Touch at the Fine Arts, A; llustrated by Twelve Plates, with Descriptions by Henry Alken.

Twelve Hand-Colored Etched Plates by Henry Alken

ALKEN, Henry. A Touch at The Fine Arts: Illustrated by Twelve Plates, with Descriptions by Henry Alken. London: Published by Thomas M’Lean, Repository of Wit and Humour, 1824.

First edition. Quarto (10 5/8 x 7 1/2 inches; 271 x 189 mm.). [28] pp. Twelve hand-colored etched plates. Each plate with a leaf of descriptive letterpress. Bound without the half-title and the leaf of advertisements.

The plates are captioned: Pl. 1. “—An Imposing Effect;” Pl. 2. “—Unpleasant in Effect—but the keeping is Good;” Pl. 3. “—A Moving Effect—the Execution Rapid;” Pl. 4. “—A Striking Effect—The handling by no means good, or pleasnat to the eye;” Pl. 5. “—All Effect—The Subject far from good, but Rich;” Pl. 6. “—A Forcible Effect;” Pl. 7. “—A Sudden Effect;” Pl. 8. “—A surprising Effect—but no Execution;” Pl. 9. “—A Very Warm Effect;” Pl. 10. “—A powerful Effect—but the subject rather hurried;” Pl. 11. “—A Spirited Effect—but no order kept in the grouping of the Figures;” Pl. 12. “—A very Brilliant Effect.”

Bound ca. 1890 by Rivière & Son (stamp-signed on the verso of the front free endpaper) in full tan polished calf, neatly rebacked. Covers ruled in gilt, spine ruled in gilt and tooled in blind with five raised bands and maroon morocco gilt lettering label, board edges ruled in gilt, turn-ins decoratively tooled in gilt, top edge gilt, blue coated endpapers. Original green printed label (“A Touch/at/The Fine Arts,/Illustrated by/Twelve Coloured Plates,/with Descriptions. [rule]/by Henry Alken. [rule]/Price £1 5s. half-bound.”) from the original binding mounted on a leaf at the end. Board edges a little bit rubbed. Plates 5 (used as frontispiece), 9, 11, 12 mounted on stub. An excellent copy.

“A Touch at the Fine Arts…is, says the preface, ‘an attempt to elucidate, by graphic delineations, a variety of terms generally and perhaps exclusively made use of by artists, amateurs, connoisseurs, virtuosos, and the like. Long, indeed, has a generous public been, doubtless, puzzled in the endeavour to discover some ray of meaning in those glowing, brilliant and forcible phrases, which the critical catalogues, Catalogues Raisonnées, etc., of the day are woefully burthened with.’ It is a cheap kind of humour at the best. To take two of the most deserving subjects—‘A Moving Effect; the Execution rapid,’ is represented by a runaway coach, with expressions of the utmost horror in the faces and attitudes of the occupants; ‘A Striking Effect, the handling by no means good or pleasant to the eye,’ is illustrated by a fracas between two returning roisterers and some night-watchmen. In these and in plate 2, a prison-scene depicting ‘An unpleasant effect, but the Keeping is Good,’ Alken shows genuine power as a draughtsman, and infuses his work with a character lacking elsewhere. The last plate, indeed, might almost be a coloured lithograph from the hand of Daumier. All twelve plates, it should be said, are soft-ground etchings, with colour applied by hand” (Martin Hardie).

Martin Hardie, pp. 183-184 and 319. Siltzer, p. 71. Tooley 58. Not in Abbey. Item #00553

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