Title: A Sketcher's Tour Round the World. [Extra Illustrated with four unpublished author's original sketches]
Publisher: London: Hurst and Blackett.
Publication Date: 1854
Book Condition: Very Good
Edition: 1st Editionxii, 411 printed pages (slight age-toning and somedges very slightly smoke darkened), 22 pages publisher's adverts at back. Frontispiece & 20 tinted lithographic plates (including 3 of Hawaii). Extra illustrated with 4 original initialled pen and ink sketches by Robert Elwes (1819-78) bound in (Brazilian jungle, Kilauea -Hawaii, Manilla and Shanghai junks). All edges gilt. Some sporadic foxing. Title page, preliminaries and some plates slightly thumbed. 17 x 24.5 cm. Rebound in contemporary style half calf with raised bands, black morocco gilt lettered label & gilt tooling. 17 x 24.5 cm. Rebound in contemporary style half calf with raised bands, black morocco gilt lettered label & gilt tooling. Elwes, aged 28, left England on 20 March 1848 on board Eclipse on a voyage around the world that took two years and three months, on 10 different ships, sketching many scenes on his way. He arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from Tenerife in 30 days. He explored Brazil then sailed to Buenos Aires, Argentina. He crossed 1,000 mile Pampas on horseback, crossing the Andes by mule & up the Pacific coast to Lima. He sailed across the Pacific to Honolulu and Tahiti & was shipwrecked off Tasmania in September 1849. Rescued by sealers & taken to Hobart with a cargo of 500 sheep, he then travelled overland across Tasmania to Launceston where he sailed (nervously) for Australia. He continued his voyage, visiting & painting in Manila, Hong Kong, Canton & Shanghai & started for home on 1 April 1850. His journey took him to Singapore, Penang, Bombay, Aden, Red Sea and Suez, where he travelled overland to Cairo (Suez Canal not built until 1859) in a horse-drawn "van" carrying 6 passengers. He sailed home from Alexandria via Malta, Sicily, Naples & Genoa. From Genoa he went by "poste" to Milan & then by steamer down the Rhine via Rotterdam to London where he arrived on 20 June 1850. In the preface of his West Indies volume Elwes explains his intention as informative, "The lithographs have been done entirely by myself and I hope they will give some idea of the beauty of the scenery". Their accuracy and detail, together with strength of tonal observation, give them a satisfying quality. At their best these are fine, sensitive evocations of exotic scenes he encountered abroad, from Brazilian river bank, to the steaming Hawaiian volcano, or quarelling Manillans at their straw huts to the roiling Shanghai sea. Robert Elwes seldom signed his pictures; he used his cipher "RE" with the R inverted as his signature on sketches & "R E" is how he was affectionately referred to by his family. Congham House in Norfolk was built in 1858 for Elwes but it burnt down in 1939 & some of Elwes' work and records were lost; this book may have been rescued from the burning building. The fire meant the loss of valuable material, but surviving sketches, paintings and journals of Robert Elwes exist & provide an insight into the life of this Victorian adventurer artist (exhibited BI 1861 & RBA 1872), exceptional not only for the extent of his travels, but also for the meticulousness of his artistic and literary records.
A copy in a private collection contains the printed text of the manuscript but remarkably, the monochrome wash illustrations are hand painted by Elwes. The book bears a handwritten inscription ‘Mary F Elwes from her affect. husband Robert Elwes Jan 25 1878’, dated after Robert Elwes became ill at Congham, his Norfolk home. On 28th January 1878 , their youngest daughter Violet noted in her diary: “Papa much worse”. Less than three months later, Robert Elwes died on 17th April aged 58. This item for sale here is not dissimilar but contains on-the-spot sketches bound in. The covers and endpapers were destroyed, hence the lack of inscription and the new binding. The original sketch of crater "Kiruea" made in 1849 by Elwes, who arrived in Hawaii May 22nd on the frigate "H.M.S. Amphitrite" and departed July 9th on the "Caroline", is one of the oldest surviving original first-hand eye-witness images of Kilauea that exists. Earlier original images include a painting by Titian Peale, zoologist on U.S. Exploring Expedition 1838-1842, Volcano of KalueaKaluea Pele from side of Mauna Loa, looking S.E., November 21st 1840. James Dwight Dana, geologist on same expedition led by Lt. Charles Wilkes, also drew a view from the western end of Streaming Bluff, Kilauea Iki crater. Ferguson 9427. Abbey Travel 9. Forbes 1982; Sabin 22372. Seller Inventory # 5127