ROWLANDSON, Thomas (illus.); COMBE, William (text).

The English Dance of Death.

From the Designs of Thomas Rowlandson, with Metrical Illustrations by the Author of "Doctor Syntax".

London: Printed by J. Diggens, Published at R. Ackerman's Repository of Arts, 1815-16 Stock Code: 143969
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"One of the essential pivots of any colour plate library"

First edition, and a particularly nice example; "indispensable to any Rowlandson collection, one of the essential pivots of any colour plate library" (Tooley). The book was originally published in 24 monthly numbers and on completion issued in two volumes in boards. This copy is an example of the remainder binding, matching the Abbey copy, which they identify as bound by V. Sotheran circa 1840 using first edition sheets.

"The idea of Death as the universal predator, stretching out his bony hand to seize his prey at moments inopportune and unexpected, showing the vanity of human life and the futility of human pleasures and pursuits, had been pictured by many artists before Rowlandson, notably Holbein... These may have inspired Rowlandson but in his Dance of Death he takes his characters from the world round him, sees them in his own original way, and imparts to the subject his own satirical humour, with its curious combination of the sublime and the ludicrous. It is obvious at a glance that the artist bestowed exceptional care on the illustrations for this book. The union of the gruesome and the grotesque appealed strongly to his imagination, and in completeness of detail and carefulness of grouping the illustrations excel nearly all his other work. The hand-colouring also has been delicately and judiciously applied. Combe's versification is full of wit and vigour" (Hardie).

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2 volumes, large octavo. Original orange cloth (see note), spines lettered in gilt apparently by hand, blocked with thigh bone and graveyard design in gilt, covers panelled in blind, top edges gilt, others untrimmed. Housed in a custom orange solander cloth box.


Bindings in very fresh condition, very short split at foot of rear joint of second volume and the most trivial peripheral nicking, hinges slightly tender, contents clean other than occasional light foxing and offsetting from plates, short closed tear not affecting image to plate facing vol. I p. 37. An exemplary copy.


Abbey 263, Hardie 171-172; Tooley pp. 332-334.


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