An Extraordinary Set of the Very Rare Deluxe Colored Issue of David Roberts's Monumental Works on the Holy Land and EgyptDavid Roberts. The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia. From Drawings Made on the Spot by David Roberts, R.A. With Historical Descriptions, by the Revd. George Croly, L.L.D. Lithographed by Louis Haghe. London: F. G. Moon, 1842-1849. [Together with:] David Roberts. Egypt & Nubia, from Drawings Made on the Spot by David Roberts R.A. With Historical Descriptions by William Brockedon, F.R.S. Lithographed by Louis Haghe. London: F. G. Moon, 1846-1849.
First edition of "the most ambitious work ever published in England with lithographed plates" (Twyman). The Holy Land in three elephant folio volumes (24.5625 x 17.375 inches; 625 x 442 mm.), in the original twenty parts in eighteen. Volume I (Parts I-VI): uncolored lithographed frontispiece portrait of Roberts after C. Baugniet, dated 1844, on india paper mounted; tinted lithographed vignette title, dated 1842; dedication leaf; two leaves of text, "List of Subscribers"; one leaf of text, "Notice of Mr. Roberts's Journey in the East"; one leaf of text, "The Armorial Ensigns of Jerusalem," with description of title vignette on verso; fifteen leaves of text, "Israel" (pages 1-30); forty-two tinted lithographed plates, each with one page of descriptive text (twenty-one unnumbered leaves). Volume II (Parts VII-X, XI/XII, XIII): tinted lithographed vignette title, dated 1843; one leaf of text, "Bethlehem"; forty-two tinted lithographed plates, each with one page of descriptive text (twenty-one unnumbered leaves). Volume III (Parts XIV-XV, XVI/XVII, XVIII-XX): duplicate of the tinted lithographed vignette title for Volume II; one leaf of text, "Idumea" (pages -2); thirty-six tinted lithographed plates, each with one page of descriptive text (eighteen unnumbered leaves). Together 122 tinted lithographed plates (two vignette titles, one in duplicate, and 120 plates), all drawn on stone by Louis Haghe after David Roberts. The plates are all in the scarcest form, finely colored by hand, cut to the edge of the image, and mounted on card in imitation of watercolors, as issued.
This copy is complete as issued, without the vignette title to Volume III (which did not appear until 1849), the engraved map ("Map to Illustrate the Route of David Roberts Esq: R.A. in the Holy Land, Petrea & Syria"), and the leaf of descriptive text for the title vignettes for Volumes II and III. Part I does have the "List of Subscribers", the rare printed slip explaining "The delay which has unavoidably occurred in the publication of 'Roberts's Sketches in the Holy Land'", and one leaf of advertisements, beginning "Mr. Moon, having received Her Majesty's Commands, has the honour to announce the national and first full-length historical state portrait of Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen".
The Holy Land text and plates are loosely laid into the original publisher's portfolios, as issued, of quarter brown roan over brown diamond-grain cloth over thin boards. Front covers decoratively stamped and lettered in gilt. Yellow or pale yellow coated endpapers. The portfolios show some rubbing and wear, but are remarkably well preserved.
Egypt & Nubia in three elephant folio volumes (23.875 x 17.125 inches; 607 x 435 mm., with the mounts measuring 23.875 x 16.375 inches; 607 x 417 mm.). Volume I: tinted lithographed vignette title, dated 1846; dedication leaf; four leaves of text, "Egypt. An Introduction" (pages 1-8); one leaf with description of title vignette; forty-two tinted lithographed plates, each with one page of descriptive text (twenty-one unnumbered leaves). Volume II: tinted lithographed vignette title, dated 1849; one leaf with description of title vignette and "List of Subjects" of Volumes I and II; forty-two tinted lithographed plates, each with one page of descriptive text (twenty-one unnumbered leaves); engraved map ("Map to Illustrate the Sketches of David Roberts, Esq: R.A. in Egypt and Nubia. 1849"). Volume III: tinted lithographed vignette title, dated 1849; one leaf with description of frontispiece and title vignette and "List of Subjects" of Volume III; thirty-seven tinted lithographed plates, each with one page of descriptive text (eighteen unnumbered leaves). Together 124 tinted lithographed plates (three vignette titles and 121 plates), all drawn on stone by Louis Haghe after David Roberts, and one engraved map. The plates are all finely colored by hand, cut to the edge of the image, and mounted on card in imitation of watercolors, as issued. Guarded throughout.
