1835 James Forbes "Oriental Memoirs"

Value (2008) | $5,000 Retail

I bought it from an estate sale in Pasadena about 35 years ago, and this is James Forbes' book that we bought at the auction.


I think I paid $150 or $200 for it.

Well, as you can see from the title, it's illustrations to the Oriental Memoirs of James Forbes. Now, James Forbes joined the East India Company in 1765 and went to India. While he was in India, for the next... basically 30 years, he produced over 52,000 pages of manuscript notes on the life and the wildlife and the flora and fauna of Indian lifestyles. And what's particularly famous about the book are its illustrations of the wildlife in India at the time. And I'm going to show you a couple of the plates, beautifully engraved and beautifully hand-colored. There's a certain charm to the plates in that they're not exact depictions. They're as much artistic as realistic. Here's one where you can really see the coloring. You can see almost how it reflects in the light. That's a very beautifully done job of hand coloring of this depiction of one of the plants that he would have seen in India. And here's one of my favorites. It depicts a bird and a frog. This is a kingfisher, which, of course, is a very famous bird in India, and also a singular frog, off the coast of Malibar. And you can see that his depictions are a little bit fanciful, and that's one of the reasons that the books are so sought after. You also brought the text volume. Now, it's a little bit unusual, actually, to be able to find the text volumes and the atlas volumes together. A lot of times they were separated.


And even though the book is very famous for the color illustrations and the engravings inside, it's the memoirs, the text volumes, that record most of his observations on Indian life. He was actually one of the first Englishmen to depict the Taj Mahal, so these are his travels throughout India. And this is one of the best descriptions of 18th-century India that we have today. Now, you said you paid $150, $200?


Well, today, I would estimate, for all three volumes-- the text and this lovely colorplate atlas volume-- in this sort of condition, retail it should easily be $5,000.


So that's a good investment.

That's a great investment.

It's one of my favorite colorplate books, and I thank you very much for bringing it.

Well, thank you.

Appraisal Details

New York, NY
Appraised value (2008)
$5,000 Retail
Palm Springs, CA (June 07, 2008)

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