BIGGS, Thomas Hesketh (1822-1905, photographer) - Theodore C. HOPE
Architecture at Ahmedabad, the capital of Goozerat, photographed by Colonel Biggs ... with an historical and descriptive sketch, by Theodore C. Hope ... and architectural notes by James Fergusson ... Published ... under the patronage of Premchund Raichund
London: John Murray, 1866. Quarto. (11 x 9 inches). Half-title, tinted wood-engraved frontispiece, 2 lithographic maps (one printed in two colours), 22 wood-engraved illustrations (2 full-page). 120 albumen photographs by Thomas Biggs, on individual thin card mounts, the mounts with printed red single line borders with small decorative flourishes at each corner, numbers and captions, all printed in red.
Original green pebble-grained cloth, covers elaborately blocked in gilt with a wide decorative border in the "Indian" style surrounding a central gilt vignette drawn from plate number 112 titled "Meer Aboo Toorab's Tomb", rebacked to style with green morocco, spine gilt extra, yellow endpapers, gilt edges
An important, early and rare photographically-illustrated record of the art and architecture of western India.
"Like many military men in India, Biggs became fascinated with archaeology, but he soon discovered the difficulty and uncertainty of sending manual copies of stone inscriptions back to London. Biggs was furloughed on sick leave in England starting in 1850 ... he watched his brothers practicing photography and it struck him 'that it would be a perfect method of copying the sculptures and inscriptions.' ... Biggs took lessons from Samuel Buckle and then presented his plan to the directors of the East India Company, who were so impressed that they traded him a complete new photographic outfit in exchange for his first album. He was appointed 'Government Photographer, Bombay' and was the first person to officially assume that position" (Taylor, Impressed by Light , pp. 290-291).
As a member of the Bombay Photographic Society he had been equipped with a set of Ross's single and double lenses and a kit which allowed him to make 15 x 12 inch pictures. His task was to photograph the Muslim buildings, sculpture and inscriptions of Western India. The preface to the present work notes that "The Government of Bombay has at various times taken steps towards portraying ... the magnificent architecture with which the Presidency and the territories bordering it abound." Biggs made over one hundred paper negatives of Bijapur, Aihole, Badami and other sites in Western India. The results were exhibited at the Photographic Society of Bombay and much admired, but the increasing unrest, which culminated in the Mutiny of 1857, forced him to hand over his work to surgeon and fellow photographer Dr. Pigou. The preface continues: "Subsequently, a series of plans and drawings of Beejapoor, which had been prepared under the superintendence of Captain Hart, were published for the Government under the editorship of James Fergusson."
In 1865, at the request of the Governor of Bombay a committee was set up and given the task of publishing the photographs of Biggs, Pigou and a third photographer A.C.B. Neilly "in the form of a comprehensive series of volumes on the Architectural Antiquities of Western India" (preface). The present work, published in London under Biggs supervision, was the first fruit of this ambitious enterprise and is believed to have been limited to forty copies.
Gernsheim, Incunabula of British Photographic Literature 332.