George Stubbs (1724-1806)
The Anatomy of the Horse. London: J. Purser for the author, 1766. Oblong broadsheet 2° (466 x 592mm). 24 etched plates, including 4 key plates, by and after Stubbs. Errata slip pasted onto verso of 'To the Reader' leaf. (Variable spotting and browning, some neatly-repaired marginal flaws, unobtrusive marginal dampstaining and worming.) Early to mid 19th-century half calf over marbled boards, spine gilt with the title in a cartouche terminated with floral and foliate tools (a little rubbed causing some loss of paper on boards, skilfully recornered and rebacked retaining original backstrip).
FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE. A WORK THAT 'HAS BOTH SCIENTIFIC AND ARTISTIC IMPORTANCE, and ... enjoys, with the works of Vesalius and Albinus, an esteem far beyond the special area of learning for which it was designed' (Doherty, quoted by Norman). Stubbs's drawings for the plates were made between 1756 and 1759, and were based on numerous dissections that he had performed himself. Once the drawings were finished, Stubbs attempted to find an engraver, but none felt able to execute the plates, forcing Stubbs to engrave them himself in the following six years. The book's publication caused Stubbs 'henceforth to be regarded primarily as an animal painter, whereas his previous provincial reputation had been based on portraits' (Lennox-Boyd). The work itself 'remained the standard authority on its subject for nearly a century. It marked a major advance in the study of equine anatomy, and Gilbey [...] maintained that ''if he [Stubbs] had never painted a picture, [this] stands as his monument'' ' (Lennox-Boyd).
The text used for the various issues of The Anatomy of the Horse was probably printed at the time of publication, but the plates appear to have been printed on demand, and copies with plates watermarked with dates from 1798 to 1827 are known. The plates in this copy do not bear a dated watermark, and both the text and the plates are on laid paper, matching Lennox-Boyd's criterion for 'copies [...] issued in 1766, and in most of those sold in Stubbs' lifetime', as the plates of later copies were printed on wove paper. Brunet V, col.571; Dingley Comben 600 (later issue); ESTC T147211; Garrison and Morton 308.1; Lennox-Boyd Stubbs 165-188; Mellon Books on the Horse and Horsemanship 57; Nissen ZBI 4027; Norman 2032 (later issue).