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The Seasons, By James Thomson. Illustrated With Engravings By F. Bartolozzi, R.A. And P. W. Tomkins, Historical Engravers to Their Majesties; From Original Pictures painted For The Work By W. Hamilton, R.A.

James Thomson

RA Collection: Book

Record number



Uniform Title

[Seasons., 1797.]


London:: Printed For P. W. Tomkins, New Bond-Street. The Letter-Press By T. Bensley. The Types By V. Figgins., MDCCXCVII.

Physical Description

[12], [1-2], [2], [3-52], [2], [53-130], [2], [133-190], [2], [193-]244 p., frontis. (port.), engr. dedic., [5] pl.: [15] illus.; 472 mm. (Folio).

General Note

Between the fly-title and text of each canto is a leaf containing a printed 'Argument' and an engraved vignette, not included in the sequence of the pagination. The list of 'The Engravings' includes 21 engravings, of which six are plates (incl. frontis.), the rest vignettes and head- or tail-pieces. Some copies of this work were printed in colour.


[Half-title, t.p., frontis. (port.), engr. dedic.] - Subscribers - The Engravings - [Text, with pl. and illus.: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, Hymn].

Responsibility Note

All plates and illustrations (except the vignette for the Argument of Spring) are signed as drawn or painted by W. Hamilton. All are also signed as engraved by P.W. Tomkins, apart from two plates and two illustrations signed as engraved by F. Bartolozzi, and the vignette for the Argument of Spring, which has no engraver's signature but which is assigned in the list of The Engravings to P.W. Tomkins.

The engraved dedication is signed as written by T. Tomkins and engraved by H. Ashby.

Each engraving except the dedication plate carries the publisher's imprint of P.W. Tomkins and the date.

The book is dedicated by Peltro Will.m Tomkins to the Queen (Charlotte).


Life in England in aquatint and lithography ... library of J.R. Abbey (1953/R1972, 1991), no. 252, p.216-7.

J. Sambrook, James Thomson: a life (1991); J. Barrell, The dark side of the landscape: the rural poor (1980; 2/1983); M. Rosenthal, British landscape painting (1982); Presences of nature: British landscape painting, 1780-1830 [exhibition catalogue] (New Haven, 1982); H. Hammelmann and T.S.R. Boase, Book illustration in 18th century England (1975); J.H. Hagstrum, The sister arts (1958); D. Grant, James Thomson (1951); U. Price, An essay on the picturesque (London, 1794); R.P. Knight: The landscape: a didactic poem (London, 1794); W. Gilpin, Observations on the River Wye (London, 1782).

On Vincent Figgins's types see Vincent Figgins type specimens 1801 and 1815, ed. B. Wolpe (1967); S. Jung, James Thomson's The Seasons: print culture, and visual interpretation 1730-1842. (2015).

Summary Note

Although the publication-date of 1797 is given on the title-page, nine engravings carry the date of 1798. All engravings (except the engraved dedication) carry dates - of 1793 (no month, Jan 30, May, May 1), 1794 (Apr 10, June 4), 1795 (Jan 1, June 1, July 1), 1798 (Feb 1, Apr 5, June 20, July 7, 18, 20, Sep 5).

The text had first been published in four parts - Winter (1726), Summer (1727), Spring (1728) and Autumn (1730) - the collected work being first published in 1730. The poem is a series of descriptions of rural Britain and reflections on the edifying influence of Nature. In 1766 Lessing declared it to be a better subject for landscape-artists than Nature itself; and among painters who responded to it were Richard Wilson, Turner and Constable. (See Wilson's 'Solitude', Glyn Vivian A.G., Swansea; Turner's Thomson's Aeolian harp (1809), Manchester C.A.G.)

In this edition Hamilton's six plates show: (Frontispiece) Seasons adoring Thomson, with medallions of Bartolozzi, Hamilton, Tomkins; (Spring) Parental affection; (Summer) Celadon and Amelia; Musidora; (Autumn) Lavinia and her mother; (Winter) Wolves.

His other engravings show: (Spring) Influence of Spring; Invocation; Virtuous love; (Summer) Fishing; Sheep-shearing; Monarch swain; (Autumn) Reaper's repose; Palemon's first sight of Lavinia; Woodman; (Winter) Skating; Goblin story; Winter of life; (Hymn) Angel striking the lyre; Shepherd's flute, virgin's lay; Reaper returning home. The list of The Engravings notes that the tail-piece of Winter includes a portrait of the centenarian shepherd, Richard Brown (1686-1795).

The plates are in stipple and line; a few copies were printed in colour. The book has also been admired for the fine typography of Bensley and Figgins.


A microfilm of this book was made for the British Library (Neg. PB.Mic.8734).


Presented by P.W. Tomkins; acknowledged 4 April 1800 (RAA Council Minutes III, 59). Listed in RAA Library, Catalogue, 1802.

Binding Note

Contemporary red morocco presentation binding, upper and lower covers with elaborate gilt borders; gilt-decorated spine, lettered 'Thomson's Seasons' and 'London 1797'. With the binder's ticket (oxidised) of Christian Samuel Kalthoeber on verso of front free-endpaper.


Seasons - Nature - Pastoral - Rural areas - Great Britain
English poetry - Great Britain - 18th century
Illustrated books - Pictorial works - Stipple engravings - Typography - Great Britain - 18th century


Images from this book

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