Habitants de l'Inde dessinés d'après Nature par le Prince Alexis Soltykoff, lithographiés à deux teintes par J. Trayer.

Author: Soltykoff, Le Prince Alexis
Year: 1853
Edition: First edition
Publisher: Paris; H. Gache
Category: Asia West & South
Price: € 15,000.-

Paris: Félix Malteste et Cie for H. Gache, [n.d. but 1853]. The plates printed by Plista.

Modern cloth over paper covered boards, the upper board covered with the lithographed title page with a vignette depicting a group of people in a garden, folio, 523 x 353 mm; 42 duo-tone lithographs, each accompanied by one leaf of descriptive letterpress and preceded by the list of plates. Some very minor foxing throughout.

The covers carefully restored and rebacked with a new spine, ruled in blind, matching the one of the copy in the British Library, but with a different colour resembling the colour of the original cloth {1}. The text in gilt, placed in the second compartment of the spine, reads:

      Saltuikov  /  Habitants  /  de  /  l'Inde

A fine work with expertly lithographed portraits. It was Soltykoff's wealth that enabled him to have these lithographs executed exceptionally fine. They were produced after the drawings he made during his two travels in India from 1841–43 and from 1844–46.

Amongst the people depicted are the women of Bombay, servants, fakirs (Muslim ascetics), Paharis (indigenous people) of the Himalaya, dancers, masalchis (torch bearers), bhisti (water bearer), but also members of the nobility like the young King of Gwalior or the wife and daughter of the Rajah of Coorg.

One of the rarest books on India with only 8 copies in institutional libraries worldwide {2} and with only 4 copies appearing at auction since 1966, the last one being the copy auctioned by Bloomsbury Auctions in May 2007 {3}.

Here below photographs of 12 of the 42 exquisite plates with the index nr. as per the list of plates and their captions:

  3  Rodias
  4  Femmes de Bombay
  7  Fille du Radja de Kourg {4}
10  Zemindar
11  Todha
16  Porteur
24  Massaltchis
26  Massaltchi {5}
32  Paharis de l'Himalaya
36  Fakirs
37  Le Roi de Gwalior {6}
41  Appa - Bholiah - Marhatta - Sardar

Because of the exquisitely drawn and lithographed portraits one of the most important and beautiful 19th century books on India.

{1} Justification for the way of the restoration:
The spine is a reproduction of the spine of the copy in the British Library. The BL copy has a red leather spine, this copy has a dark cloth spine. The reasons are that the red colour of the spine of the BL copy would be an entire mismatch with the darkened boards of this copy. Another reason is that the few copies that appeared on auction since 1966 all have a cloth spine, not a leather spine. Hence the choice for the material of the spine: cloth.
The titles to the spine of course match the copy of the BL and read:


With, near the tail of the spine, the name of the city of publication: Paris

The boards were in a desastrous state. All the original material of the front board has been preserved meticulously, while matching paper from the partly damaged back board has been used to fill the empty spaces of the front board where the original paper had disappeared. On the back board paper, matching in colour, has been laid down on the damaged part to make the whole presentable again.
The very lower part of the front board was knicked and both upper and lower outer corners of the front board were kept in place only by the pastedown paper. These corners have been strengthened as well as the edges of both boards, so that the whole is firm again.

{2} Bibliothèque national de France
    Bibliothèque Cantonale et Universitaire - Lausanne
    British Library
    John Rylands Library - University of Manchester
    Bodleian Library (Old Library) - University of Oxford
    Frick Art Reference Library
    New York Public Library
    Rare Book & Manuscript Library - University of Pennsylvania

{3} Record in ABPC (price excluding buyer's premium and with the title misspelled by Bloomsbury) reads:
    Soltykoff, Alexis, Prince - Habitans de l'Inde. - Paris: H. Gache, [1853] - 1st Ed - Folio, - orig cloth-
    backed ptd bds - worn, joints split - With 42 tinted litho plates. - Foxed - Bloomsbury, May 10, 2007, lot
    194, £11,000 ($21,826)

Pincess Gangamma

{5} Le prince Soltykoff a écrit dans le texte que ce garçon était un hindoustani de Miroute qu'il s'appellait Ingan-Khan.

{6} Jayaji Rao Sindhia, Maharaja of Gwalior

Click on a picture to enlarge.