Striking Inlaid and Painted Morocco by a Czech Binder,
Probably Executed in Chile
(BINDINGS - HROMADA). GRANDJEAN DE MONTIGNY, A[UGUSTE] [and] A[UGUSTE] FAMIN.
ARCHITECTURE TOSCANE, OU PALAIS, MAISONS, ET AUTRES EDIFICES DE LA TOSCANE.(Paris: P. Didot l'Ainé, 1815). 445 x 286 mm (17 1/2 x 11 1/4"). vii, [i], 50,  pp.
VERY DRAMATIC 19TH CENTURY DEEP PURPLE MOROCCO, ELABORATELY DECORATED IN GILT AND BLIND AS WELL AS INLAID AND PAINTED, BY F. HROMADA (stamp-signed at foot of front board), upper cover with thick- and thin-ruled gilt and black borders enclosing an elegant frame with shell-like cornerpieces formed by gilt and inlays painted green and white, the frame enclosing a large central title cartouche supported by two lovely gilded mermaids emerging from a foamy spray; lower cover with intricate inlaid strapwork in black extending the length of the cover, floral gilt cornerpieces, inlaid red and green morocco ornaments (at the middle of each side), and azured gilt decoration at various locations; raised bands, spine gilt in thick- and thin-ruled compartments, multiple-ruled gilt turn-ins, all edges gilt, leather hinges. With extra engraved title and 109 ENGRAVED ARCHITECTURAL PLATES. Front free endpaper with library stamp of Geneva architect Albert Bourrit. Avery, p. 404; Graesse II, 550. For the binding: T. Holley & I. Espinosa, "Encuadernaciones Artististicas Hechas en Chile durante el Siglo 19," Santiago de Chile: I. Espinosa, 1986. Corners a bit bumped, joints and extremities a little rubbed (tiny crack at very top and bottom of front joint), isolated faint foxing or mild thumbing, otherwise A FINE COPY, the text uncharacteristically fresh and bright, the margins remarkably ample, and the memorable binding without any serious condition problems.
This is an attractively illustrated work on the architecture of Tuscany--particularly Florence--in an unusually animated and imaginative binding by a Czech-Chilean artisan. French architects Auguste Henri Victor Grandjean de Montigny (1776-1850) and Auguste-Pierre-Sainte-Marie Famin (1776-1859) received the prestigious Prix de Rome in 1799 and 1801, respectively, and were thus enabled to spend four years each in Rome studying classical and Renaissance architecture. They were particularly captivated by the buildings of Tuscany, and considered Florence to be second only to Rome in its importance to Italian architecture: 85 of the plates here are devoted to Florentine buildings, and the others depict the architecture of Siena, Arezzo, Pistoia, Livorno, and Pisa. The illustrations are line drawings that include diagrams, facades, architectural detail, and appealing views demonstrating deep perspective (and 18 of the plates are elaborate and handsome title pages for the various chapters). The book's initial publication in 1806 stimulated interest in Italian Renaissance architecture, and it was reprinted in 1837, 1846, 1874, and 1923. After the fall of Napoleon I, Grandjean emigrated to Brazil, where he introduced Neoclassical structures and had a considerable and lasting influence on the architecture of that country. South America was also home to our binder, Francisco (Frantisek) Hromada, a Czech who was active as a gilder in Valparaiso, Chile, from about 1858 onwards. According to Holley and Espinosa, Hromada was, with Adolfo Boehme and Enrique Ahrens, one of the most distinguished Chilean binders of his day. While our large-format binding may (or may not) have been produced in Chile, it is very much in the European style, with strong Romantic elements (even if it was produced closer to 1850 than 1800). Whenever it was done, it is bursting with energy at the same time that it is elegant and carefully executed. (CJW1103)