RAFFLES, Thomas Stamford.
The History of Java.
London, Black, Parbury, Allen and Murray, 1817.
Two volumes, quarto, large folding map hand-coloured in outline, 66 plates including ten coloured aquatints by William Daniell, nine half-page views in the text as well as several tables, some light scattered foxing as common; an excellent set in contemporary sprinkled calf, spines neatly rebacked with the original spines laid down, double labels, banded in gilt.
First edition, the large paper issue.
This classic history of Java was written by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (1781-1826), the English colonial administrator and founder of modern Singapore. Raffles was one of the central figures of British influence in Asia, and early made a study of the history and culture of the Malay peninsula. He was part of the force that subdued the Dutch-French forces in Java in 1811, and the same year was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of the region. He made sweeping reforms which proved short-lived, but also used his time to work on this great history of the region, long considered definitive. Howgego has noted that for 'almost five years Raffles governed the island with considerable success, improving its commerce by the abolition of earlier trading practices and embargoes, and regarding it as the possible "centre of an Eastern insular Empire".'
Raffles returned to England in 1816 where he prepared this work for publication. This large paper edition was published in an edition of just 250 copies, and is well-known for the high quality of the images, printed on fine paper. The text of the large-paper edition has the watermark "W. Balston & Co., 1815", as here. There was also an edition on ordinary paper of 650 copies.
The book covers a wide range of subjects including anthropology, natural history, and language. The plates are of great beauty and interest, notably the ten fine coloured aquatints by William Daniell which depict Javanese scenes in great detail. Other plates illustrate cultural, religious and daily life in Java, the majority in the medium of soft-ground etching with aquatint: these images are after drawings by Captain Godfrey P. Baker and the Dutch surveyor and engineer H.C. Cornelis, who with J.W.B. Wardenaar supplied Raffles with other drawings of Javanese antiquities.
Abbey, 'Travel', 554; Tooley, 391.