The 1813 4th edition, with new plates. coloured frontispiece (with tissue paper), vignette title and 29 hand coloured plates (there is a tear on the plate opp. p. 150 - see photo 7) after Rowlandson. A very attractive copy in contemporary calf (with some peeling at edges), with contrasting leather title label, and split to front joint. Otherwise tightly bound. Internally: occasional brown spots but generally clean and bright. Fine marbled endpapers and edges.
This is NOT a modern reprint or ex-library.
William Combe’s The Tour of Doctor Syntax in search of the picturesque was begun in 1809 and published in book form in 1812. Together with the accompanying aquatints by Thomas Rowlandson that inspired the poem, it satirises the aesthetic ideals lying behind the picturesque and its frequently pompous followers. The poem tells how Dr Syntax, a curate, sets off in search of the ideal picturesque landscape only to be continually thwarted by bathetic and farcical inconveniences. During the course of the poem the unfortunate Dr Syntax stumbles into a lake while attempting to reach the perfect location from which to sketch a suitably ruined castle, is chased by a bull and driven to distraction by the incessant bleating of sheep.
The aesthetic concept of the picturesque had evolved in late 18th-century Britain. It favoured the rough, varied and irregular forms of nature over the more rationalist Enlightenment ideas of aestheticism, taking much of its inspiration from the work of 17th-century landscape painters such as Salvator Rosa and Claude Lorrain. Its popularity, however, owed a great deal to a series of essays by the artist William Gilpin who transplanted the ideal of the picturesque from the Romantic paintings of European artists and applied it to the landscapes of Britain. Ironically, while the picturesque emulated organic and natural forms it prescribed a landscape adapted and altered by human intervention. In a much-quoted passage Gilpin commented, without humour, that ‘a mallet judiciously used’ would considerably improve the picturesque qualities of the insufficiently ruined gable of Tintern Abbey. This pursuit of the picturesque, even at the expense of common sense, made it a ripe target for satirists.