DAVID ROBERTS, R.A. (1796-1864)
The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia . . . with historical descriptions by the Revd. George Croly; [with:] Egypt and Nubia from drawings made on the spot . . . with historical descriptions by William Brockedon. London: F. G. Moon, 1842-1849. 6 volumes in four, bound from the 41 original parts, large folio (597 x 425mm). Mounted on guards throughout. Lithographic portrait of Roberts by C. Baugniet on india paper mounted on card, 4 pp. list of subscribers, 2 engraved maps, 6 tinted lithographic titles with vignette illustrations and 241 FINE PROOF PLATES LITHOGRAPHED BY LOUIS HAGHE AFTER DAVID ROBERTS, the plates all printed without titles beneath the images, and the half-page plates with the relevant text printed on the following page. (Marginal spotting or old dampstaining to about half of the plates, and four of the titles, heavier and touching the image area of about 15 plates.) Contemporary olive half morocco over marbled paper-covered boards, spine in seven compartments with raised bands, lettered in gilt in the second and third, the other compartments with repeat decoration panelling in gilt and blind, marbled endpapers, front pastedowns in each volume with a purple cloth panel (blocked in gilt) from the upper covers of the original 'cloth cases' used for the original parts, g.e. (occasional light scuffing or small tears to extremities, three front free endpapers almost detached), oak case. Provenance: David Roberts (calling card mounted on each paste down, als from C.L. Eastlake to Roberts [dated 29 December 1851] loosely inserted); Christie's (sale May 20 1865, lot 238 sold to Bernard Quaritch for £30/10s).
DAVID ROBERTS' OWN COPY OF HIS GREATEST WORK: A FINE COMPLETE SET OF THE SURPRISINGLY RARE TINTED PROOFS BEFORE TITLES ISSUE OF THE THE FIRST EDITION OF THE ARTIST'S MONUMENTAL WORK ON PALESTINE AND THE NEAR EAST. One of a very few copies of the intermediate issue with tinted proof plates to have appeared on the market: in this issue the plates are tinted, printed with imprints but without titles, and are all presented on separate leaves (with the text that is usually printed beneath the half-page plates printed on a separate leaf.) According to Abbey (who quotes from Moon's prospectus of 1840), the work was originally issued in 41 parts over seven years in 3 states: 'prints Tinted in Paper Parts' (at 1 guinea per part); 'Proofs Tinted in thin Cloth Cases' (as here, for £1. 11s. 6d. per part) and 'Coloured and Mounted, in thin Cloth Cases' (for 2 guineas each). The 'tinted proof' sets evidently proved to be very much less popular than either the ordinary tinted copies or the de luxe hand-coloured sets: of the 127 complete or largely complete sets listed as having sold at auction in the past 30 yaers, only two can now be indentified as having been 'tinted proof' sets - although they were not recognised as such at the time (see Sotheby's 15 April 1988, lot 231 and 23 March 1999, lot 225). A number of examples of the present issue were also broken and hand-coloured at a later date.
David Roberts had died suddenly of 'apoplexy' on 25 November 1864. The sale of his pictures at Christie's was immediately followed by the sale of The valuable library of the late David Roberts, R.A., comprising books on the fine arts, architecture, books of prints, picture galleries, photographic views, and valuable books in general literature; including Tuner's Liber Studiorum, fine copy, morocco .... Roberts' Views in the Holy Land, Egypt, &c., 4 vols.. This sale, also at Christie's, was held on 20 May 1865 and the present set (referred to on the title of the catalogue) was included as lot 238 'half bound morocco extra, gilt edges'. The set also includes a 1p. ALS to 'My dear Roberts' from Sir Charles Locke Eastlake (1793-1865), who had been elected president of the Royal Academy in 1850, 'I return with many thanks your Holy Land - a beautiful & admirably executed work. I found one or two pages loose, but I return it exactly in the state in which I received it.'
The work is beautifully illustrated by Louis Haghe's masterly lithography. Roberts paid tribute to Haghe's work in glowing terms, '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', while Abbey regarded the work as 'one of the most important and elaborate ventures of nineteenth-century publishing, and . . . the apotheosis of the tinted lithograph' (Abbey Travel p. 341).
In 1838 Roberts made plans for his journey to the Near East, inspired by his love of artistic adventure; departing in August 1839 for Alexandria, he spent the remaining part of the year in Cairo, visiting the sites. In February the following year he set out across the desert for the Holy Land by way of Suez, Mount Sinai and Petra, arriving in Gaza, and then on to Jerusalem, concluding his tour by spending several months visiting the biblical sites of the Holy Land, finally returning to England in late 1839. The drawings of his tour were submitted to F. G. Moon in 1840 who arranged to bring out a work illustrative of Scripture History, paying Roberts £3,000 for the copyright of the sketches, and for his labour in superintending Louis Haghe's lithography. Cf. Abbey Travel 272 and 385; cf. Tooley 401-2; cf. Blackmer 1432. (4)