The Longest Scenic Fore-Edge Painting We Have Ever Offered


(London: Printed by J. McCreery for H. R. Young, 1819). 432 x 286 mm. (17 x 11 1/4"). [51] leaves (lacking half-title leaf).

Contemporary burgundy straight-grain morocco, covers with multiple borders intricately rolled in gilt and blind, gilt-decorated raised bands, spine panels elaborately tooled in gilt, gilt-rolled turn-ins, all edges gilt (expert repairs to joints, hinges, and corners). WITH AN IMPRESSIVE FORE-EDGE PAINTING OF EDINBURGH. With engraved frontispiece, one tailpiece vignette and 48 plates etched by James Fittler from drawings by John Claude Nattes. Front pastedown with two bookplates of the important Pittsburgh insurance executive William McGill Duff (1878-1949) and a card inscribed to him from Edward A. Woods dated 22 Dec. 1925. Title signed and dated 1820 on upper margin by original owner, Hugh Booth. Avery Library, p. 339. Gilt frame a little rubbed at corners, half a dozen scratches to boards (well masked by refurbishing), minor rubbing to extremities, but the skillfully restored binding solid and appealing; variable (never severe) offsetting from images to text leaves, a few plates with light foxing to margins, other minor defects, but still an excellent copy, notable for its very unusual, well-preserved, and quite pleasing fore-edge painting.

Even with its warts and freckles, this is a volume of particular appeal, first for its topographical content and especially for its memorably vast painting. The scene on the fore edge is a very skillfully painted view of Edinburgh looking south from Craigleith, the composition being especially remarkable because of the sweeping impression of the location that it communicates. This results, of course, because of the extraordinary width of the fore-edge space allotted to the artist: at 16 1/2 inches (430 mm.) from end to end, this is the broadest fore-edge painting we've ever seen. The painting also has considerable depth, with two herders and their cows in the right foreground, outcroppings of rock (for which Craigleith is famous) in the left foreground, and Edinburgh far in the distance, its commanding castle seeming to touch the sky many miles away. Given the colors used (copper orange in the trees, for example), the puffy treatment of the clouds, and the dabbing style with which the paint has been applied, this is almost certainly the work of the so-called "Dover Painter," who is described at length in the previous item. Our view is based upon Thomas H. Shepherd's drawing "Edinburgh from Craigleith," engraved by W. Tombleson, which originally appeared in John Britton's 1829 "Modern Athens." Initially published in 1804, Fittler's work is an illustrated celebration of Scotland's most interesting antiquities, castles, towns, and picturesque scenery, with scenes being drawn using a wide, impressionistic pen. Bryan notes that Fittler (1758-1835) "entered the schools of the Royal Academy in 1778, and was elected an Associate Engraver in 1800. He distinguished himself by numerous works after English and foreign masters, of different subjects and character; and book illustrations by him abound." Fore-edge paintings of this size and quality, however, do not.

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PJP Catalog: 67.154