. Prideaux, 321, 352; 344. Colas 2051, 2755. Contemporary armorial bookplates of Baronet Joseph Radcliffe, a Yorkshire magistrate known for his zealous prosecution of Luddites.
Plates fine, coloring vivid; text fresh, with a number of text leaves are remargined, including the title page to Selections. A beautiful copy.