ROWLANDSON, Thomas. Miseries of Human Life: Designed and Etched by T. Rowlandson... London: R. Ackermann, 1808.
Oblong quarto (7 3/4 x 9 7/8 inches; 197 x 250 mm.). Hand colored engraved title-page and forty-nine hand colored engraved plates including the rare 'Pall Mall' plate which is missing from most copies. Seven of the plates watermarked
'J. Whatman 1811' and three watermarked 'J. Whatman 1812'. Some occasional light marginal staining, otherwise bright and fresh.
Full late nineteenth century maroon morocco by Rivière & Son (stamp-signed in gilt on front turn-in). Covers decoratively bordered in gilt with gilt corner-pieces, spine with five raised bands, decoratively tooled and lettered in gilt in compartments, gilt ruled board edges and decorative gilt turn-ins, dark blue coated endpapers, all edges gilt. With the armorial bookplate of William Morley Pegge on front paste-down. Lower part of front hinge very slightly cracked but absolutely sound.
"Plate 40 'Pall Mall' is rare, most copies re-placing this with 'The Chiropodist' (Abbey).
According to ABPC just one copy complete with all 51 plates has appeared at auction over the past 35 years (Christie's New York, May 14th, 1985)
"The Miseries of Human Life, [originally] written in 1806 by James Beresford (1764-1840) of Oxford University, was extraordinarily successful, becoming a minor classic in the satirical literature of the day. In a humorous dialogue between two old curmudgeons, the book details the "petty outrages, minor humiliations, and tiny discomforts that make up everyday human existence." The public loved it: dozens of editions were published, and printmakers rushed to illustrate their own versions of life's miseries.
Thomas Rowlandson (1756/57-1827) began drawing scenes based on Beresford's book as soon as it was published, and after two years the luxury print dealer Rudolph Ackermann selected fifty of his hand-colored etchings for a new edition of Miseries. Many of the now-iconic characters and situations that the artist drew for this project - some based closely on Beresford's text and others of his own invention-reappeared in later works, with variations on the Miseries turning up until the artist's death.
In the early twentieth century, Dickson Q. Brown, Class of 1895, donated two thousand Rowlandson prints and all of the artist's illustrated books to Princeton University Library. Of particular importance was a small box of Rowlandson's unpublished, undated drawings, including many specifically related to his Miseries series... Just as in Rowlandson's book, those specific to Beresford's text are shown alongside others that illustrate life's miseries more generally, including some from the Princeton University Art Museum's collection. The sections follow the chapters, or "groans," of Beresford's book." (Julie Mellby, Graphic Arts Curator, Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University).
William Morley Pegge (1952-1927) appears to have been a sportsman and a collector. He collected lace, books and drawings, and was a client of Messrs Dowdeswell and Dowdeswell. In 1910 he was a buyer at the sale of Sir William Neville Abdy's collection at Christie's, London. His own library was sold by Sotheby's, London, on 29 March 1928.
Grego, Rowlandson II, pp. 119-124; Abbey, Life in England, 317 (plates watermarked 1811 & 1814); Not in Tooley. (Inventory #: 04841)