WILLIAMSON, Thomas (1758-1817) and Samuel HOWITT (1765-1822)
Oriental Field Sports; Being a Complete, Detailed, and Accurate Description of the Wild Sports of the East
[Norfolk: Antony Atha Publishers Ltd, 1984]. Oblong folio. Forward by the Duke of Wellington. Illustrated title and 40 color plates.
Publisher's half red morocco and cloth covered boards. Publisher's folding box.
Facsimile edition: one of 350 numbered copies.
Williamson served in a British regiment in Bengal and was an avid sportsman while there. After being recalled to England, "Williamson's knowledge of wild life and Oriental sports had come to the notice of the Orme family" (Rohatgi & Parlett). The Ormes contracted with celebrated painter Samuel Howitt to prepare finished watercolours based on Williamson's original sketches during his time in India, and published the work, originally in 20 parts, between 1805 and 1807. The result was "the most beautiful book on Indian sport in existence" (Schwerdt). The work, however, is not merely a sporting book. As Williamson writes in the Preface, the work "is offered to the public as depicting the Manners, Customs, Scenery, and Costume of a territory now intimately blended with the British Empire, and of such importance to its welfare, as to annex a certain degree of consequence to every publication, that either exhibits, or professes to impart, a knowledge of whatever may hitherto have been concealed, or that remains unfolded to our view." Howitt and Williamson's images are vivid depictions of both the chase and the Indian scenery. Of particular note are the four plates treating elephants, described by Williamson as possessing "the energy of the horse, the sagacity of the dog, and a large portion of the monkey's cunning." The eleven plates devoted to the tiger are each riveting.