The Costume of Hindostan, elucidated by sixty coloured engravings; with descriptions in English and French, taken in the years 1798 and 1799. By Balt. Solvyns, of Calcutta.

London, W. Bulmer and Co. for Edward Orme, 1804 [–1805].

Folio, pp. [132], with 60 hand-coloured engraved plates (4 soft-ground etchings, the remainder stipple and line, dated January 1804 to January 1805); text in English and French, paper watermarked ‘J. Ruse 1800’, ‘1801 J. Whatman’, and ‘E. & P. 1802’; occasional light spotting, a few marks, some offsetting from plates, small chip at foot of plate 32 text leaf, marginal marks to plate 43 and facing page, upper corners a little bumped; overall very good in contemporary red straight-grained morocco, gilt Greek key and foliate border to covers, spine in compartments lettered and richly decorated in gilt, gilt edges, marbled endpapers; small loss at foot of spine, some wear to joints and edges, corners bumped and worn, some abrasions to covers, hinges reinforced.


US $5843€5351

Add to basket Make an enquiry

Added to your basket:
The Costume of Hindostan, elucidated by sixty coloured engravings; with descriptions in English and French, taken in the years 1798 and 1799. By Balt. Solvyns, of Calcutta.

Checkout now

First edition in book form (originally issued in parts) of this superb record of the people of Bengal by the Flemish painter and ethnographer Solvyns (1760–1824), issued by the engraver and publisher Edward Orme (1775–1848).

Originally a marine painter, Solvyns left Europe to seek his fortune in India, residing in Calcutta from 1791 to 1804. He is best known for his commercially unsuccessful A collection of two hundred and fifty coloured etchings descriptive of the manners, customs and dresses of the Hindoos, published in Calcutta in 1799 in twelve parts. Edward Orme – ‘after Rudolph Ackermann, the most important publisher of illustrated books during the short golden age of the coloured aquatint’ (ODNB) – had his brother William make watercolour copies from Solvyns originals, upon which the engravings for The costume of Hindostan are based. ‘These copies are much better drawn than Solvyn’s originals’, and the plates here ‘are correspondingly an improvement on Solvyn’s etchings’ (Abbey).

The plates depict various musicians and soldiers, as well as, for example, a Brahmin, astrologer, weaver, porter, fisherman, hog-keeper, bird-catcher, hookah purveyor, barber, dancer, and a ‘woman of distinction’. The preface hopes that the work will contribute to ‘abolishing the extremes of prepossession as well as of prejudice, that have prevailed for ages relative to these people’. A second edition was published in 1807.

For the 1807 edition, see Abbey, Travel 429.

You may also be interested in...


An Embassy from the East-India Company of the United Provinces, to the Grand Tartar Cham emperour of China, delivered by their Excellies Peter de Goyer, and Jacob de Keyzer, at his imperial city of Peking. Wherein the cities, towns, villages, ports, rivers, &c. in their passages from Canton to Peking, are ingeniously described by Mr. John Nieuhoff, steward to the ambassadours … With an appendix of several remarks taken out of Father Athanasius Kircher …

First English edition, beautifully illustrated, recounting the Dutch traveller Jan Nieuhof’s journey as part of Peter de Goyer and Jacob de Keizer’s embassy to Peking between 1655 and 1657. Having previously been employed by the Dutch West India Company in Brazil, Nieuhof joined the Dutch East India Company (or ‘VOC’) in 1650 and was stationed for a number of years in Batavia (Jakarta), where he was eventually appointed steward of the embassy in 1654. The following year Nieuhof served on one of the embassies sent by the VOC to Peking (Beijing) with the intention of convincing the Qing emperor to open up trade relations on the south coast following the VOC’s failed attempt to end the Portuguese monopoly on trade to Macao. Leaving Canton (Guangzhou), the embassy travelled northwards through Jiangxsi, Anhui, Jiangsu, and Hebei provinces, reaching Peking in July 1656 before embarking upon their return trip in October of the same year: in total, the journey stretched over 2400 kilometres, and although the party was unable to discuss trade arrangements with the emperor, they did gain permission to visit the court every eight years. 

Read more