CHRISTOPHER WEBB SMITH (1793-1871) AND SIR CHARLES WILLIAM D'OYLY (1781-1845)
Oriental Ornithology. [Patna:] Behar Lithographic Press, [June 1828-] January 1829.
Oblong 2° (285 x 440mm). Mounted hand-coloured lithographic title and 12 mounted hand-coloured lithographic plates, some heightened with gum arabic, after Smith and D'Oyly, each with letterpress descriptive text mounted on opposite page. (Some dampstaining to mounts.) Contemporary blue cloth-backed brown boards, original lithographic paper title label mounted on upper cover (some soiling and dampstaining). Provenance: A.F. Parish (early signature in ink, pencilled titles beneath each image).
A BEAUTIFULLY PRODUCED WORK, CONTAINING THE VERY RARE DESCRIPTIVE TEXT, illustrated with Smith's bird portraits, set against D'Oyly's evocative Indian landscapes: 'the colouring is extremely good and contains much detailed brush work' (Abbey). Christopher Smith was born in England in 1793 and after joining the East India Company was sent to India in 1811, where he remained in various administrative posts until 1842. From 1827 Smith was based in Arrah, about 40 miles from Patna, and it is probably here that he met Sir Charles D'Oyly. Born in India in 1781, D'Oyly was educated in England, returning to Calcutta aged 16, where he took up the position of assistant to the registrar of the court of appeal. He remained in India for the next forty years, holding the posts, inter alia, of opium agent at Bihar and commercial resident at Patna, before leaving for Europe in 1838 because of his failing health. Bishop Heber, who recorded that D'Oyly had been a student of Chinnery's, described D'Oyly as 'the best gentleman artist I ever met with' (Abbey), and it is likely that the Behar Lithographic Press was established by D'Oyly to allow his work to be seen by a wider audience. Abbey estimates the life of the Press to have been 'about two years only', during which time it produced three works relating to the zoology of the subcontinent: Indian Sports ([?1828]); D'Oyly and Smith's The Feathered Game of Hindostan (1828) and the present work. Abbey notes that Oriental Ornithology was probably issued as a continuation of The Feathered Game. The text appears to be particularly rare; only the Abbey and the Cambridge University Library copies are recorded as including the text. Abbey Travel II, 453; cf. Fine Bird Books (1990) p.143 (without text); cf. Nissen IVB 881 (without text); cf. Wood p.570 (without text); cf. Zimmer p.595 (without text). Mildred Archer, 'Birds of India' Geographical Magazine 36, 1963, pp.470-48.