220 – Books: Athelstan Riley 1887

4to (242 x 190mm.), 47 original photographs by Athelstan Riley (185 x 120mm., or the reverse), each mounted on thick card, contemporary half calf, upper cover lettered in gilt, gilt edges, some spotting, the final photograph damaged with some loss, upper cover detached


[Ibid.] Athos, or the Mountain of the Monks. London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1887, first edition, 8vo, half-title, wood-engraved frontispiece, 7 plates, other woodcuts in text, many after riley’s photographs, coloured map of Mount Athos, 24pp. of publisher’s advertisements at end, publisher’s red cloth, ink stamp of P.B. Mourant, Jersey, ownership stamp on several leaves and plates, a little light spotting, spine slightly faded

Photograph Album: Rev. Arthur Edwin Brisco Owen (d.1925) the gift of his friend Athelstan Riley; given back to Riley by Owen’s sister in 1936 (manuscript note by Riley in front of album); acquired by the present owner from a bookseller in London in the early 1970s

Photograph Album: cf. Blackmer 1424*, recording riley’s own photograph album of mount athos only; Riley’s album was acquired by the monastery of Simonopetra on Mount Athos from John Leatham, whose grandfather was a first cousin of Riley; Athos, or the Mountain of the Monks: Blackmer 1424; Weber I, 896

brisco owen’s set of riley’s very rare photographs of the people, views and monasteries on and around mount athos, taken in 1883. one of only two known albums produced and the only one in private hands. at least one image in this album does not appear in riley’s own album (a view of Esphigmenou from the South-West). In a number of cases the photographs provide a record of the architecture of monasteries that suffered subsequent major damage by fire, e.g. Simonopetra was almost totally burnt down in May, 1891, but Riley’s photographs prove that the main portion was re-built to almost exactly the same external form.

Athelstan Riley (1858-1945), a devout Anglo-Catholic layman, spent six weeks on Mount Athos, while in his mid-twenties, accompanied by his friend the Rev. Arthur Edward Brisco Owen. “They visited all twenty monasteries, the Protaton at Karyes, and the sketes of the Prophet Elias, the Prodomos, St Anne, St Andrew, St Demetrius and the ascent of the peak.” (Weber)

A manuscript note in ink by Riley at the beginning of this photograph album states: “In 1883 accompanied by my dear friend Arthur E. Brisco Owen, who was an undergraduate with me at Oxford and then a young priest, I went to Mount Athos and took these photographs: many of them furnished the illustrations for my book, Athos or the Mountain of the Monks, (published 1887). He [Owen] died in 1925 and this book was given me by his sister in 1936. Athelstan Riley.”

In Riley’s published account of his travels, a copy of which accompanies this lot, Riley often notes where and when the photographs were taken (see pp.90-91, 94, 107, 148, 158-159, 188, 219-220, 258, 282, 296-297, 309, 314, 327, 336, 352-353, 358-359), and there are often anecdotes associated with them; for example, taking the photograph of a street in Karyes: “we attempted to take a photograph of the one street which forms the bazaar. This naturally caused a prodigious commotion, and a crowd immediately collected in front of the camera. Of course when they discovered what our machine was, and it was noised abroad that in some vague way they were going to have their portrait taken, everybody within eyesight rushed to the scene of the action…”

It is also recorded in Riley’s book that he and Owen developed the negatives during their travels, for example, while staying at the monastery of Iviron (or Iveron) Riley writes: “This evening [15 August 1883], we developed some of our photographic negatives. There was a tap with a sink conveniently situated in a passage outside our room, which we used until some enormous slugs, attracted by the unusual flow of water, walked out of the drain and took possession of the developing trays, to our great disgust.” (pp.132-133); also: “after supper we took a short walk… then developed several negatives and prepared slides for our journey to the east side of Athos” (p.256), and again: “at Russico we dined by ourselves… and afterwards developed our last negatives” (p.389).
The whole text of the book is available here.

For sale Sotheby’s auction 15 november GBP 8.000 – 12.000. Wees zuinig op uw Athos foto’s en heb geduld.

This entry was posted in books and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply