STUBBS, George (1724-1806). The Anatomy of the Horse. London: J. Purser for the author, '1766' [but c. 1815].
Broadsheet oblong 2° (449 x 546mm). Text printed on laid paper with armorial 'LVG' watermark [cf. Churchill Watermarks in Paper 434]. 24 etched plates by and after Stubbs, including 4 key plates, printed on wove paper, all watermarked '1815'. (Variable light spotting and browning, some neatly-repaired small marginal tears and small holes in text, one plate on guard, skilfully-repaired tears to title touching 4 letters.) 19th-century cloth-backed patterned boards, gilt leather lettering-piece on spine (front free endpaper detached, extremities somewhat worn, short split on upper hinge). Provenance: Frederic Leighton P.R.A., Baron Leighton of Stretton (1830-1896, bookplate by 'R.A. Bell. 94.') -- Leighton sale, Christie's, 15-16 July 1896, lot 295, to: -- Parsons -- Harry Worcester Smith (b.1865, bookplate by 'S.L.S. 1921') -- clippings and typed notes relating to Leighton, Stubbs and horses pasted onto the upper pastedown (?by Smith).
FIRST EDITION, LATER ISSUE. THE LORD LEIGHTON-HARRY WORCESTER SMITH COPY OF 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 executed between 1756 and 1759, and were based on numerous dissections that he had performed himself. Once the drawings were finished, Stubbs unsuccessfully attempted to find an engraver, but many engravers felt the subjects of the plates fell beyond their knowledge, forcing him to engrave them himself in the following six years, thus effecting his transformation from an engraver of limited ability to one of great skill. When the work was published, it caused the artist 'henceforth to be regarded primarily as an animal painter, whereas his previous provincial reputation had been based on portraits' (Lennox-Boyd). The book 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, who calculated that out of forty-nine authors prior to George Stubbs, only one, the seventeenth-century English farrier Andrew Snape, had produced a study that compared with the ''exhaustive description'' of The Anatomy of the Horse, maintained that ''if he [Stubbs] had never painted a picture, [this] stands as his monument'' ' (Lennox-Boyd).
The present copy was previously in the library of the artist, Frederic, Lord Leighton P.R.A., and bears his bookplate dated 1894, designed for him by the book illustrator Robert Anning Bell (1863-1933). Although Leighton's work was principally figurative, it is possible that his work on the study executed in clay for a sculpture of 'Perseus and Andromeda' (1891) may have stimulated him to acquire what was, to an artist of his generation, still the definitive reference for the anatomy of the horse (in his preface on a1r, Stubbs specifically addresses 'The Painter, Sculptor, and Designer' as a possible purchaser, and the typed note pasted into this copy refers to Sir Edwin Landseer's copy of the work, sold in these rooms at the artist's sale). The contents of Leighton's studio were sold in these rooms on the 11, 13 and 14 July 1896 ('when the prices realized were in excess of those the most sympathetic admirer [...] had dared to expect', E. Rhys Frederic, Lord Leighton (London: 1898), p.91), and W. Fletcher's English Book Collectors records that the sale of the books on 15 and 16 July 1896 raised £631 (p.439). This copy subsequently passed into the collection of the American sporting book collector and MFH, Harry Worcester Smith, the author and editor of numerous sporting books. It was probably Smith who added the clippings pasted into the volume (cf. Mellon Books on the Horse and Horsemanship 321, remarking that notes inserted there are 'characteristic of the matter that commonly augments books from the library of Harry Worcester Smith').
The text used for the various issues of The Anatomy of the Horse was probably printed at the time of the original publication (and certainly the text of first issue copies bears the same watermark as the text of this copy), but the plates appear to have been printed on demand as copies were sold, and copies with plates watermarked with dates from 1798 to 1827 are known. Brunet V, col.571; Dingley Comben 600 (later issue, plates watermarked 1823); Eales Cole ... 1472-1800 1840; 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, plates watermarked '1798').