[DOUGHTY, JOHN AND THOMAS]
The Cabinet of Natural History, and American Rural Sports with Illustrations
Philadelphia: J. and T. Doughty, 1830-1833. Quarto. Three volumes. vii, , 298, ; vii, , 292; 96pp. Text in two columns. Three uncolored steel-engraved titles with vignettes, two uncolored steel-engraved portrait frontispieces, and fifty-seven plates (three uncolored).
Contemporary three-quarter dark green morocco and marbled boards, spines gilt; volume three rebound to style in a modern binding. Extremities lightly worn; head of spine on second volume slightly chipped. Bookplate on front pastedowns of first two volumes.
First major American color plate sporting book and the first major book of any kind with colored lithographic plates printed in America
A scarce complete set of the American Rural Sports containing the "first colored sporting prints made in America" (Henderson), including twenty-three original lithographs by Thomas Doughty, the founding father of the Hudson River School. The Cabinet of Natural History, "an amalgam of natural history, sporting accounts, travel narratives, and practical advice for the countryman" (Reese), was started by the brothers Thomas and John Doughty in Philadelphia. It was issued in monthly parts and ran from the end of 1830 until the spring of 1834 when it abruptly ceased publication. The first volume (made up of twelve parts) was certainly the work of both Doughty brothers, with virtually all the plates being the work of Thomas, but, by the time the third part of the second volume had been issued the partnership had been disbanded. Thomas had moved to Boston to pursue his career as a painter, and as of May 17, 1832, John Doughty was the sole proprietor. Evidently Thomas' input was sorely missed and by mid-summer John was advising his subscribers that unless the level of support improved he would have to discontinue the publication. In the end, the periodical continued for almost another year before John Doughty's prediction was fulfilled and the publication came to a sudden halt with part IV of the third volume. The abrupt termination of the third volume accounts for its great rarity, with most extant sets comprised of only the first two volumes. Despite its relatively short life, The Cabinet of Natural History left behind an important legacy as the "first major sport print color plate book produced in America" (Bennett). The prints contained within the work are among few by Thomas Doughty, a significant American artist. "Of all the predecessors to [Thomas] Cole and his followers, the single artist who could most reasonably claim Cole's mantle as the founder of the [Hudson River] school is the appealing figure of Thomas Doughty, who at one juncture was hailed as 'the all-American Claude Lorrain'"' - Howat, p.31. As a painter Doughty "holds a place unique among artists of this country as having initiated the American discovery of the American landscape" (Looney). His importance as a printmaker, however, has yet to be fully recognized or adequately defined, for though "there are many prints to which Doughty's name is attached as artist only, there are only a few for which he was initially completely responsible...These are the 23 lithographs made specifically for Volume I of...The Cabinet of Natural History " (op. cit.). Doughty initially trained as a leather currier but by 1820 was listing himself in the Philadelphia City Directory as a landscape painter. "He was restless…energetic...gifted...[and] was popular almost from the start. People obviously liked his vision of a benevolent natural world...He exhibited frequently in Philadelphia and elsewhere" (op.cit.). His work was engraved for use in various publications from the early 1820s onwards, but his "major contribution to the world of printmaking, however, lies not in the 40-odd illustrations taken from his paintings and drawings but rather in the plates he himself made for [the present work]" (op.cit). American lithography was still in its infancy when the Doughtys began their periodical, and it is not clear where Thomas learned the art. "He proved himself an able practitioner in the plates of Volume I of the Cabinet, which are important as the first sporting prints in color made in America" (op.cit.). This volume also has the distinction of being the first major book of any kind with colored lithographic plates printed in America. There were two earlier minor works but "their lithographic illustrations, being chiefly diagrams, have not the same artistic quality as those of the Cabinet of 1830 with its studies of birds and animals in natural settings and dramatic landscapes. Moreover, the Cabinet was widely distributed, and the first eight issues at least were a popular success. In this way, introducing the colored lithograph to a wide audience, it made an important contribution to the development of American lithography...1830 was thus crucial in the history of American lithography for the lithographic print came of age, and this was largely through the work of Thomas Doughty" (Looney). "It marks the beginning of dominance of lithography in book illustration" - Reese.
Bennett, p.35; Gee, pp.48-49; Henderson, p.37; J.K. Howat, The Hudson River and Its Painters (1972), p.31; Howes D433; Robert F. Looney, "Thomas Doughty, Printmaker" in Philadelphia Printmaking (West Chester, 1976), pp.130-48; McGrath, p.187; Meisel III, p.404 (vols. I and II only); Phillips, Sporting Books, p.69. . . Reese, Stamped with a National Character 12; Sabin 9795 (vols. I and only); Wood, p.275.