Catalogue Review: Color-Plate<br>Books from Heritage Book Shop
By Mike Stillman
It’s not very often that a catalogue comes along about which very little can be said. After all, books are themselves filled with words. So, here’s a catalogue that leaves me speechless. It comes from the Heritage Book Shop in Los Angeles, and the title is “A Selection of Fine Color-Plate Books.” And that’s why it is so hard to write about. It is their images, not words, that make them noteworthy.
Color-plate books are, naturally, those distinguished by their color plates. Color images may not be very special today, but back in the days before photography and modern printing methods, color images were special indeed. Often, hand-coloring was needed to reproduce the images in color. This, obviously, was a costly process, and these books are quite valuable today. Heritage is offering a small (18 items in all) collection of fine color-plate books from the first half of the 19th century.
An example of what is available here is item 2, Involuntary Thoughts, illustrated by Henry Alken. Alken was a sportsman and hunter, and his illustrations of these scenes are very well-known. Posters of his drawings of horse racing and hunting are still popular today. Involuntary Thoughts includes eight hand-colored plates containing twenty-nine humorous scenes. Priced at $1,500.
Henry Monnier was a popular French illustrator of the 19th century. Heritage offers two of his works. Item 11, Moeurs Adminstratives, from 1828, remains timely today. In it, Monnier, once an employee of the Ministry of Justice, shows government officials hard at work on an hour-by-hour basis. As Heritage describes these drawings, “His principle themes are the inactivity of the staff, their lack of individual character, and their entire submission to superior authority.” Fortunately, such behavior no longer exists today. $2,250. Item 12 is another Monnier work. Entitled Recreations, from 1826, it depicts scenes from his visits to England. $2,750.
The Theatric Tourist will attract the attention of anyone interested in British theater at the beginning of the 19th century. This is a collection of 24 hand-colored plates of various English theaters of the time. The illustrator is James Winston. Item 18. $8,500.