These plates are two of a dozen plates originally offered by subscription and accompanied by text written by Colebrooke. Their peaceful appearance belies the context in which they were produced: according to scholar Mary A. Fevret, the intended audience was members of the military and the East India Company following “the successful conclusion of three years of intense fighting in the Third Mysore War, where Tipu Sultan Fath Ali Khan was forced to yield parts of the region and several forts, along with a large remuneration, to the East India Company.”
Robert Hyde Colebrooke was born to a distinguished and wealthy family, including his father, who served as a British diplomat; his uncle, a chairman of the East India Company; and his cousin and contemporary, Henry Thomas Colebrooke, a scholar and pioneer of Indian Studies. He went to India in 1778 as an officer of the Bengal Infantry. Over the next 30 years, he worked as a military surveyor in various parts of India, including Mysore, where he conducted surveys during the second Mysore War (1791-1792) under combat conditions. Colebrooke’s efforts there led to his promotion to the Surveyor General’s Office in Calcutta, eventually becoming Surveyor General. He integrated himself into Anglo-Indian society and never returned to England. He was known as a perceptive and meticulous observer and cartographer, and often illustrated his surveys with appealing and artistic drawings. Colebrooke died in 1808, while on a survey.
John William Edy was a Danish painter and engraver, who worked in London from about 1780 to 1820. Edy produced aquatint landscapes of Norway, Denmark, Switzerland and Ireland. He exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1785 and 1801-1802, and at the British Institution in 1807.
Mr. Thomson was a late 18th century print publisher operating from No. 22, Great Marylebone Street, London.
Full publication information: Sewandroog — Drawn on the spot by R.H. Colebrooke. London: Pub’d April 1, 1793, for the Proprietor, by Mr. Thomson, No. 22, Great Marylebone Street. Ootra Durgum — Drawn on the spot by R.H. Colebrooke. London: Pub’d July 1, 1793, for the Proprietor, by Mr. Thomson, No. 22, Great Marylebone Street.
Condition: Each generally very good, apparently professionally cleaned with some light remaining toning, wear, soft creases. Few short marginal tears, one extending slightly into image in sky, professionally restored and unobtrusive. Overall with bright colors and attractive. Now, in custom French mats with gilt wood frames.
Abbey, J.R. Travel in Aquatint and Lithograph 1770-1860. A.W. Fine Arts, 1991 (reprint of 1957 edition). 419.
Favret, Mary A. War at a Distance: Romanticism and the Making of Modern Wartime. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010. pp. 200-201. Online at Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=Do-VlJL01CIC&pg=PT483 (23 November 2011).
Maxted, Ian. “The London book trades 1775-1800: a checklist of members.” Exeter Working Papers in Book History. 20 June 2001. http://bookhistory.blogspot.com/2007/01/london-1775-1800-e.html and http://bookhistory.blogspot.com/2007/01/london-1775-1800-t.html (23 November 2011).
Weber, George, ed. “Robert Hyde Colebrook.” Andaman Association. 14 January 2001. http://www.andaman.org/BOOK/app-a/a-colebrooke.htm (23 November 2011).