Monday, March 29, 2010

When Horses and Human Keisters Collide

Thirty-thousand years ago, horses began to appear in cave-paintings. Their domestication occurred between 4000-3500 BCE. The Botai culture of modern Khazakstan, land of the superb Cossack horsemen, were early masters of horseback riding. The Blackfoot tribe of Native-Americans of the Plains were noted for their expert horsemanship.

Nations stood or fell upon the back of a horse. The trade in horses was lively, and sharp salesmen could make a killing: “A horse! A horse! My Kingdom for a horse!” Such a deal; I imagine the horse-trader in this hustle retired quite comfortably after fleecing Richard the Fool; he would have settled for a hamlet in Herefordshire. Never spill your guts to a horse- or car-salesman.


 By the nineteenth century, owning and riding a horse was as necessary as owning and driving a car is today, essential for personal transportation.

And the number of blockheads then behind the reins was no less than those behind the wheel today. Today’s driving school is yesterday’s equestrian academy. One imagines the frustrations of riding instructors in that era to be as acute as driving instructors now experience, leading to transient ischemic attacks just shy of lethal heart attack or stroke.

You can lead a horseman to water but you can’t make them think. So, cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of the wary: These horseback riders are a menace to themselves and the public.

However, all is not lost (except dignity); help is on the way.

Presenting An Academy for Grown Horsemen; Containing the Completest Instructions for Walking, Trotting, Cantering, Galloping, Stumbling, and Tumbling by “Geofrey Gambado,” with hand-colored copper-plate engravings by Henry Bunbury, along with Annals of Horsemanship, a piquant account of uneasy posteriors on anxious ponies and subsequent accidents. Both books are quite rare.

Never has the human heine had such comic impact with saddles.

But who the heck is Geofrey Gambado, who snaps quips with a buggy whip?

“Gambado is said to have been Francis Grose, compiler of  A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue” (Riely, John C.  Horace Walpole and ‘the Second Hogarth’, in Eighteenth Century Studies, Vol. 9, No. 1, Autumn, 1975). In addition to his works on antiquities, satiric essays, and volumes on non-standard words and meanings, Francis Grose (1731-1791) wrote Rules for Drawing Caricaturas: with an Essay on Comic Painting (1788).

“Though only an indifferent draughtsman, he mixed with professional and amateur artists, and exhibited at the Society of Artists in 1767–8 and at the Royal Academy in the nine years following” (Oxford Online DNB). The frontispiece portrait of “Gambado” in The Academy, unsigned (all other signed Bunbury), bears an uncanny resemblance to Grose: a “stocky, corpulent figure which Grose himself caricatured" (DNB).

 The stipple engraved plates were designed by Henry William Bunbury (1750-1811). "Bunbury owed much during his lifetime to the charm of a genial nature, and to his position as a man of family and education. West flattered him, and Walpole enthusiastically compared him to Hogarth. He was the friend of Goldsmith, Garrick, and Reynolds, and the favourite of the Duke and Duchess of York, to whom in 1787 he was appointed equerry. All this, coupled with the facts that he was seldom, if ever, personal, and wholly abstained from political subjects, greatly aided his popularity with the printsellers and the public of his day, and secured his admission, as an honorary exhibitor, to the walls of the Academy, where between 1780 and 1808 his works frequently appeared… [They] are not without a good deal of grotesque drollery of the rough-and-ready kind in vogue towards the end of the last century¾that is to say, drollery depending in a great measure for its laughable qualities upon absurd contrasts, ludicrous distortions, horseplay, and personal misadventure." (DNB).

 “’The lovers of humor were inconsolable for the loss of Hogarth, but from his ashes a number of sportive geniuses have sprung up, and the works of Bunbury [et al] have entertained us’ (Walker’s Hibernian Magazine, May 1790). Just at this time, one of these ‘sportive geniuses’ was at the height of his popularity. Of the many amateur caricaturists who flourished during the second half of the eighteenth century, Bunbury was undoubtedly the most famous. His talents for depicting humorous incidents of everyday life and manners established him as a master of the burlesque, and his reputation in social caricature rivaled that of Thomas Rowlandson or James Gillray.” (Op cit Riely, p.28).

A “singulier ouvrage” (Brunet).

[BUNBURY, Henry]. Gambado, Geoffrey (pseud.). An Academy for Grown Horsemen; Containing the Completest Instructions for Walking, Trotting, Cantering, Galloping, Stumbling, and Tumbling. Illustrated with Copper Plates, and Adorned with a Portrait of the Author. London: Printed for John Stockdale, Piccadilly, 1812.


[BUNBURY, Henry]. Gambado, Geofrey (pseud.). Annals of Horsemanship: Containing Accounts of Accidental Experiments and Experimental Accidents, Both Successful and Unsuccessful: Communicated by Various Correspondents to Geoffrey Gambado, Esq.…Together with Most Instructive Remarks Thereon, and Answers Thereto, by that Accomplished Genius. And Now First Published, by the Editor of the Academy for Grown Horsemen. Illustrated with Cuts by the Most Eminent Artists. London: Printed for John Stockdale, Piccadilly, 1812.

First Collected Edition, originally issued separately in 1785 and 1791 respectively with the engravings in sepia only. Two works in one large quarto volume (12 7/8 x 9 3/4 in; 315 x 250 mm). Hand colored frontispiece, xxviii, 36, eleven hand colored plates; [1 half-title], [printer’s imprint], hand colored frontispiece, xix, [1 blank], 81, [blank], [1 directions to binder], [1 blank, sixteen hand colored plates, pp. With the original title label neatly mounted on blank.

Fourth editions of Gambano’s droll classics on horsemanship featuring Bunbury’s humorous caricatures, issued here as one volume with separate title pages and hand colored plates as called for, the plates in prior editions typically in sepia only.

Cf. Huth 52. Cf. UCBA I,633. CF. Lowndes 860. Cf. Graesse III,22. Cf. Podeschi 90. Cf. Lewine 204. Cf. Allibone, vol I, p.282. Cf. Brunet II, 1474.

Color Plates in Academy…:

Portrait of Gambado
The Mistaken Notion
A Bit of Blood
One Way to Stop Your Horse
How to Ride Genteel and Agreeable Down Hill
How to Lose Your Way
How to Turn Any Horse, Mare, or Gelding
How to Stop Your Horse at Pleasure
How to be Run Away With
How to Pass a Carriage
How to Ride a Horse on Three Legs
How to Ride Up Hyde Park

Color Plates in Annals:

The Apotheosis of Geoffrey Gambado
Mr. Gambado Seeing the World in a Six Mile Tour Famed in History
Dr. Cassock F.R.S. T.P.Q. Inventor of the Noble Puzzle for Tumble Down Horses
The Puzzle for the Dog, The Puzzle for the Horse, The Puzzle for Turk, Frenchman, or, Christian
How to Make the Most of a Horse
How to Make the Least of Him
How to Do Things by Halves
Tricks Upon Travellers
Love and Wind
Me & My Wife and Daughter
How to Make the Mare to Go
How to Prevent the Horse Slipping his Girths
How to Ride Without a Bridle
A Daisy Cutter with his Varieties
The Tumbler, or its Affinities
A Horse with a Nose
How to Travel Upon Two Legs in a Frost

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