London: Thomas M'Lean, 1823. First editions. First editions, a fine trio of highly attractive works by "the dominant sporting artist of the early nineteenth century" (ODNB), here most handsomely presented. Comparative Meltonians is described by Tooley as "a very rare series, among the largest and finest of Alken's plates" and by Schwerdt as "one of Alken's most brilliantly coloured hunting sets".
3 works bound as one, folio (430 x 335 mm). 20th-century dark red morocco by Riviere & Son, decorative spine gilt, gilt lettered front cover and spine, covers with border of drawer-handle tools enclosing gilt French fillet frame, gilt dentelles, green silk moiré endpapers, gilt edges.
18 hand-coloured plates in aquatint or soft-ground etching by Henry Alken, all, including title to Meltonians, professionally inset to larger sheets; 6 plates to each work, title to the first only.
Charming engraved bookplate of Ernest G. Mocatta (1849-1947, City stockbroker), designed by Charles William Sherborn. Professional refurbishment to front joint and cover, scattered foxing mainly to margins, a few red marks to plates 3 and 5 of Meltonians, otherwise the plates clean and bright.
All three series are superbly spirited in Alken's best style. A "Meltonian" is synonymous with a member of the Quorn Hunt, one of England's most famous hunts, which meets at Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire. Comparative Meltonians nostalgically and amusingly contrasts the manners of the day with those of the past, to the poor showing of the former, where rudeness and thoughtless behaviour prevail. Hunting is a wonderfully animated set, showing the misfortunes of three cockney huntsmen who leave town at 8 o'clock, find difficulty in staying mounted at 9 o'clock, get hopelessly entangled with trees and fences over a culvert by 10, charge into a drove of pigs at 11, and by midday are paying off the local villagers ("making a good Blunt i.e., money - Apology for damage done") and leave town in the comfort of a coach. Shooting features a trio of cockney shooters out for a country jaunt who run across half a dozen locals ("Johnny Raws") and then things take a turn for the worse, resulting in a punch-up ("A regular Set too - Tipping the Johnny Raws a few London tactics"), with strength of numbers prevailing and the locals coming.
None of the three titles in Abbey; Dixon 53 for Comparative Meltonians ("beautiful and excessively rare"); Mellon/Snelgrove A18, A17, A49; Siltzer pp. 59 & 71; Schwerdt I p. 13; Tooley 23, 32 & 49. (Item #4043)