The three volumes of Egypt & Nubia are bound in contemporary burgundy morocco, expertly rebacked to style. Covers decoratively panelled in gilt, spines in six compartments with five gilt-decorated raised bands, decoratively tooled in gilt in three compartments and lettered in gilt in the remaining two, with the date in gilt at the foot, board edges decoratively tooled in gilt (a little rubbed), gilt inner dentelles, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. Volume I with a neatly repaired tear to the front free endpaper, Volume II with a short tear to the front free endpaper.
A beautiful copy of this exceptionally rare set, with the images generally very clean, and the delicate hand-coloring quite vivid. Light foxing and slight rippling or occasional faint creasing to some of the plates, a few plates very slightly browned at the edges, a few with very slight rubbing, occasionally causing the loss of tiny areas of color, a few neatly reattached to mounts. The plate "Convent of St. Saba April 4th 1839" (Abbey 51, Tooley 50) in Part VII of The Holy Land has two ink splotches at the top of the image. Occasional light foxing and a few small neat marginal repairs to the text leaves, a few corners faintly creased, a few text leaves in The Holy Land with offsetting from the plates, where guard sheets have been misplaced, a few text leaves in Egypt & Nubia splitting or strengthened at the gutter. Occasional thumbsoiling and a few tiny tears or repairs to the edges of the mounts. Guard sheets occasionally browned and chipped or worn at the edges, a few with tears or repairs, a few guard sheets in Egypt & Nubia splitting or strengthened at the gutter.
Together the six volumes are uniformly housed in six custom quarter burgundy morocco gilt over maroon cloth clamshell cases lined with felt. The spines of the cases match the rebacked spines of Egypt & Nubia. The corners and lower edges of the cases are rubbed.
The Holy Land "was originally published between January 1842 and the end of 1845 in twenty parts, in eighteen wrappers, containing all of the plates above, but not the map ("Map to Illustrate the Route of David Roberts Esq: RA in the Holy Land, Petrea & Syria"), and not in the same order. There were two title-pages only. Each part was available at £1. 1s. for Prints in Covers (i.e. paper wrappers), at £1. 11s. 6d. for Proofs in Portfolios, and at £2. 2s. Coloured and Mounted as Originals, in Portfolios...The entire work, consisting of the twenty parts of the above, and the twenty-one parts of the Egypt and Nubia...was apparently available in parts in 1849 at prices which are simply the multiplication of the part prices, that is £43. 1s. for Prints Tinted in Paper Parts, £64. 11s. 6d. for Proofs Tinted in thin Cloth Cases, and £86. 2s. Coloured and Mounted, in thin Cloth Cases" (Abbey).
The Holy Land and Egypt & Nubia were originally issued in forty-one parts over seven years, in three states: tinted, tinted proofs, and hand-colored and mounted on card. "It is worth noting in this connection that all the plates in the above work (The Holy Land) were printed with a single tint, while those in the later Egypt and Nubia are in many cases, in two tints" (Abbey). Later editions were published in quarto, with the plates reduced photographically. This set, with the plates mounted on card and with splendid contemporary hand-coloring, is by far the most desirable, and because so many copies have been broken up for framing, complete sets with all of the plates are very scarce.
David Roberts (1796-1864) "was brought up in a village outside Edinburgh, the son of a poor shoemaker, and began his working life as an apprentice house-painter. Soon after completing his apprenticeship he began to design and paint stage scenery, practising this trade for several years before moving to London in 1822 to work at Drury Lane and Covent Garden. He began to exhibit and sell oil paintings, and was soon able to give up his theatre work in order to concentrate on painting as a career. From 1824 he travelled on the Continent in search of picturesque subject-matter, to France, Belgium and the Rhineland. Drawings made in Spain between 1832 and 1833 established his reputation as a topographical draughtsman, but his most successful venture by far was the Near Eastern journey of 1838-1839.
"In August 1838 David Roberts left England for Alexandria to begin his extensive travels through Egypt, Sinai and Palestine. His journey was the fulfillment of a long-held desire to draw Egyptian antiquities and scenes of biblical history, and he was determined to bring back a portfolio that would surpass anything that had yet been seen in Britain. As a topographical artist he was constantly faced with the necessity of finding novel subjects for his paintings, and he was well aware that the relative unfamiliarity of Egyptian temples, Islamic mosques and Holy Land scenery would make images of them highly desirable. As he wrote in the journal he kept during his journey, his sketches would make 'one of the richest folios that ever left the East'.
