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Antiquarian Books, Maps, Prints & Photography Antiquarian Books, Maps, Prints & Photography HENRY SALT
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THE GREAT TEMPLE AT TANJORE Aquatint hand colored by Robert Havell senior and John Bluck after Henry Salt, London, 1809. Double mounted, glazed and framed.
Henry Salt (1780–1827)
Salt and Valentia left Calcutta in December 1803 and sailed down the coast to Ceylon. From there, they journeyed through part of southern India in January and February 1804 before reaching Madras. On the way, they saw the temple at Rameswaram, which salt described as ‘one of the most sacred and most splendid in the east. It is built on the sea shore, at the extremity of the Peninsula of India, whence Rama is supposed to have embarked when he went to recover his wife, Seeta, from Rawan, the tyrant of Ceylon.’ When they reached Tanjore, Valentia noted that he, ‘being the first nobleman that ever visited Tanjore, the Rajah was much pleased with the idea of receiving me’. At the same time Valentia recorded his general impression of the southern regions:
‘In no part of India does the Hindoo religion preserve so much power as on the coast of Coromandel… In almost every village is a pagoda with its lofty gateways of massive, and not inelegant architecture…After breakfast we went to see the fort [of Tanjore]. It is a mile round, very strong, and in good repair…Within the small fort is the celebrated pagoda, the chief building of which is the finest specimen of the pyramidal temple in India. It has been drawn by Mr Daniell with some little embellishments. The Rajah was extremely anxious that I should not request to enter it. He said, if I did not insist on it, no one else could; of course I complied with his request, but went to the door to view the bull of black granite…’. Salt included the great Temple at Tanjore in one of the engravings in Twenty–four views and noted in his text: ‘The Pagoda of Tanjore, though it does not equal in extent the temple of Rama at Ramiseram, yet far surpasses it in elegance, and is greatly reverenced on account of a statue of a black bull… The whole is, as usual, surrounded by a high wall, within which the Mussulmauns [Muslims] and Christians are not permitted to enter.
Before reaching Madras in February 1804, Salt had already conceived the idea of publishing a set of 24 prints relating to his travels with Valentia, since the proposal for them had already appeared in the Madras Courier in late December 1803. They were to be dedicated to Marquess Wellesley. The advertisement also stated that, ‘Mr Salt being on the eve of his departure for England, will himself Superintend and Expedite the Publication of the Work, and will endeavour to render it as worthy as possible of the illustrious Patronage under which it is published. The Plates to be Engraved by the most eminent European Artists, and to be Coloured in imitation of the Original Drawings. As soon as Twelve Plates are completed, they will be delivered, optionally to subscribers. Either in India or Europe. Subscriptions will be received by Messrs. Fairlie, Gilmore & Co.–Messrs. Cockerell, Trail, Palmer & Co. and at the Bank of indostan Calcutta–and by Messrs. Harington, Burnaby and Cockburn Madras.