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FERGUSSON, James.

Tree and Serpent Worship: or Illustrations of Mythology and Art in India in the First and Fourth Centuries after Christ.

From the Sculptures of the Buddhist Topes at Sanchi and Amravati. Prepared under the Authority of the Secretary of State for India in Council.

London: India Museum, W. H. Allen and Co., 1868 Stock Code: 120060
£3,750.00
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Burne-Jones's copy of an important early photographically illustrated book

First edition, Edward Burne-Jones's copy, of this superb example of an early photographically illustrated book involving three of the key players in the development of the form: James Fergusson, one of Victorian Britain's most prominent architectural historians, William Griggs, the inventor of the photolithographic process, and Lieut. James Waterhouse, President of the Royal Photographic Society.

Although Fergusson's book has been described as "fanciful" (David Boyd Haycock in ODNB), it remains an important record. James Fergusson (1808-1886) was one of Victorian Britain's most prominent architectural historians, respected by Ruskin, and the dedicatee of Schliemann's great work Tiryns, as "the historian of architecture, eminent alike for his knowledge of art and for the original genius which he has applied to the solution of some of its most difficult problems". He had no university education and began his career working for the family firm of Fairlie, Fergusson & Co. in Calcutta, before going into business as an indigo planter. He quickly made his fortune "and was able to retire, and as 'an expert draughtsman with a camera-lucida' he explored India 'chiefly on a camel's back, from end to end and from side to side' exploring the rock-cut temples of Ajanta, Ellora, and elsewhere" (ODNB). In 1866 he was preparing a display on Indian architecture for the 1867 Paris Exhibition, and was looking for sculptures, or architectural fragments, to cast "to draw attention and give some character" to his exhibition of photographs. He was "not a little astonished" to discover that " large collection of marbles" from Amravanti Tope - a site that he had "thought it well worth a voyage to India specially for the purpose of exploring" - were stored for their preservation in the coach-house of the India Museum at Leadenhall Street (Preface).

He set to work on a monograph describing the site, and to this end the pieces were photographed by William Griggs, the Museum photographer, and inventor of the photolithographic process by which many of the plates in the present work were produced. In the course of his researches on the subject, Fergusson then uncovered "a beautiful series of drawings" of Sanchi Tope in the Indian Office library, at the same time receiving a set of photographs of the same monument from Lieut. James Waterhouse, which lead him to reconsider the form of the book, expanding it to combine the accounts of the two monuments.

Waterhouse, whose images arrived so serendipitously, went on to become President of the Royal Photographic Society 1905-6, having been awarded the Society's Progress Medal in 1891 for his work on dye sensitising. Griggs's pioneering work in chromo-photolithography, and with the half-tone and collotype processes, led to him being obituarized by the Printer's Register as "that venerable craft father of ours".

This interesting work has an extremely appealing provenance: with the bookplate of Edward Burne-Jones and also that of his former school friend, Wilfred Lucas Heeley of the Indian Civil Service. Burne-Jones's style does not betray any immediately obvious Indian influence, though he was related by marriage to John Lockwood Kipling, a great champion of Indian art, whose pen and ink studies were first shown, with sample wares, at international exhibitions in London (1871, 1872), Vienna (1873), and Paris (1878); in 1880 they went on display in the new India section of the South Kensington Museum. A strong serpentine theme can, however, be detected running through Burne-Jones's work, famously in his The Doom Fulfilled (Perseus slaying the Sea Serpent); in the windows of St Margaret's, Rottingdean; his portrayal of Sidonia von Bork with her robe patterned with "branching and knotted snakes, black upon the golden stuff"; and most suggestively the pencil sketch Serpent Women Around Globe at the Art Institute of Chicago (The Leonora Hall Gurley Memorial Collection, 1922.1121) which seems to refer to the various serpent discs discussed in the present work.

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Description

Folio (334 x 240 mm). Publisher's red half hard-grain morocco on green sand-grained cloth, title gilt to the spine, neatly rebacked with the original spine laid down, large Naga Raja disk gilt to the front board, top edge gilt, marbled endpapers.

Illustrations

Lithographic decorative title after a drawing of the northern gateway at Sanchi by Lieut-Col. Maisey and 40 other similar plates after Maisey, 57 mounted albumen prints by W. Griggs and Lieut. Waterhouse, 2 of them across 2 pages, double-page coloured pla

Condition

Joints and spine ends professionally repaired. Mild mottling to boards, text block occasionally lightly browned, some spotting and marginal finger-soiling, some of the albumen prints a little pale as often, but overall about very good.

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