Curry & Rice (on Forty Plates) or The Ingredients of Social Life at "Our” Station in India - Capt. Geo. F. Atkinson 1858 - Day & Son, London - First Edition A bright sharp first edition of this magnificently illustrated satire on the British way of life in India with 40 amusing tinted lithograph plates by Atkinson, including additional illustrated title page, all with original tissue guards.

Atkinson served with the Bengal Engineers between 1840 and 1859. Written immediately following the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857, the work describes a fictional Indian village called Kabob. Included in the narrative are forty full-page tinted lithographs of daily life around the village, which he illustrated himself. Atkinson caricatured colonial officials in a humorous way, presenting brief vignettes of different fictional British characters residing in the village. He was inspired by Sir Charles Doyley’s depictions of Britishers in India, but he took a more critical approach to interpreting the relationships between the British and their colonial subjects. Native Indians were seen as treacherous and unchangeable following the Sepoy Rebellion; British colonialists distanced themselves from their subjects and exaggerated their social values in an effort to preserve their “Britishness” within the foreign space of India. The work enjoyed a long period of popularity among the British following Atkinson’s early death, in part because of the satirical nature of the work, but also because it presented a discerning view of colonial life in India.’ - Sara Miller McCune Collection, UC Santa Barbara
  Royal Museums Greenwich - Caird Library Collection
Curry and Rice (on Forty Plates), or the Ingredients of Social Life at 'Our' Station in India by Captain George Francklin Atkinson was first published in 1859, immediately after the Indian Mutiny (1857-58). However, the book does not refer to the mutiny except for a brief mention of the unrest in the preface: ‘…by dwelling upon the sunny side of Indian life, after all the narratives of horror that have of late fallen upon the English ear’.

The book satirizes British officials and residents in the fictional village of Kabob in India, affectionately referred to by Atkinson as ‘Our Station’. The people and places mentioned are probably caricatures of those Atkinson encountered as a Captain in the Bengal Engineers. Atkinson was a keen artist and drew all of the 40 plates in the book. Each plate is accompanied by a brief description.

Atkinson was not afraid to make fun of authority figures in the province. One such character is Turmeric, ‘Our Judge’, described as English by birth but a permanent Indian resident, with a passion for the minutiae of law and playing the bass. The plate depicts Turmeric at work, dealing with a matter of court surrounded by Indian gentlemen.

In another plate, Atkinson celebrates ‘Our Spins’, his term for the local spinster population of Kabob. The spinsters are described thus: ‘Loveliness! That characteristic of British woman, is but faintly exemplified among those at "Our Station"', which demonstrates the satirical nature of the book.

Places of interest in Kabob are also featured, including ‘Our Bath’ the local watering place that, according to the description is frequented solely by men, usually in the early morning before breakfast.

The appeal of this item is two-fold. It mocks the people and places of Kabob with seemingly gentle but extremely acute and humorous observations. The plates provide a fascinating insight into life in India (albeit a fictionalised version) in the mid-19th century.


Provenance: George Henry Sutherland, with his armourial bookplate ‘
Sans Peur’

Reference: Abbey, Travel 487 (illustrating the binding). Hiler, p. 52. Schwedt, I, p. 47. Czech,
Asian Big Game Hunting Books 14
(22 x 30 cm) pp. [Lithographed Title] [blank] [Title] [blank] [2
Preface] [List of Subjects] [blank] [Verse] [blank] [Dedication] [blank] [78]. Unpaginated. In publisher’s orange cloth elaborated stamped in gilt and blind. to the front panel and spine.

Notes to Editions
First Edition (this copy): Not Dated [1858] - Title page with no date or edition statement, ‘Day & Son, Lithographers to The Queen, Gate Street, Lincoln’s-Inn Fields’, order of early pages after title - [blank] [2 Preface] [List of Subjects] [blank] [Verse] [blank] [Dedication] [blank]

Abbey Travel edition all same as ours, and they date it 1860, noting ’
a second and third edition where published in 1860 [?]’, order of early pages after title - [blank] [Dedication] [blank] [verse] [blank] [List of Subjects] [blank] [2 Preface]

Second Edition: Not Dated [1860] - Title page with ‘
Second Edition’ (University of California copy), order of early pages after title - [blank] [Dedication] [blank] [verse] [blank] [2 Preface] [List of Subjects] [blank] -;view=1up;seq=9

Third Edition: Not dated [1864?]. Title page with ‘
THIRD EDITION’ (University of Toronto copy), order of early pages after title - [blank] [Dedication] [blank] [verse] [blank] [2 Preface] [List of Subjects] [blank] -

Fourth Edition: 1911 - Edition statement to title page? Publisher changed from ‘
Day & Son’ to ’W. THACKER & CO.’’ date to bottom of title page ‘1911. Tail of spine with ‘Thacker’ instead of ‘Day’.

Fifth Edition: 1911 - Title page with ‘
FIFTH EDITION’ (Cornell University copy) and publisher ’W. THACKER & CO.’’ date to bottom of title page ‘1911’. (
  Condition: Near fine, rubbing to spine and wear to corners, minor foxing to endpapers and first and last few pages.   Ref: 106950   Price: HK$ 8,000