London: Rudolph Ackermann, 1798-9. Item #03290
Thomas Rowlandson's Loyal Volunteers of London…
The Plates Heightened in Gold and Silver
ROWLANDSON, Thomas. Loyal Volunteers of London & Environs, Infantry & Cavalry, in their respective Uniforms. Representing the whole of the Manual, Platoon, & Funeral Exercise in 87 plates Designed & Etch'd by T. Rowlandson. [London]: Rudolph Ackermann, [1798-99].
First edition, early issue (plates heightened in gold and silver). Large quarto (13 x 10 1/2 inches; 330 x 266 mm.). viii, [4, list of subscribers and contents]. Descriptive text to each plate and index and errata at end. Hand-colored etched title-page, 86 hand-colored etched plates, many heightened with gold or silver, all by and after Thomas Rowlandson. Bound without the two later issued plates** as usual.
Contemporary full red straight-grain morocco, covers decoratively paneled in gilt, spine with five double raised-bands, decoratively tooled and lettered in gilt, gilt board edges and turn-ins. Expertly and almost invisibly rebacked to style.
A wonderful and large copy of this important work by Thomas Rowlandson, with early impressions of the plates heightened with gold and silver. The text and plates are watermarked 1794. Abbey's copy measured 12 5/8 x 9 3/8 inches.
**"Two additional plates exist, 'Expedition or Military Fly' and 'Sadler's Flying Artillery': the book was bound in volume form before they were issued. Copies without them can, therefore, be considered complete." (Abbey).
Paradoxically (this is a military costume book after all), Rowlandson here presents some of his most elegant and effective work in terms of pure print-making. The result is arguably the greatest of all military costume books, in that it ascends beyond being a mere record of uniforms to become an elegy to patriotism, an important social document and a cohesive work of art, all produced at a time of great national peril.
The phenomenon of the volunteer corps arose as a response to the perceived imminent danger of invasion by the French Napoleonic forces. Rudolph Ackermann notes in his introduction that 'At this moment, the enemy had advanced their best regulated legions to the shores of the British Channel; and for the determined purpose of spreading through our land such miseries as have already rendered wretched their own'. The British response was immediate and defiant, and Ackermann goes on to note that when the Loyal Volunteers of London were inspected by the King on 21st June 1799 the roll-call of volunteers, manning 11 different positions, totalled just over 12,200 men. The present work serves as a record of that overwhelming show of loyalty, as well as of the uniforms of all the main volunteer forces. In addition, Rowlandson pictures each individual in a particular drill position, the name and details of which are given in the engraved text beneath each figure.
Abbey Life 379; Prideaux p. 350; C. Thomson Bobins II, 385; Tooley 416; Colas, 2586.