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The Camel, its Anatomy, Proportions and Paces

Featured Books
12 May 2018

*Pencil drawing courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Here he shows in affectionate detail the furry head of a young camel, with its long eyelashes which protect the eyes by keeping out the wind-blown sand.

Between 1863 and 1864, in a Bedouin encampment west of Cairo, the Victorian landscape artist Elijah Walton immersed himself in an intensive study of the Camel. The result was manifest in the Englishman’s landmark 1865 publication: The Camel, its Anatomy, Proportions and Paces. Published by Day & Son, the compilation featured a lithographed frontispiece and 96 plates (many hand coloured), with maroon cloth covers and gilt edges.

Through the flows and rhythms of mid-19th Century travel and trade, the publication made its way into the hands of Ram Singh II, the Maharaja of Jaipur whose Public Library opened in 1866. While the emotions are speculative, one can imagine that Ram Singh II (an artist himself working in photographic format) would have treasured the newly created treatise, given the importance of camels in Rajasthan’s culture and economy.

In March 2012, a first edition (inscribed by the author) of The Camel, its Anatomy, Proportions and Paces, was auctioned by Christies, garnering a selling price of Rs. 186,000, substantially more than the estimated selling price of Rs. 70,000.

Today, Walton’s masterpiece on the Camel is File No. 108, Account No. 7681 in the Rare Book Cupboard of the Maharaj Public Library.

A digitized version of the book is available courtesy the Universitatsbibliothek Heidelberg: http://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/walton1865/0001/thumbs

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Urbs Indis is an urban aerial photography studio and archival library founded by Mumbai based architect and artist Robert D Stephens (RMA Architects). Since 2007 he has been documenting urban India from 10,000 feet above sea level, in black and white as well as colour photography.

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