An Exceptionally Fine Contemporary Copy of a Vast Work with Meticulously Detailed Engravings of Augustan Age Elegance


(London: Joseph Smith, 1724-28; 1724). 550 x 355 mm. (21 1/2 x 14"). Text and plates all mounted on tabs. Six volumes.

Contemporary marbled calf , covers with floral gilt roll border, raised bands, spines gilt in compartments with central lozenge composed of fleurons, leafy cornerpieces, gilt titling, pink endpapers, marbled edges (some corners very carefully restored) WITH 400 ENGRAVED VIEWS AND MAPS, consisting of 362 ENGRAVED PLATES called for in the first work (lacking plate 79 from volume IV, "Chateau de Roy & Gichts"), 52 folding (including a 1030 x 720 mm. view of a lighthouse), 80 full-page, the rest double-page, plus NINE ADDED ENGRAVINGS, five of these folding; and 38 DOUBLE-PAGE MAPS in the second work, as called for. Front pastedowns with evidence of bookplate removal. Brunet IV, 114; Lewine, pp. 263-4. Leather a bit pitted from acid treatment (as always), occasional minor foxing to (the few) text leaves, other very trivial signs of use to bindings and interior, but AN ESPECIALLY FINE CONTEMPORARY SET, the margins very ample, the plates remarkably clean, fresh, and bright, and the impressions of the engravings very sharp.

This extensive, richly illustrated work records with extraordinary quality and quantity a notable period in English architecture. The Augustan Age (encompassing the reigns of Queen Anne, King George I, and George II) saw the post-Restoration nobility and rising mercantile class constructing, refurbishing, restoring, and expanding stately homes and gardens. "Le Nouveau Théâtre" transports us into this world: its meticulously detailed engravings bring to life the elegant architecture, luxuriant gardens, and prosperous towns. According to Lewine, the first edition of "Nouveau Théâtre" appeared in 1709 in four volumes, with a supplemental fifth volume added to the 1716 edition. More plates were added for our 1724-28 printing. The work is generally found in only the original four volumes, not, as here, in an updated five tomes. The uniformly bound "Atlas Anglois," or "English Atlas," makes a fitting addition to the set, putting the architectural marvels into geographical context with its maps of each county and genealogies of the leading families. The first two volumes and most of the fifth volume are devoted to the mansions and country estates of England; the third to ecclesiastical architecture and the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge; and the fourth to panoramic city views, royal palaces, and churches, plus architectural highlights from Scotland. Added to the called-for engravings are: an oversized full-page plate of Gothic Hall at Hampton Court by John Vardy and a double-page folding plate of Hatfield House by James Collins in volume I; four folding views and one oversized plate of Whitehall Palace in volume IV; and a folding plate captioned in Italian of the home of the Earl of Tylney bound in at the front of volume V, with an engraving of Gordon Castle tipped onto the recto of the rear free endpaper. Johannes (or Jan) Kip (1652/53 -1722) was a Dutch draftsman, engraver and printseller who had produced engravings for the court of William of Orange. He followed William and Mary to England when they ascended the British throne, and partnered with fellow Dutchman Leonard Knijff (or Knyff) (1650-1722) to produce a series of illustrations showing the grand estates of Britain. They issued "Britannia Illustrata" in 1708, with 80 plates; these were incorporated into the first edition of this work the following year. The condition here is simply marvelous, with no indications of the fervent use works of this kind have usually endured. Perhaps our set passed the centuries mostly undisturbed, on the library shelves of a stately home like the ones depicted here.