SOLVYNS, Frans Balthazar (1760-1824). Les Hindous, ou description de leurs moeurs, coutumes et cérémonies. Paris: chez l'Auteur, 1808-1812.
48 parts in 4 volumes, 2° (566 x 410mm). Half-title, titles with hand-coloured etched vignettes of views and a portrait of Solvyns, text in English and French, 288 etched plates, partly printed in colour, partly hand-coloured, including 36 double-page plates mounted on guards. (Without half-titles called for in vols. II & III by Abbey, some light spotting, mostly marginal, affecting titles and 2 plates only , slight abrasion to sky area of Abbey plate number 192, partially blurred impression of plate 109, 2 plates of slightly smaller sheet size, possibly supplied.) Half tan morocco gilt, with calf cornerpieces and marbled boards, by J. Mackenzie (occasional light scuffing or rubbing to extremities).
A RARE COLOURED COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION with fine, wide-margined plates. Arranged in sections, the four volumes illustrate the customs, festivals, occupations, caste system and costume of the Hindus, encompassing all social classes. The images are of tradesmen and their tools, princes, doctors (vol. I), dances, religious devotees, different types of musical instruments, customs associated with marriage and death (vol. II), types of boats, games, modes of transportation, games and various methods of smoking (vol. III), classes of domestic servant and native flora and fauna (vol. IV). The accompanying text provides explanations and descriptions of Hindu customs and habits, such as the rituals of religious ceremonies, meetings for conversation, servants' duties and the cultivation of plants for domestic use.
A native of Antwerp, Balthazar Solvyns set sail for India in 1790, arriving in Calcutta the following year. Having undertaken a commission in 1792 for Alexander Kyd, the Surveyor-General in Calcutta, in which he provided illustrations for a report written for the East India Company on Kyd's expedition to Penang and the Andaman Islands, Solvyns noticed the keen interest shown by the British in Indian costumes and ways of life. This led him to produce his comprehensive work on India, A Collection of Two Hundred and Fifty Coloured Etchings Descriptive of the Manners, Customs, and Dress of the Hindoos (Calcutta, 1799, 4°), encouraged by the orientalist, Sir William Jones. He issued the enlarged and improved French folio edition, Les Hindous, in 48 parts from 1808-1812, with coloured plates and an English translation by his English wife, Mary Anne Greenwood Solvyns. Abbey Travel 430; Brunet V, 432; Colas 2767; not in Lipperheide. (4)