Cheshire, Ct. Shelton & Kensett, 1814. Four handcolored engravings, each 14 x 10 1/4 inches. Trimmed very close to plate marks. A few small marginal chips and tears at edges, slightly affecting captions and just entering into one image, several very minor scattered pinholes. Remnants of previous mounting on blank versos. Pronounced patches of dampstaining to one engraving. Browned and spotted, particularly at lower margin. Good. Matted and framed. Item #WRCAM52949
An exceedingly rare complete set of engravings by pioneering American engraver Amos Doolittle. Beginning with his depictions of the early battles of the Revolution at Lexington and Concord, in which he was an active participant, Doolittle fashioned a long career as an engraver in Connecticut, which lasted until his death in 1832.
This set of four engravings plots the Bible parable of the Prodigal Son, showing a young wastrel receiving his inheritance from his father ("The Prodigal Son Receiving the Patrimony"), his squandering of the money ("The Prodigal Son Revelling with Harlots"), his destitution ("The Prodigal Son in Misery"), and finally his plea to his father for forgiveness ("The Prodigal Son Returned to His Father"). The plates were fashioned not only for the purpose of depicting religious allegory but also against the backdrop of the War of 1812 and the New England secession plot at the Hartford Convention. "The demoralizing influence - politically, socially, and more important, economically - of the War of 1812 is well documented. New Englanders were so obsessively against 'Mr. Madison's War' that they met in Hartford to consider sedition....The timing may have been coincidental, but it was during this period that Doolittle issued a message of hope to bolster the morale of his countrymen" - O'Brien.
"In the course of his lengthy career as an engraver, Doolittle had illustrated several religious works and Bibles. The PRODIGAL SON series is, however, his major independent production in that field. It is remarkable that Doolittle dressed his figures in contemporary dress and placed them in a setting of familiar New England landscapes and buildings. The scene of revelry, possibly derived from similar designs by Hogarth, is rather stilted and unconvincing, but the other scenes that appealed more directly to the Puritan morality are presented with utter sincerity and resultant effectiveness" - Shadwell. An important group of engravings from one of the first engravers of the United States, almost never encountered as a complete set. SHADWELL 110, 111, 112, 113. STAUFFER 539, 540, 541. FIELDING 391. Donald C. O'Brien, AMOS DOOLITTLE: ENGRAVER OF THE REPUBLIC (New Castle: Oak Knoll, 2008), p.79.