Vip In Jain and some lovely 19th c. scraps for sale
February 5, 2013 § 1 Comment
Vip’s shop is about 10′ but also world’s away from where I’m sitting at the moment (at Flipside café). Vip is my local used books purveyor, who today sold me two 19th century engravings one engraved by W. Miller after a drawing by W. Purser and one engraved by G. Hamilton after a drawing by T. Boys. (O… I know you’re the only one who reads this blog, so I’m going to ruin my surprise for you). The engravings are of the Nizamuddin area—illustrations of South Delhi long before it was densely inhabited. I had a long and very informative conversation with my new friend Vip, whose store is choc brimful with plates salvaged from tattered books, pages of the Illustrated London News, botanical plates and engravings of the mutiny. Lining the walls are cases with far more precious in tact specimens.
I was looking for a reproduction of the Jeypore Portfolio of Architectural Details, which he said was extremely difficult to come by. I did see one volume of the six volume set on display in the window at the antique shop just a couple doors down from where we live. Vip said that a first edition would cost me about $12,000 US, and the reproductions would be crappy. He wasn’t trying to sell it to me, just warning me what it would cost, since he didn’t have a copy. Vip suggested that I might enjoy a reproduction of the richly illustrated Golden Calm: An English Lady’s Life in Mughal Delhi. After some quick internet research I found out that this was the only publication in which the illustrations from Sir Thomas Theophilus Metcalfe’s Reminiscences from Imperial Delhi otherwise known as the “The Delhi Book” were reproduced. It seems that Metcalfe’s daughter, Emily Annie Theophila Metcalfe (don’t you love these names??) added her own reminiscences to Sir Thomas’ illustrated folio of life in Imperial Delhi—the artwork of which was executed by artists of the Mughal court. Below is a page from the original folio, held in the British Library.
Another reproduction I was looking for was Lieutenant Colonel Charles Ramus Forrest’s A Picturesque Tour along the Rivers Ganges and Jumna, from 1824. He did a wonderful watercolor of the Qutb area that I would love to have an engraving of—and Vip tells me that engravings were produced of all of his watercolors. Christie’s sold some of the original watercolors (of Patna and Benares) from this lot for around $2000 each. Below is the image of Benares. An aquatint of plate 22 of the Qutb, transliterated as “Cuttub” is in the British Library’s collection.
Anyway, the reason I was really interested in this particular image is that it really captures the spirit of the English landscape (per my entry below), though I’m sure many of the English artists travelling through India (William Daniell, et. al.) also captured India in a similar light, though I have yet to find this particular view of the Qutb. I have to figure out what ruins are illustrated in the foreground and background.
Back to my conversation with Vip. Vip, who grew up in Gurgaon was telling me that all of South Delhi was ruins up until the 1960s, and that when he was living in Gurgaon it was just a village. He told me that in the 80s Gurgaon was connected to Delhi only by a 6 meter wide road where there was barely a car seen during the daytime. It is an absolute delight to be able to talk to shop owners like Vip, who really just want to sit and talk about their inventory all day long. I promised Vip that I would be back, so I will no doubt be writing more about him in future entries. It is really moments like these that I’m glad I get to spend some extended time here in Delhi, where it seems historical delights never cease.
And this just in… apparently Romita Ray (at Syracuse) just published (literally just… it was released on January 28 of this year)… a book linking the English picturesque to the Indian landscape… From the amazon site… “Under the Banyan Tree is the first comprehensive study of the evolution and flourishing of the picturesque during the British Raj. Romita Ray argues that this concept allowed British artists and writers traveling in India to aestheticize the Indian landscape, its people, and the biota (the banyan tree and the elephant, above all). These ideas not only shaped specific landscapes in India, but also fed the imagination of a global audience throughout the British empire.” Hmmm.