The Wardington Copy of a Work with "Great Historical Value," Since the Original Tapestries Showing Britain's Greatest Sea Victory Have Been Lost


(London: John Pine, 1739). 534 x 372 mm. (21 x 14 5/8"). 2 p.l., 24 pp. FIRST EDITION.

Pleasing contemporary sprinkled calf (expertly rebacked by James Brockman, with new, sympathetic backstrip, hinges neatly reinforced with cloth), raised bands, spine gilt in eight compartments. With engraved title and a total of 18 ENGRAVED DOUBLE-PAGE PLATES, including five plates each with two engraved maps, one map of the British Isles showing the route of the Spanish Armada, 10 plates of sea battles printed in dark blue-green ink surrounded by engraved black & white borders, and two maps of Cornwall & Devon and the Thames. Rear pastedown with the bookplate of Lord Wardington. Berlin Katalog 1677; McMurray, "Prints, Politics & Peers: John Pine's Tapestry Hangings of the House of Lords," Royal Museums Greenwich website (Sept. 30, 2019), Original boards with some stains and scratches, three short marginal tears expertly repaired, text otherwise with only trivial imperfections: A FINE COPY, the attractively restored binding entirely solid, the text clean, fresh, and deeply impressed, and THE PLATES VERY RICHLY PRINTED WITHIN VAST MARGINS.

One of the major productions of John Pine's distinguished career, these magnificent plates reproduce tapestries commissioned in 1591 to commemorate the defeat of the Spanish Armada; in the words of DNB, they are "of the greatest historical value," since the original hangings were destroyed in the 1834 fire that decimated the Medieval parliamentary buildings where they had been displayed. DNB notes that engraver and publisher Pine (1690-1756) recognized their worth from the beginning of the project, "since he used his influence to ensure that the Copyright Act of 1735 gave him the exclusive right to copy the tapestries." The 10 original tapestries were woven from designs by Dutch marine artist Hendrick Vroom (1563-1640) that document the progress of the 1588 naval engagements that would produce what is generally acknowledged as the greatest victory at sea in British history. French artist Clement Lemprière (1683-1746) did the drawings from which these plates were engraved, and the renowned French illustrator Hubert Gravelot (1699-1773) created the elegant borders featuring oval portraits of the battle's heroes, Sir Francis Drake and Lord Howard among them. The tapestry engravings are printed in dark ink with a blue-green tinge, and the contrast to the black ink of the borders increases the impact of the illustrations. McMurray informs us that the maps here are taken from charts produced by Robert Adams, cartographer, engraver, and Queen Elizabeth’s Surveyor of Buildings. They were first published in the now very rare 1588-90 "Expeditionis Hispanorum." The original tapestries occupied a special place in the national imagination, symbolic of British power and strength, and depictions appear in the background of several historical works, including James Gillray's "Consequences of a Successful French Invasion" (1798), which shows French troops desecrating the sacred artifacts. When plans were made for the Palace of Westminster following the 1834 fire, they included a scheme to replace the tapestries with paintings duplicating six of the original scenes. Although this vision did not come to completion until 2010, it would have been altogether impossible without Pine's engravings, which were used by the artists involved as the source for their subjects. Our copy comes from the distinguished Wardington library, and is in the fine condition typical of that collection. It sold for £14,400 (approximately $27,000 at the time) in the Wardington's sale at Sotheby's in October of 2006.

Price: $29,000.00