Ten tinted lithographs by E.C. May of scenes of Australian country life, after original sketches by S.T. Gill and George Hamilton (five each). Gill's titles are 'Cradling, Forest Creek 1852', 'The Claim Disputed', 'Mustering Cattle', 'Native Sneaking Emus', and 'The Bushranger Pursued'. Hamilton's titles, in which the horse naturally enough features prominently, are 'The Lost Bushman', 'The Found Bushman', 'Bushmen in Danger', 'Australian Bushmen', and 'The Bushman'. Unpublished, but circa 1890, and based on original sketches from upwards of fifty years earlier. The images are printed in brown ink on light brown arch-topped backgrounds (printed surface 150 x 205 mm) on uniform sheets of cream paper (200 x 275 mm). This set is in fine condition in a modern custom-made portfolio, covered in brown cloth lettered in gilt on the front panel 'Scenes of Australian Country Life'
The invaluable (but far from perfect) 'Dictionary of Australian Artists. Painters, Sketchers, Photographers and Engravers to 1870', edited by Joan Kerr, has only this to say: 'MAY, E.C., lithographer, signed nine lithographs celebrating life in the bush and on the goldfields (c.1855-60, ML). He may have been the May who was in partnership with George (?) Walker (q.v.) at Melbourne in the early 1870s'. At least he appears on their radar ... Our ongoing research has established the following facts. Edgar Charles May was born at North Adelaide on 27 May 1867; we have yet to ascertain his date of death, but by 1923 his name had disappeared from the local Sands and McDougall's directories (where he had been listed as an artist). One published example of his work, not noted at all by Kerr and not attributed to May by Ferguson, was offered as item 63 in our catalogue 106A, as 'GILL, S.T. and others: 14 Views of Old Adelaide from Sketches in 1840-1849 by S.T. Gill, F.R. Nixon, S. Calvert and O. Korn. [Adelaide], E.S. Wigg, . Oblong quarto,  leaves, all rectos blank, comprising the gilt-pictorial title page (signed in the image by E.C. May), 14 full-page tinted lithographic views with tissue-guards, the 3-page list of 181 subscribers and the key to plate 5 (between plates 4 and 5)'. This is Ferguson 9924e, which is essentially the same item as Ferguson 9807, apart from the different publishers. We have inspected numerous copies of 9924e (the Wigg version), and the odd Galbraith one, and it is clear that the original Galbraith imprint is masked by the gold blocking carrying the later Wigg imprint. The nature of the contents (reworked material from well-known earlier artists), the medium (tinted lithographs printed in brown) and the style of the work leave us in no doubt that May is responsible for all the material in '14 Views of Old Adelaide'. We also suggest that the 10 lithographs offered here were prepared by him with the intention of putting out a companion volume to '14 Views of Old Adelaide'. The change of publisher after that book was printed leads us to suggest that Galbraith (or May, or both) lost money on the venture, and, who knows, perhaps the Wigg issue was not a commercial success either. In any event, one could see how enthusiasm for a sequel might be considerably diminished. All of these plates are rare; complete sets of them are exceptionally rare on the open market. Until now, they have been poorly documented in the literature; fortunately, some of them have survived to tell their own worthy tale.