- 'Oriental Memoirs: Selected and Abridged From A Series Of Family Letters Written During Seventeen Years Residence in India'. London: Printed for the Author, Published by White, Cochrane, and Co., 1813
- paper, ink, leather
4 volumes, 4to (29 1/2 x 9 1/4 in.; 299 x 235 mm). Half-titles, 92 (of 93) engraved or lithographed plates (93 plates are listed, but plate 80 was not, in fact, issued), many colored by hand, 4pp. "Directions to the Bookbinder" and errata leaf at end of vol. iv; uncolored plates somewhat spotted. Contemporary diced russia, covers with double gilt rules and bordered with gilt dentelles, spine with raised bands in six compartments, second and third gilt-lettered, others with elaborate repeat overall decoration in gilt, turn-ins gold ruled, marbled endpapers, all edges marbled; upper joint of vol. I expertly restored, joints staring, corners bumped. [With]: 'Illustrations to Oriental Memoirs'. London: Richard Bentley, 1835. 4to (12 3/5 x 9 3/4 in.; 315 x 247 mm). 83 engraved plates, 24 hand-colored; some foxing, primarily to black and white plates, one or two closed marginal tears, some offsetting. Original green cloth, paper labels to upper cover and spine; some fading, loss to spine label.
Oriental Memoirs: Robert Hurst Esq. M.P., Horsham Park, June 1824 (red morocco book label to front pastedown of each volume), thence by descent — Sotheby's London, 5 September 2006, lot 60
Abbey, 'Travel' 436; Anker 148; 'Fine Bird Books' 75; Nissen ZBI 1409; Sitwell 96; Wood 345
First edition of one of the most universally valued studies of the culture and natural history of eighteenth-century India
As a writer for the British East India Company, James Forbes first travelled to India in 1765, and remained there until 1784. Fascinated by Indian life, as well a the country's flora, fauna, and striking architecture, he reputedly filled 52,000 manuscript pages with his notes. In 1781 he visited the Taj Mahal, and would then become one of the first Europeans to draw it. After returning to England and marrying, Forbes toured continental Europe extensively, until he voyaged to England once more to write 'Oriental Memoirs'.