Howitt’s Animals, 1811 [Part 1]

Today’s item is a relatively recent addition to our collection. Purchased in early 2014, these are presentation copies of etchings labeled “Howitt’s Animals.” They are stored in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room. Samuel Howitt (1765-1822) was a prolific artist known for his watercolors, etchings and illustrations. Prone to drinking and gambling, he was obliged to take up art after the loss of his family fortune. We did a brief write-up about the books in last Fall’s NSLM Newsletter, but we could only show one image and these are too good not to share! There are so many I picked out, that I’ll detail them in a special two-part post.

These volumes are presentation copies -- special copies the author or artist inscribes to friends or family. These are inscribed to William Edkins.
These volumes are presentation copies — special copies the author or artist inscribes to friends or family. These are inscribed to William Edkins: “The gift of Samuel Howitt who etched these to his friend William Edkins.”
Howitt was raised in the country, and his affection for sport and nature made his art quite faithful to the realities of life in the wild.
Howitt was raised in the country, and his affection for sport and nature made his art quite faithful to the realities of life in the wild.
Howitt is noted for his tremendous output, mainly as an illustrator.
Howitt is noted for his tremendous output, mainly as an illustrator.
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Howitt produced illustrations for The Sporting Magazine in 1793, and eventually contributed over 150 plates covering a wide variety of sporting subjects.
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Several pages on these volumes contain foxing, which usually occurs in machine-made paper of the late 18th and the 19th Centuries. Foxing is not entirely understood, but appears to arise from fungal contamination in the paper.
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Howitt produced during a time when animal art and sporting art were not clearly delineated. I’m of the opinion that some of his best work would be considered animal art instead of sporting art.
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I’m quite convinced that Howitt’s strength was birds. He does a beautiful job of portraying fowl. He has, however, been criticized for shying away from providing landscapes in the backgrounds of his work, presumably because this was an artistic weakness.
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These proofs were specially selected by Howitt as a gift for Edkins. The two volumes appear to be unique.
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Howitt is also known for illustrating books, and he provided watercolor illustrations for Orme’s British Field Sports, a highly-regarded color plate book.

More to come next week in Part 2!

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