The Book that Made the Artist Famous and that Was Instrumental in Spreading the Neoclassical Movement


(Paris: Pierre Didot l'ainé, l'an X [1802]). Binding: 524 x 340 mm. (20 5/8 x 13 1/2"). 3 p.l. (including half title), viii, 190 pp., [1] leaf (errata). FIRST EDITION.

Handsome recent period-style dark green morocco, gilt in a Neoclassical design, covers with frame of blind Greek key roll enclosed by decorative gilt rolls, fleuron cornerpieces, central panel with large lozenge, smooth spine gilt in compartments divided by decorative cresting rolls and Greek key roll, intricate calligraphic flourish at center, gilt lettering, marbled endpapers. With three engraved headpieces, double-page map showing the route of the voyage, and 69 ENGRAVED PLATES, consisting of engraved pictorial title page, frontispiece, plates 1-60, 18 bis, 54 bis, 55 bis, and one unnumbered plate bound between plates 36 and 37; three of the plates double-page and six folding. With original tissue guards (one of these mostly torn away). Blackmer 296; Atabey 202; Cohen-de Ricci, p. 205; Weber 597. A couple of faint scratches to covers, five-inch tear to the seventh plate with old repair using contemporary(?) paper and wax on blank verso (with resultant staining to one margin and just slightly into image), small, very faint dampstain to the top edge of much of the text and plates (almost always nearly indistinguishable); in all other ways, A GORGEOUS COPY, printed with huge margins on chalky white paper, the text and richly-printed plates especially clean, fresh, and bright, and the sympathetic binding with few signs of wear.

Filled with views of the antiquities of the eastern Adriatic that helped spur the Neoclassical movement in architecture, this collection of engravings represents Cassas' first major commission and the work that made his reputation. According to the Victoria and Albert Museum Object Record for one of the original drawings on which the engravings are based, "Cassas' style as an illustrator was admired in his lifetime as being true to life and lacking in personal emotion [and therefore] creating an ideal documentation. . . . His drawings are credited as playing a major role in disseminating classical architecture around the world and as influencing the Neo-Classical architectural movement in the early 19th century." The ruins and details of classical structures are only part of the interest here; we also see the bustling ports of the Adriatic, tranquil seascapes, and dramatic natural wonders like the Kerka waterfall. The text is based on the journals Cassas kept during the voyage, adapted by Joseph Lavallée, Marquis de Bois-Robert (1747-1816), best known for his influential anti-slavery novel of 1801, "Le nègre comme il y a peu de blanc" ("The Negro Equalled by Few Europeans"). Cassas (1756-1827) had eclectic artistic training, studying with both Neoclassical and Rococo masters before completing his education in Italy. From there, he set off on the tour that produced this work, and established himself as one of the leading travel artists of the day. When he retired from his travels and settled in France in 1792, Cassas became the drawing master and later General Inspector at the famed Gobelins Tapestry Manufactory. He fled the French Revolution to take refuge at the imperial court of Russia, where he served as director of the Academy of Arts and Libraries, then ended his days in France, and was awarded the Legion of Honor by the king in 1821.

Price: $19,500.00