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Wild Sports of the East: Williamson & Howitt, 1819

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  • Title: Wild Sports of the East
  • Author: Thomas Williamson & Samuel Howitt
  • Date: 1819
  • Condition: See description
  • Inches: 17 H x 22 W
  • Centimeters: 43.18 x 55.88
  • Product ID: 308248


Oriental Field Sports of the East; Being a Complete, Detailed, and Accurate Description of the Wild Sports of the East, Second Edition, taken from the manuscripts and designs by Captain Thomas Williamson, drawings by Samuel Howitt, 1819. Printed by B. R. Howlett for Thomas McClean, London. Oblong folio, 145 marble edged pages with index, 40 hand colored aquatint plates after Samuel Howitt (from sketches by Williamson) by H. Merke, J. Hamble, and Vivares, hand painted half title page, rebound in three-quarter black pebbled leather with green pebbled leather sides, gilt lettering to spine, five raised hubs, marbled end papers. Illegible 1892 Calcutta inscription to interior. 17 H x 22 W x 1 3/4" D. Early 19th century.

The text of the book is supplied by Captain Thomas Williamson who spent twenty years serving in India.  The striking accompanying illustrations were made from Williamson’s drawings by the English illustrator, Samuel Howitt.  The overall result is a large and engaging book. Regarding the colonial record, the publication serves as a primary source document which offers insights into British colonial hunting practices and attitudes towards wildlife in India during the early 19th century. On top of this fact, Williamsons’ style of writing does a fantastic job of engaging the reader as he often incorporates personal anecdotes and thrilling accounts of his own hunting experiences, delivering the audience a book that is not only informative, but also entertaining to read.

Background on Creator:

Williamson set out for India at the age of 19 in May of 1778. In this period, there were two military organizations operating on the subcontinent - the British military proper as well as the East India Company Army. The British military soldiers were subject to the same rules and regulations that governed the military elsewhere in the world whereas the East India Company soldiers could be compared more closely to mercenaries. The differences in things such as background, pay and culture resulted in much hostility and tension between the two forces which would ultimately result in the Crown assuming control of the East India Company’s army in 1858.

Williamsons’ career began with his post as lieutenant in the East India Company’s 2nd Battalion, 3rd European Regiment and would culminate in his appointment to captain in the 2nd Battalion of the 13th Native Infantry and shortly with the 17th Native Infantry in 1798. As a result of the tension between the two armies, in 1797 the Calcutta Telegraph published a letter written by Lord Cornwallis outlining his plan to incorporate the East India Company’s units into the British military proper, thus subjecting them to the same regulations. Captain Williamson was displeased by this and responded with a strongly worded letter to the Telegraph attacking Cornwallis. Though he signed the letter “Mentor”, the origin of the letter was quickly discovered, and a trial promptly ensued. Found to be its author, Williamson was suspended of his duties with the East India Company outfit and sent back to England. Three years later, he was permitted to retire on half pay. Forced to find new ways to provide for his family, Williamson opened a music store and sold instruments, sheet music, drawing and prints. He wrote several books, one of which being Oriental Field Sports.


A Middle Tennessee estate, by descent from Thomas G.B. Wheelock. Note: Thomas G.B. Wheelock was known as an astute collector of African Art and co-author of the book "Land of the Flying Masks: Art & Culture in Burkina Faso" He also inherited a sizeable collection of Asian, British, and military related antiques from his grandparents, Gilded Age tycoon George Briggs Buchanan of New York, and William and Margaret Wheelock, who owned a Scottish manor home known as Bunker Hill. (Margaret Carmichael Wheelock was also a founding partner of the fashion firm Farquharson & Wheelock in New York).


Covers in worn condition with loss to leather, cracks, largest 3 1/2" to spine, corners bumped. Pages with toning/toning impression, acid burn, foxing spots, creases, tears, pencil inscriptions, etc. to be expected from age. Plates are collated. Plate I laid down onto page.