London: H. Humphrey, 1800. Item #04975
One of the Scarcest of all James Gillray's Works
GILLRAY, James. Cockney-Sportsmen. London: H[annah] Humphrey, November 12th, 1800.
Oblong folio (13 1/2 x 19 1/8 inches; 342 x 485 mm. Plate mark 10 1/8 x 14 1/8 inches; 254 x 358 mm.). Four magnificent hand-colored soft-ground etched aquatint plates.
Chemised in a felt-lined half black morocco over red cloth clamshell case, spine with five raised bands, ruled and lettered in gilt in compartments. A very fine set.
"As we know from the first plate, the cockney sportsmen are hunting in Hornsey Wood, a refuge for City dwellers about six miles from St Paul's. Gillray's print may be intended to show or recall the Hornsey Wood House, which was famous in its time. About a mile nearer to London than Hornsey," observes the Ambulator, in 1774, "is a coppice of young trees called Hornsey Wood, at the entrance of which is a public-house, to which great numbers of persons resort from the City." "Hornsey Wood House," for such was the name of this place of entertainment, stood on the summit of some rising ground on the eastern side of the parish. It was originally a small roadside public-house, with two or three wide-spreading oaks before it, beneath the shade of which the weary wayfarer could rest and refresh himself.
But whether public house or farm, the birds are flocking to or emerging from a large bird house on the premises. That may suggest that the birds are being raised for food or sale. In either case, the depredation of the flock by our intrepid hunters would not be appreciated. Fortunately, the unthinking enthusiasm of the young cockney sportsman, leaping over the fence in his excitement, is not matched by his aim. He misses the birds entirely. As so often in comic caricature, the dogs in the series are reflections of their masters." (www.james-gillray.org).
"This and the three following prints form another series of sporting subjects, a burlesque companion to the preceding [Hounds Finding; Hounds in Full Cry; Hounds Throwing Off & Coming in at the Death." (Wright & Evans 488-491)].
"They are the work of another amateur, who has only favoured us with his initials. They explain themselves. Hornsey Wood was a celebrated haunt of the sportsmen of the city." (Wright & Evans, pp. 460-461).
1. "Cockney Sportsmen Marking Game" Nov. 12th, 1800.
2. "Cockney Sportsmen Shooting Flying" Nov. 12th, 1800.
3. "Cockney Sportsmen Recharging" Nov. 12th, 1800.
4. "Cockney Sportsmen Finding A Hare" Nov. 12th, 1800.
We know of two other complete sets of this exceptionally rare suite of plates - The National Portrait Gallery (London, UK) and Bobins. The Exotic and the Beautiful vol. IV, 1339.
According to OCLC there is just one complete set of the four prints located in libraries & institutions worldwide, The Morgan Library & Museum (NY, USA). That set appears to be uncolored.
Two of the prints "…Shooting Flying" & "…Finding A Hare" are held at the Yale University Library (CT, USA) - these two prints are hand-colored.
Wright & Evans, 492-495; Bobins IV, 1339.