[N.p., likely London. ca. 1821]. Pen lithograph, printed on thick grey drawing paper, approximately 10 3/4 x 15 inches. Contemporary ink annotation at foot of sheet reading, "Rev'd. Mr. Rackett." Minor surface soiling to margins, a few tiny marginal repairs to verso. Very good. Untrimmed. Item #WRCAM56094
A substantial, attractive, and rare illustration depicting an American bison. This exceedingly rare print was produced by pen lithography, a form of early-19th century lithographic printmaking achieved by drawing with lithographic ink on a limestone block. The name in the lower right edge of the sheet, "Revd. Mr Rackett," indicates that the print was very likely made by the Reverend Thomas Rackett (1755-1840). An English clergyman antiquary, Rackett's interests ranged widely, including botany, mineralogy, music, numismatics, and art. He served as executor of the estate of David Garrick and his wife, Eva Marie Garrick, and was a fellow of the Royal Society, the Society of Antiquaries of London, and the Linnean Society. According to the DICTIONARY OF NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY, Rackett learned how to draw from one of the preeminent landscape painters in England at the time, Paul Sandby.
Though he served as the rector and lived at Spetisbury in Dorset for sixty years, Rackett spent much of his time in London. While in London, he pursued his antiquarian and scientific studies, and moved in the scientific and intellectual elite of his day. It was very likely in London where Rackett executed the present pen lithograph, and probably from an actual specimen. The date we suggest for this print, ca. 1821, coincides with an exhibition in London that year featuring an American bison, which took place at 287 Strand and was hosted by J.E. James. The animal was billed as "the Bonassus from the Appalachian Mountains of America." It is certainly feasible that Revered Rackett visited this exhibit, and produced the present pen lithograph.
We have not been able to locate another example of this rare print. Presumably it was produced privately by Rackett, and in small numbers, for distribution among his friends and fellow scientists.