London: Geo. Lawford (and) John Murray, 1829, 1833. First volume is the second edition; second volume is the first edition. Hardcover. 2 volumes, contemporary half green morocco and marbled boards; octavos; viii, 272; liv, 241 pp. Illustrated with engraved frontispiece, 183 wood-engraved vignettes, and 100 wood engraved initials (first volume); 177 wood-engraved vignettes and 101 wood-engraved initials (second volume). Light wear to joints; evidence of bookplate removal to front pastedown in both volumes, old embossed stamp to title pages. Very good. Item #17518
James Northcote (1746-1831) was a prolific English painter and draftsman whose career was much advanced through his apprenticeship with Joshua Reynolds, for whom he worked for about 5 years, beginning in 1771. In his foreword to the first volume of Fables, Northcote states: "Although the original invention and designs for the prints at the head of each Fable are my own, yet they have been most excellently drawn on wood, and prepared for the Engravers, by Mr. William Harvey, one of the most distinguished artists in his profession . . ." William Harvey (1796-1866) was apprenticed at an early age to Thomas Bewick and helped him with the woodcuts for Bewick's "Aesop's Fables" (published in 1818). Reportedly, Northcote's technique for creating the vignettes involved clipping "figures of animals out of all kinds of books, papers, &c., and selecting such as fitted the fable to be embellished, pasted them down to paper in the required places, filling in backgrounds with his pencil. The designs thus made were freely interpreted by the engraver." (Bryan's Dictionary of Painters and Engravers." Harvey himself designed the initial letters and tailpieces. The index to illustrations at rear of each volume names the engravers who actually carved the blocks. Ray 56.