TREE & SERPENT WORSHIP, by James Fergusson - 1868 [1st Ed]


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Tree & Serpent Worship, or Illustrations of Mythology and Art in India, from the Topes, at Sanchi and Amravati

by James Fergusson

FIRST EDITION of the separate issue comprising only the lithographic plates. London: India Museum, 1868.

Folio is overall in GOOD condition with GOOD+ plates.

  • All plates present.
  • Plates were not bound and are secured in folio.
  • Plates display commensurate overall toning and foxing and edgewear.
  • Pastedowns and title page are severely foxed, with various degrees of foxing throughout, more toward beginning and end of stack.
  • Pages are free of writing and intentional marks.
  • Plates display some toning and wear to dry edges with creasing, as well as some chipping. (See photos)
  • A persistent damp stain begins on title page, continuing to page 8, and then appears again occasionally throughout. (See photos)
  • Title page displays pronounced foxing, as well as a library stamp. (See photos)
  • Cloth-bound folio has retained original ribbons on edges.
  • Folio displays commensurate wear and aging, with notable fading and edgewear as well as fraying all along edges, and areas of exposed board. Shoulders are chipped and frayed.
  • Back board displays a band of fading, 1.5" into cover, along shoulder, as well as a 5" x 2" white stain to lower corner. (See photos)
  • Ribbon has been preserved along head edge, and a portion remains at fore edge of front. Other ribbons are worn off.
  • Front pastedown has library sticker, as well as some pencil writing along upper edge. (See photos)
  • Book may exhibit additional minor signs of age or wear.
  • SC20190717

99 plates. 10.5 x 13.75 inches.

Published as a separate issue to the second edition of Tree & Serpent Worship, this volume contains the lithographic plates that make up the illustrated part of the work. Full of images of bas-relief, figures, pillars and architectural elements, as well as captioned maps and guides to the sacred places where these artworks can be encountered, the folio is a splendid overview of the skill and beauty of Indian sacred art. Architecture and sculpture join to illustrate the deep and ancient religious tradition of India.

99 B&W plates of architecture and sculpture. Includes a list of illustrations, as well as a plate showing inscriptions on an Amravati tope.

PROVENANCE: sticker from the New Bedford Free Public Library on front pastedown, with stamp of same on title page.


The text of Tree and Serpent Worship delves deep into the intriguing world of religion and mythology India, basing on the beautiful Indian art and Buddhist sculptures. The reader will find an insightful guide to the principal mysteries of the Buddhist religion, as well as to the art of India, and how religious and mythological scenes have for centuries been represented through that art.

Many photos and drawings are by W.H. Griggs (1832-1911). A promoter of color photography at a time when it was rare and expensive, Griggs is acknowledged as the inventor of photo-chromo-lithography. He was technical assistant to the director of the Indian Museum at the beginning of his career, and later developed ways to reduce the cost of production for color work. He also became skillful in reproductions of old manuscripts and letterpress texts.

James S. Waterhouse (1842-1922), who had never used a camera before arriving in Calcutta, became so accomplished that he was ultimately named surveyor-general to the monumental Survey of India. Lt. Waterhouse is given credit for many of the photos. The frontispiece of Tree and Serpent Worship shows Waterhouse’s image of the Northern gateway to the Great Stupa at Sanchi.

AS IS! Please see photos. More photos available upon request.

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