"The first leg of his journey was a voyage by boat up the Nile as far as Abu Simbel, and he returned to Cairo with over 100 sketches of the Egyptian monuments. 'I am the first artist, at least from England, that has yet been here', he claimed, 'and there is much in this'.
"He knew well the Description de l'Egypte, the ambitious French survey of Egypt and its antiquities made by Napoleon's team of savants after the French invasion in 1798. But he now dismissed it as conveying 'no idea of the splendid remains'. Although several English draughtsmen had in fact preceded him up the Nile during the 1820s and early 1830s, their records of the tombs and temples were not widely known because few were published, and in any case few possessed the same degree of artistic skill as Roberts. Unlike these earlier topographical draughtsmen-many of them architects by training-who visited Egypt under the auspices of a rich aristocratic patron, Roberts was a well known professional artist, an exhibitor at the Royal Academy who was travelling independently primarily to further his career. In Cairo he could draw with confidence the city's crowded streets and intricate medieval architecture, and he even obtained permission to sketch inside the mosques, provided he wore Turkish dress, shaved his side whiskers and did not use pig's bristle brushes. Travelling through Sinai to Petra, on to Jerusalem and other biblical sites in the Holy Land, and finally to the magnificent Roman ruins at Baalbek, he encountered further curious and mighty monuments as well as a bleak and rugged landscape that held significant historic associations for his audience at home.
"Roberts returned to England in July 1839 with 272 sketches, most of which he redrew during the following decade for his great series of lithographs The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt and Nubia, published...between 1842 and 1849. Their success assured Roberts's fame as an artist (which continues to the present day) and encouraged many others to follow in his footsteps" (Hisham Khatib, Palestine and Egypt under the Ottomans: Paintings, Books, Photographs, Maps, Manuscripts (London: 2003), pages 121-123).
"There is a deep and absorbing interest in the subject, for in no other publication have the sites and buildings famous in sacred history and Eastern legend been so vividly represented. It is difficult to speak in sufficiently high terms of the beauty and interest of the varied subjects in this great work. It represents the results of Roberts's travels in the East during the years 1838 and 1839. The extraordinary merit and interest of the drawings which he exhibited on his return created a great sensation. The fidelity of his accurate pencil, his skilful adherence to truth of costume and surroundings, his attention to characteristic effect in architecture and landscape, won immediate recognition and praise. Commissions from royal and other patrons of art crowded upon him for pictures of his Eastern subjects, and a publisher, F. G. Moon, was soon found to undertake their reproduction for wider circulation. The result was the present work with about two hundred and fifty plates, accompanied by an admirable descriptive text by the Rev. Dr. Croly and W. Brockedon. The book was published in parts from 1842 to 1849, and the original cost for subscribers for a coloured copy was close on £150. For the coloured edition the plates were all executed in two tints by Louis Haghe, and were exquisitely coloured by hand in imitation of the original drawings" (Martin Hardie).
"In point of bulk and ambition Roberts's Holy Land was one of the most important and elaborate ventures of nineteenth-century publishing, and it was the apotheosis of the tinted lithograph...[There] is pleasure to be had from many of the individual plates, where Haghe's skilful and delicate lithography, and his faithful interpretation of Roberts's draughtsmanship and dramatic sense, combine in what are undoubtedly remarkable examples of tinted lithographic work. Particularly in the Egypt and Nubia section, one feels that the colossal subjects and broad vistas were ideally suited to Roberts's talent, trained as he was in theatrical scene-painting during his early days in Carlisle, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and London...Roberts was fully appreciative of Haghe's work, [writing that]: 'Haghe has not only surpassed himself, but all that has hitherto been done of a similar nature. He has rendered the views in a style clear, simple, and unlaboured, with a masterly vigour and boldness which none but a painter like him could have transferred to stone'" (Abbey).
Abbey, Travel, 385 and 272. Blackmer 1432. Gay 25. Ibrahim-Hilmy II, page 176. Lipperheide 1590 and 1591. Martin Hardie, pages 251-252. Tooley 401-402. Twyman, Lithography 1800-1850, pages 220-224.
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