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2015 Bookseller Resource Guide

Collectors and Their Collections

Emily Goes to India

Emily Eden, Portraits of the Princes and Peoples of India £46,850 ($72,150) at Bonhams London on October 4.

Emily Eden’s collection of twenty-four lithographed plates of Sikh soldiers and princes, published in 1844. Courtesy of Bonhams.

A journal of a journey from Calcutta to Simla in the winter of 1837, Up the Country, had proved so popular that Eden decided in 1844 to publish this collection of twenty-four lithographed plates. But as historian Alexander Dalrymple observes, it is ironic that while Eden’s journal offered “one of the most waspish, witty and widely read accounts of Indian travels ever penned,” and then produced some of the most popular images of the period, she had not wanted to go there at all.

Eden had sailed for India to act as hostess for her brother, George Eden, Lord Auckland, the newly appointed governor general of India, who himself cared little for Indian history or civilization and had taken the post only because it was the best administrative job then available.

Effectively the first lady of British India, Eden never felt much sympathy with the country, and her journal, says Dalrymple, is “the most exquisitely written record of colonial disdain and hauteur to come down to us.”

But she could also be greatly impressed, as at the great durbar that was organized to celebrate the launching of the first Afghan War, “which George had absent-mindedly decided to declare in August,” and it was this spectacle that prompted some of her more observant moments in her journal and her finest portraits—of these handsome Sikh soldiers and princes.

This record-setting copy was a complete example of the best issue, with all plates hand-colored and mounted on card and still in the publisher’s maroon morocco gilt binding.

A Celebration of Cookbooks

Giles Rose, A Perfect School of Instructions for the Officers of the Mouth, £6,100 ($9,395); The Court & Kitchin of Elizabeth, commonly called Joan Cromwel, the Wife of the late Usurper, £9,150 ($14,090); Dr. James Douglas, An Account of Saffron: The Manner of its Culture and Saving for Use, £2,685 ($4,135), all at Bloomsbury Auctions in London on September 22.

The trimmed portrait frontispiece and title page of The Court & Kitchin of Elizabeth, commonly called Joan Cromwel, the Wife of the late Usurper. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Auctions.

The first mentioned item is a woodcut-illustrated, 1682 English translation from the French of Giles Rose, whose Officiers des Bouches had first appeared twenty years earlier in Paris. Study of this work, the author promises, would make a “Master of the Household,” an all purpose master carver, butler, confectioner, cook, pastryman, etc., though I am not sure that the frog or tortoise tarts that he suggests would appeal to today’s diners!

The Cromwell book might be considered an early and grim example of the celebrity cookbook, having been written in 1664, just a few years after the restoration of the monarchy in England, when in an act of revenge, the body of ‘God’s Englishman’ was removed from its Westminster Abbey grave and formally executed. Its introduction includes an attack on Oliver Cromwell’s family, but the book nevertheless contains a wide range of recipes said to have graced their table, “now made Publick for general Satisfaction.” The portrait frontispiece and title have quite clearly been trimmed and laid down, but the auctioneers could trace no other auction outing for and this first edition.

The title page of Dr. Douglas’ 1732 book, An Account of Saffron. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Auctions.

Printed for the Dublin Society in 1732, Douglas’ saffron book would seem to be an abbreviated version of an article by this eminent London physician and anatomist that had been previously published in the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions, for at the end of this version are notes by another writer who disagrees with some of Douglas’ findings on the cultivation, gathering, and drying of the plant. This copy is waterstained and, like the other two books, sported a modern binding, but the only other copy seen at auction appears to be one that made $350 in the 1984 Sotheby’s New York sale of the celebrated Crahan Collection.

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