Jan asked me to present some very rare books. At first, one must ask: why to do it? If a book is over than rare, it would be impossible for this blog’s readers to find it. So, what's the use to mention it, apart from showing off in the style: look what I proudly own when you will never get it! This is not my aim, and I already pointed out my position by adding an “almost” to this article’s title. In fact, apart from a single copy book, of course, there is always a hope to find some rarity. In addition, our friend collectors know that, in collecting, the most important thing is not to possess an even very rare book, but to keep searching for the next book, a hard to find item which one runs after for years and years. The real pleasure doesn’t come just with a “great shot”, but at a permanent hunting.
After these necessary forewords, I wish to show you a book that is really hard to find, as it is both old and was a limited edition. It is the very first theoretical study about caricature, ever published in France.
Although not numbered, this book is attested from several serious sources to have been published in 200 copies
This first French edition, published in 1802 (year 10 of the French revolutionary calendar), was preceded by two English editions, titled: Rules for Drawing Caricaturas: with an Essay on Comic Painting. The first one, in 1788, was illustrated by a frontispiece and four plates; the second one, in 1791, was illustrated by twenty one plates. There was also a German edition which had, like the French edition: a frontispiece and twenty eight plates (including six folded plates). Oddly in France, the author’s first name is printed: François, when it is really: Francis.
For the French Mint, Ronald Searle, who had some plates from the English second edition, designed a medal dedicated to Francis Grose and his book, in 1981.
In the French book, before the plates: a text in fifteen pages details Grose’s rules for drawing caricatures, then comes his essay about comic painting along seventeen pages, and nine pages contain the explanations, or subtitles of all the plates.
Francis Grose (1731-1791) is not only a caricatures’ theoretician, but also a regular practitioner (he drew most of this book illustrations). Since his youth, he is keen about antiquities and drawing and is taught in a Fine-Arts School.
Although the Captain Francis Grose military career was not long, he was proud of his grade and uses it for all his life long, when his main features are to be an artist and an active scholar.
He publishes ten volumes of Antiquities of England and Wales, two volumes of Antiquities of Scotland, a Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue: A dictionary of buckish slang, university wit, and pickpocket eloquence, and a Guide to Health, Beauty, Riches and Honour. Grose is in Ireland to prepare a book about its antiquities, when the obese he is since decades, suddenly died of an apoplectic seizure. With humour, Ronal Searle said about him: “It seems he is a top rated archeologist among the ones who published as much books’ weight as their own weight”.