ALKEN, Henry Thomas (1785-1851). 12 EXCEPTIONALLY FINE PENCIL SKETCHES for "Ideas, Accidental and Incidental to Hunting" parts I and II. London: ca 1826.
2 volumes. Folio (13 x 10 4/8 inches). Each set of six pencil drawings heightened in pen and ink (8 4/8 x 7 inches), all mounted with a double-ruled ink border, and captioned in manuscript in a contemporary hand beneath the image (some insignificant spotting and staining). Original drab paper wrappers, stabbed and sewn as issued, with the title ‘Some Ideas on Hunting,’ written in manuscript on front wrappers; preserved in a fine 20th-century red morocco, gilt solander box and red cloth chemise.
Provenance: with the Henry Alken bookplate of Joel Spitz on the inside of the chemise, and his ink library stamp on the inside front wrapper of each volume; his sale Christie's, 27th May, 2013, lot 113
THE SUPERB AND HIGHLY FINISHED ORIGINAL DRAWINGS FOR THE FIRST TWO PARTS OF THE ‘IDEAS’ SERIES.
Published in seven parts by Thomas McLean between 1826 and 1830. The designs for part I are in a slightly different order to the published plates, but the captions to both sets correspond to those used for the parts as published. The images of humourous but often tragic hunting mishaps are exquisitely drawn down to the finest detail, combining perfectly Alken's talent for verisimilitude with the absurd.
Henry Alken was the dominant sporting artist of the early nineteenth century. He showed an early liking for depicting animals, especially dogs and horses, and his first sporting prints were published in 1813, "and he demonstrated his expertise in the book The Beauties and Defects in the Figure of the Horse Comparatively Delineated (1816). From then on he delivered a long series of designs to the leading sporting printsellers—S. and J. Fuller, Thomas McLean, and Rudolph Ackermann among others. He issued many sets of prints in wrappers and provided illustrations to a series of books, employing the pseudonym Ben Tally Ho for his mildly satirical sallies, and often collaborating with his friend the sporting journalist Charles James Apperley (1779–1843), known as Nimrod. Alken was very well informed about horses and riding, and he appeared to be an insider among the wealthy young set who gathered at Melton Mowbray to hunt and drink and (on at least one occasion literally) paint the town red. His familiarity with sporting lore gave rise to the story (put forward in the Dictionary of National Biography) that he might have been a hunt servant to the duke of Beaufort. Henry maintained a connection with Ipswich, evident in A Cockney's Shooting Season in Suffolk (1822) and The First Steeple-Chase on Record (1839), which recorded a nocturnal romp by cavalry officers stationed at Ipswich in 1803 and became the single most popular set of sporting prints. The Beaufort Hunt (1833) and The Quorn Hunt (1835) were his most distinguished hunting sets. He was also a prolific designer, etcher, and lithographer of scenes relating to racing, shooting, coaching, and other sports, and in 1820 he issued a series entitled National Sports of Great Britain. He wrote several books on aspects of engraving, including The Art and Practice of Engraving (1849)" (Timothy Clayton and Anita McConnell for DNB). Cf. Schwerdt I, p. 17.