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Sketches in Afghaunistan.

London: Henry Graves & Company; J. W. Allen & Co.; and Day & Haghe, 1842 Stock Code: 131893
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Magnificent lithographs of Afghanistan

First edition. Without doubt one of the finest illustrated books on Afghanistan, the plates comprising superb views on the march - Bolan Pass, Quetta, Khojak Pass, Kandahar, and Kabul - published in the wake of the disastrous First Anglo-Afghan War, a conflict that held a ghastly fascination for a British public eager for images of an unexplored country that lay a continent away.

In 1833, after a furlough in England, Atkinson (1780-1852) returned to his original profession as surgeon to the 55th NI, and in 1838 was chosen as Superintending Surgeon to the Army of the Indus during the first Afghan War. He was "relieved in the ordinary course of routine shortly after the surrender of Dost Mohammad" and returned to Bengal in 1841 "and thus escaped the fate which awaited the army of occupation" (ODNB).

Atkinson is perhaps best remembered for his translations from Persian, his selections from the Shâh Nâmeh of Firdausi being the most notable, but he evidently possessed considerable, if amateur, artistic abilities. Archer and Lightbown note that while in Calcutta both Atkinson and his wife, Jane, took lessons with George Chinnery. The highly detailed, yet skilfully composed and sensitively coloured, originals for these plates, sixteen of which are now in the British Museum, show clearly that the lithographers, Louis and Charles Haghe (named on the list of plates), had little "working up" or "improving" to do, to create highly attractive and effective images.

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Large folio (518 x 350 mm). Late 19th century dark red half sheep rebacked with cloth and the original spine laid down, five low raised bands, triple gilt fillet and foliate roll tool decoration, red morocco-grain cloth sides, front cover lettered in gilt, top edges gilt, marbled endpapers.


Single-tint lithographic title page and 25 similar plates, lithographic dedication leaf, and letterpress leaf of descriptions, printed in blue in double column (tissue guards renewed).


Dedication bound in before title. Binding refurbished overall, some old abrasions to leather, seven plates with repaired closed tears (these across captions and in a couple of cases across image), "Entrance to the Bolan Pass" and list of plates chipped at fore-edge and repaired, a few plates mounted on linen stubs. A sound, clean, complete copy of a rather vulnerable book.


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