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Botanical, Art, Asian, India, Forbes Oriental Memoirs, Antique Prints, London, 1830s


James Forbes (1749-1819) (after)
William Hooker (1779-1832) (artist and engraver)
Blue Banana Bird at Rio de Janeiro on a sprig of the Guava Tree (1765) Sold
Humming Birds at the Brasils with nest on the Orange Tree (1765)
The Sahras or Demoiselle of Guzerat, from four to six feet in height (1779)
Spotted Kingfisher and singular frog on coast of Malabar (1784) Sold
The Mahwhaw Tree of Guzerat (Bhaderpoor 1782) Sold
Blue Locust and Faggot Caterpillar in Guzerat (1779)
Skeleton Mantis and Oil Plant of Guzerat (1782)
Mazagon Mango of Bombay and Papilio Bolina (1768) Sold
Blue Lizard and Neva Tree (Dazagon 1772) Sold
Green Pigeon and Cur Champhah of the Concan (Victoria 1771) Sold
from Oriental Memoirs
Richard Bentley, London: c. 1835-39
Hand-colored aquatints
Paper watermarked: J. WHATMAN TURKEY MILL 1832
12.5 x 9.25 inches each
$550 each

Group of prints after drawings by James Forbes, from Oriental Memoirs, an important early British account of the peoples and natural history of India that also included observations on parts of Africa and South America. Forbes’ drawings were translated into engravings to illustrate his vivid descriptions of his travels, first published in four volumes beginning in 1813, almost 30 years after his return from India. A second edition was published by Richard Bentley in 1834 (and again in 1835), with a separate quarto atlas containing 24 colored prints. The engravings, in the Anglo-Indian taste, present a series of inventive compositions incorporating plants, birds, insects, and exotic animals such as brightly-hued lizards and frogs. Travel works such as this one were highly popular in Britain as the expansion of the British Empire fueled a curiosity about these faraway and exotic cultures and landscapes.

Product Description Continues Below


James Forbes was born in London to a Scotch Protestant family. In 1765, he first traveled to Bombay as a writer for the East India Company, and spent most of the years until 1784 in residence there. He filled 52,000 manuscript pages with notes on all aspects of Indian life and culture, including descriptions of wildlife and personal encounters with the people. After returning to England, he married and thereafter traveled extensively on the European continent. His life in India later formed the basis of the four-volume Oriental Memoirs, described in its subtitle as “selected and abridged from a series of familiar letters written during seventeen years residence in India: including observations on parts of Africa and South America, and a narrative of occurrences in four India voyages.” This work remains a valued document of the natural history and culture of late 18th century India, by both Western and Indian scholars. Forbes also published a work in 1810 advocating the conversion of the Hindus to Christianity.

William Hooker was a British botanical artist, particularly esteemed for his depictions of fruit and foliage. After studying botanical illustration with Francis Bauer, he co-published the botanical periodical Paradisus Londinensis with R.A. Salisbury from 1805 to 1808. Hooker engraved the drawings of James Forbes for Oriental Memoirs (1813-15). He served as the official artist to the Horticultural Society of London from 1812 to 1820 and regularly illustrated their Transactions. His innovations in botanical painting led to the naming of the color Hooker’s green, a dark green color created by mixing Prussian blue and gamboge. Contrary to popular assumptions, he was not related to his contemporary Sir William Jackson Hooker, a famous botanist who was director of Kew Gardens.

Full publication information: Richard Bentley, New Burlington Street, London.

Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning, wear, scattered soft creases and faint soiling. Many of the prints from this offered set bear the watermark “J. WHATMAN TURKEY MILL 1832.”


Blunt, Wilfred, rev. by Stearn, William T. The Art of Botanical Illustration. Woodbridge, Suffolk, England: Antique Collectors Club, 1994. p. 233.

Goyau, Georges. “Comte de Montalembert.” The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 10.
Robert Appleton Company: 1911. Online ed. 2003 by K. Knight. (4 April 2005).

Maxted, Ian. Maxted, Ian. “The London book trades 1775-1800: a preliminary checklist of members.” Exeter Working Papers in British Book Trade History. U.K.: Devon Library and Information Services. 20 June 2001. (4 April 2005).

“Travel and Exploration.” McGillUniversity Archives.,%20JAMES (4 April 2005).

Additional information


19th Century