The Social Day: A Poem, in Four Cantos. Peter Coxe.
The Social Day: A Poem, in Four Cantos

The First Steel-Engraved Plate?, LARGE PAPER, WITH INDIA PROOFS

The Social Day: A Poem, in Four Cantos.

London: Printed by J.(ames) Moyes, Greville Street for James Carpenter & Son, Old Bond Street; and R. Ackermann, Strand, 1823.

First Edition, Large Paper copy. Engraved title, portrait, and 30 engraved plates with India proofs before letters tipped in. xvi, [16], 354, [4] pp. 1 vols. 4to (11 x 7-1/2 inches). The First Steel-Engraved Plate?, LARGE PAPER, WITH INDIA PROOFS. Bound in full purple morocco by Zaehnsdorf in an EXHIBITION BINDING with gilt stamp on back pastedown, original paper label tipped in at back, with price for Large Paper Copies stated as "£4. 4." and also marked "Subscriber's Copy." Open-faced purple morocco slipcase Hunnisett, Dictionary of British Steel Engravers, p. 138. Item #257755

The plate on page 288, “Silent the guest surveyed the crowd”, engraved by Charles Warren, the leading protagonist of steel-engraving at this time, is dated 1822, and has traditionally been considered to be the first steel-engraved book illustration. Basil Hunnisett, in Steel Engraved Book Illustrations in England, expresses doubts as to whether it actually was engraved on steel, suggesting that the first may be Warren's engraving of Adam and Eve for an 1822 edition of Paradise Lost. Whatever the case may be, Coxe's poem — a paean to the pleasures of rural pastimes, especially sporting amusements — is beautifully illustrated in this sumptous Ackermann production.
Berry and Poole, in Annals of Printing, dates the first steel engravings at 1823, but does not cite a specific book. The book has an illustration by Constable, one of the first artists lending their work to this new media.
A note at the front of the book and on the list of subscribers identifies this as Scottish artist David Wilkie’s copy. He painted the scene after which the plate at page 288 was engraved.

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