ALKEN, Henry (1785-1851)
The High Mettled Racer
London: S. & J. Fuller, 1821. Oblong folio. 6 hand-colored aquatint plates by Alken and T. Sutherland after Alken. Original upper wrapper title trimmed and mounted to front endpaper. With a modern letterpress title. Each print within a passe-partout mount.
Bound to style in half blue morocco and marbled boards, bound by Aquarius, morocco gilt lettering piece on the upper cover
Lovely series of hand-coloured aquatint sporting prints on the life of a race horse.
First edition of "an excessively rare series" (Dixon 30). The life of a racehorse in progressive stages, the latter downward, was a theme favoured by sporting artists, and a rebuke to Meltonians for asking so much of their thoroughbreds. Thomas Gooch had exhibited a series of six paintings on the subject in 1783, publishing them as prints in 1790; Thomas Rowlandson's 1789 series, consisting of 4 plates, was based on a popular song, Charles Dibdin's "The High Mettled Racer" of 1785. Alken here follows Gooch in using six plates for the pattern of rise and fall, with obvious parallels to human life.
Mellon/Snelgrove 60; Siltzer 59.