CoME, gentle SPRING, ethereal Mildness, come,
And from the bosom of yon dropping cloud,
While music wakes around, veil’d in a shower
Of shadowing roses, on our plains descend.
Princeton University’s Rare Book collections hold 194 editions of James Thomson’s The Seasons, published from 1726 to 1970, with up to a dozen copies of some editions. The four poems were originally embellished with four allegorical figures of the seasons and later editions included small engravings. In 1793, John Murray brought out an edition “adorned with a set of engravings,” after the designs of Thomas Stothard (1755-1834).
Eighteen ink and wash sketches by Stothard can be found in the graphic arts collection, with handwritten captions from The Seasons. Each has been assigned a day and month, with two drawings each for nine out of the twelve months. Curator Nancy Finlay has speculated that the set was prepared for an edition of the extremely rare Royal Engagement Pocket Atlas. (http://libweb5.princeton.edu/visual_materials/pulc/pulc_v_42_n_3.pdf)
According to the Dictionary of National Biography, the artist and librarian began his career in 1779 as an illustrator of books and magazines. Within a year, he sold no less than 148 drawings to the Novelist’s Magazine, for which he was paid a guinea each. Stothard went on to illustrate many important novels, including works by Fielding, Smollett, Richardson, and Sterne, Ridley’s Tales of the Genii, Paltock’s Peter Wilkins, Don Quixote, Gil Blas, Robinson Crusoe, the Arabian Nights, the Vicar of Wakefield, and Gulliver’s Travels.
Stothard revived his designs for The Seasons late in life when he was commissioned to decorate the great staircase at Buckingham Palace.
See also: James Thomson (1700-1748), The Seasons (London: J. Murray, 1793). Rare Books (Ex) 39126.96.36.199