(Glasguae [Glasgow]: excudebat Andreas Foulis. Edinburgi, prostant venales apud Gulielmum Laing: Londini, apud T. Payne, B. et I. White, et T. Egerton, 1795; London [i.e. Rome]: published for John Flaxman . . . by J. Matthews, 1795). 485 x 295 mm. (19 1/8 x 11 3/4"). 3 p.l., xii, 357,  pp. Two works bound in one volume. FIRST EDITION of Flaxman's compositions. ONE OF JUST 11 OR 12 LARGE PAPER COPIES (and 52 regular copies).
HANDSOME CONTEMPORARY FULL RED MOROCCO, GILT IN NEOCLASSICAL STYLE BY STAGGEMEIER & WELCHER (front pastedown with binders' ticket), wide border of paired drawer-tools surrounding a fleuron, enhanced with pointillé tooling, elaborate cornerpieces made up of small floral and foliate tools, raised bands, gilt-panelled spine, gilt turn-ins and marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. With engraved title and 30 ENGRAVED PLATES by John Flaxman, most watermarked Whatman 1794. A Large Paper Copy. Front pastedown with armorial bookplate of Nicholas Vansittart, and morocco book label of the Huth Library (sold in his sale at Sotheby's, 15 November 1911, lot 46). Gaskell 699; Brunet I, 79; Lowndes I, 14; ESTC T86592. See also: Ray "England," p. 21. Lower corners a little bumped, extremities lightly rubbed, some minor scratches and abrasions to covers, but A VERY ATTRACTIVE AND WELL-PRESERVED BINDING; a few plates lightly toned, light to moderate offsetting onto text, a little foxing to perhaps a dozen text leaves, other minor spots and imperfections, but a fine copy overall, the vast majority of the work EXTREMELY CLEAN AND BRIGHT, AND THE TEXT WITH ENORMOUS MARGINS.
One of just 11 or 12 Large Paper Copies (and 52 regular copies) of the Foulis Press' "Tragedies" of Aeschylus, this imposing volume is beautifully printed, very handsomely bound, comes with distinguished provenance, and is extra-illustrated with plates by a renowned British sculptor and graphic artist whose work is often compared to that of his close friend William Blake. Always characterized by accurate scholarship, fine quality paper and types, and printing that was done to exacting technical standard, the Foulis Press produced more than 700 editions in six decades of publishing. The present work pairs their elegant Greek type--appearing here surrounded by stately margins--with a series of 30 austere yet lyrical illustrations by John Flaxman (1755-1826). Flaxman began his career as a designer for Wedgewood, but is chiefly remembered for his illustrations, sculptures, and designs for funerary monuments. The artist perfected his distinctive style of line illustration while studying in Italy (1787-94), during which time he received commissions to produce the present series of images as well as illustrations for works by Homer and Dante. In Ray's words, "Flaxman's choice of great classics for the subjects of his illustrations and his spare but elegant style--chiefly inspired, it would seem, by Greek vase painting--made an irresistible appeal to the taste of the age." Our copy has been appointed with an appropriately elegant Neoclassical binding by Staggemeier & Welcher. In partnership in London from about 1799 to 1817, the German emigré binders had come to England to satisfy the fashionable need among men of means for elegant bindings. and oversaw "one of the most prolific workshops producing 'extra' quality work in London." (Maggs Catalogue 1212) They were known for bindings with typically tasteful and sometimes elaborate gilt decoration, and they were among the very best at producing these highly finished volumes. Our copy was formerly owned by Nicholas Vansittart (1766-1851), 1st Baron Bexley, who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1812-23, and was also part of the library established by Henry Huth (1815-78) and added to by Henry's son Alfred (1850-1910), which comprised one of the most outstanding collections of English books ever assembled. De Ricci says that it was second only to Britwell and that "the poetry and drama sections were as complete as any man could make them, especially for the earlier periods." The Huth sales, conducted for a decade beginning in 1911, constituted one of the major stories in the history of the English auction rooms. (Lhi21079)