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Architecture at Ahmedabad, the capital of Goozerat. Published for the committee of architectural antiquities of western India under the patronage of Premchund Raichund.
Small folio (240 x 292 mm). XV, (1), 100 pp. With a finely wood-engraved view as frontispiece, 2 lithographed maps (one in green and black), 22 wood-engraved illustrations on the text leaves (2 full-page: 1 view and 1 floor-plan), the frontispiece, full-page view and 1 half-page view signed by the engraver James Davis Cooper, and 120 numbered original albumen prints (about 19 x 14 cm, many in landscape format with the foot toward the fore-edge) by Thomas Biggs, each mounted on a thick paper leaf with letterpress border, caption, plate number and sometimes an alpha-numeric code, all in red. Original publisher's richly gold-blocked green cloth (fine pebble grain) over bevelled boards, each board with the same view (of Meer Aboo Tooráb's tomb) in the centre surrounded by a wide decorative frame, the spine with the title in sans-serif capitals with architectural decoration above and below, headbands in yellow and green, gilt edges. Red endpapers.
A book intended primarily for the publication of 100 photographs of architecture, especially mosques, in the city of Ahmedabad and surrounding areas in Gujarat, commissioned by the British government of Bombay from Colonel Thomas Biggs (1822-1905). The photographs show interior and exterior views, including whole buildings (or occasionally groups of buildings) and details. Most show buildings still in use, but a few show ruins. Sometimes a person, always a native, in or beside the building, gives an idea of the scale (a smaller number include a scale). About two-thirds of the photos show 23 different mosques, identified as the mosques of Ahmed Shah, Hybut Khan, Syud Alum, Mulik Alum, Jumma, Ránee Seeprees, the Queen (in Mirzapoor), Seedee Syeed, Sirkhej, Kootub Shah, Syud Osmán, Mea Khan Chishtee, Seedee Busseer, Mooháfiz Khan, Achoot Beebee, the Queen (in Sárungpoor), Dustoor Khan, Shah Alum, Mahomed Ghous, Shápoor, Bábá Luluee, and two described as the ruined mosque at the railway station (in fact 2 standing minarets) and the mehrab of a ruined mosque. Other photos show tombs of the shahs and others, gates, palaces, wells, temples, city walls and more. Many of these buildings have been destroyed over the years, so the present photographs form an important historical record. The wood-engravings provide additional architectural views, including three signed by James Davis Cooper (1823-1904), famous for his architectural views (he executed the frontispiece so finely that it resembles a steel-engraving), as well as floor plans. Theodore Hope wrote the general history and description of Gujarat and James Fergusson, a fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, contributed the notes on the buildings.
Biggs joined the artillery corps in British India in 1842, learned photography while home on sick leave around 1850 and first worked as a photographer for the East India Company. He served as official photographer to the government of British India in 1855, taking some of the earliest photographs of India. Around 1860 the government commissioned him to photograph ancient architecture in Ahmedabad for the present book. In the 1850s and probably also for these photos in the 1860s, he used paper negatives. The expense of producing and mounting 100 large original albumen photographic prints for each copy would have made the book prohibitively expensive, but Premchund Raichund, a native of Gujarat and member of the Jain religious community, subsidized the production with a donation of 1000 pounds. The book does not indicate how many copies were produced, but the use of original albumen prints certainly would have limited it to a very small press run: it has been said that only 40 copies were produced.
The first photo has lost some detail, as is frequently the case with albumen prints, but most are sharp and have retained good contrast, particularly with the detail views of decoration, and the book is generally in very good condition. Some mounts spotted or soiled. From the library of the artist Robert Melville Grindlay (1786-1877), with his old ink stamp "Grindlay" to head of half-title and title and a few pencil annotations to text. Cpt. Grindlay is famous for his "Scenery, Costumes and Architecture chiefly on the Western Side of India" (1826-30) - a sumptuously produced album of aquatints inspired by the rich architecture and natural scenery of western India. He also, in 1828, founded "Grindlay's Bank", arguably the first important banking firm of the British Empire’s military expansions in Asia.
The finely gilt pictorial green cloth binding a little rubbed and recased with repairs to spine and corners.
A stunning set of 100 original albumen prints of Gujarat architecture, especially mosques, made ca. 1865, forming an important historical record and a fascinating view of Islamic architecture and decoration.
Gernsheim, Incunabula 332. Hannavy, Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography I, 157 (for the photographer Thomas Biggs 1822-1905).