An Outstanding Copy in a Dazzling Spanish Binding Of the Book that Brought Roberts to Public Attention

PICTURESQUE SKETCHES IN SPAIN TAKEN DURING YE YEARS 1832 & 1833.

(London: Hodgson & Graves, 1837). 530 x 380 mm. (20 7/8 x 15"). Engraved dedication leaf with list of plates on verso, followed by plates. FIRST EDITION.

IMPRESSIVE EARLY 20TH CENTURY CRIMSON STRAIGHT-GRAIN MOROCCO, GILT AND PAINTED BY HIJOS DE V. ARIAS (stamp-signed in gilt at foot of spine), covers with large central "wheel" medallion with citron center, citron, green, and gilt "spokes," all with elaborate gilt tooling, central panel with gilt-rule border and fan cornerpieces in the gilt and painted style of the centerpiece, the whole enclosed in a frame with painted and gilt floral sidepieces and quarter-circle cornerpieces sprouting seven daisies, raised bands, spine panels with gilt and painted arabesque ornaments, gilt lettering, wide turn-ins with cresting palmette roll, pink silk doublures and free endleaves embroidered with rows of red, yellow, and green blossoms, top edge gilt and intricately gauffered. Lithographed title page with depiction of the entrance to the Chapel of Ferdinand and Isabella, 25 FINE LITHOGRAPHS, all WITH VERY ACCOMPLISHED AND SYMPATHETIC LATER HAND COLORING. Abbey, "Travel" 152. Very slight rubbing at spine ends, otherwise the highly decorative binding in virtually perfect condition. Vague waviness to plates, but the lithographs quite clean and fresh with most attractive coloring. AN OUTSTANDING COPY.

This is the work that brought landscape artist David Roberts to the attention of the public and prompted art critic John Ruskin to praise his "absolutely careful and faithful" depiction of "the greatness and richness of things." For Ruskin, it also allowed one to imagine "serenely and joyfully . . . the splendour of the aisles of Seville, or the strength of the towers of Granada, and [to forget] oneself, for a time." Roberts (1796-1864) had shown artistic ability at an early age, and was apprenticed at age 10 to a house painter who did decorative interiors for clients like Sir Walter Scott. After completing his apprenticeship, Roberts supported himself and his family as a theatrical scene designer and painter in Edinburgh and London, all the while continuing to create oil paintings of landscapes, which he showed and sold at exhibitions. DNB notes that "Roberts was quick to see the potential of reproducing his sketches as prints, to reach a wider audience," and he pursued this means of monetizing the sketches and paintings he made on his travels. He had sold some individual prints and small collections of sketches, but "Spain" was his first work to be issued as a large format book. According to Abbey, he was paid £350 for the drawings and for supervising and touching up the lithography stones as needed. Roberts went above and beyond this request, doing some of the drawings on stone himself, and refining every one. His efforts paid off: according to DNB, "The prints (both authorized and pirated copies) brought him widespread fame and popularity, and are still sold as souvenirs to this day." The scenes here give us a wide range of experiences: great Islamic or Gothic architecture and humble water mills, religious processions and bull fights, busy market squares and dizzying mountain paths. And in every view we see the inhabitants of the place, doing things ordinary or exciting. The skillful and judicious addition of color helps to bring these scenes more vividly to life, and are reminiscent of the oil paintings Roberts did of these subjects. It is appropriate that our book is in an ornate Spanish binding by the sons and successors of Madrid bookbinder Victorio Arias y Lopez (1856-1935), who trained in the leading Madrid workshops of the second half of the 19th century before opening his own bindery in 1885. According to Valdés and Bautista's article on "Artistic Bookbindings in the Guerra Fund" in "Pecia Complutense" (2011), "The works of his workshop are highly esteemed, both in Spain and abroad, having been awarded prizes in numerous Exhibitions and Contests. He carried out numerous commissions for the Royal House and for bibliophiles and booksellers such as the Marquis of Laurencin, the Count of Vilches or Guillermo de Osma." Our binding resembles a Spanish style of the 19th century, elaborately decorated with gold stamps and tooling, accented with colors. It is difficult to overstate how pleasing this volume is on both the outside and inside.
(Lhi21071)