The Benz Copy, so (of Course) in Outstanding Condition, and Finely Bound, With 100 Hand-Colored Plates of Royal Palaces


(London: Printed for A. Dry, 1819). 330 x 275 mm. (13 x 10 3/4"). Three volumes. FIRST EDITION.

BEAUTIFUL CRIMSON STRAIGHT-GRAIN MOROCCO, GILT, BY BAYNTUN OF BATH (stamp-signed on front turn-in), covers with frame of gilt fillets and blind floral roll, ornate cornerpieces, raised bands, spine compartments with centerpiece of fleuron and drawer-handle ornaments, volute cornerpieces, gilt titling, turn-ins with cresting gilt lotus roll, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. WITH 100 FINE HAND-COLORED PLATES OF BRITISH ROYAL PALACES (mostly interiors, but several sunny exterior views). Front pastedowns with engraved bookplate of Doris Benz. Abbey "Scenery" 396; Prideaux, p. 348; Tooley, pp. 197-200; Lowndes V, 2015. ◆Spines gently (and evenly) sunned, final leaf of volume I with two one-inch repairs to gutter margin, one quire in volume II faintly foxed, occasional insignificant thumbing, isolated rust spots, but all of these imperfections (obviously) trivial--AN ESPECIALLY FINE COPY, clean, fresh, and bright internally, the plates with rich colors, and the bindings untouched.

This is an especially pleasing copy, with distinguished provenance, of a luxurious work that is not only beautiful, but also important, its brilliantly colored plates illustrating interiors that have since been lost to demolition or reconstruction. The public has always been fascinated with the trappings of royalty, and William Henry Pyne (1767-1843) was catering to this appetite when he undertook his "Royal Residences." Unfortunately, the very considerable expense of producing it was difficult to recoup, and these costs initiated the downward spiral of Pyne's financial condition that landed him in debtors' prison. The son of a leather-seller, Pyne showed an early aptitude for art. He studied at the school of Henry Pars, where "he obtained . . . a great facility for drawing, practising almost entirely in watercolours in the early tinted style." (DNB) He declined an apprenticeship with Pars, embarked on an independent career, and found substantial success with his "Microcosm, or a Picturesque Delineation of the Arts, Agriculture, and Manufactures of Great Britain." This was followed by the very popular and acclaimed "Costume of Great Britain" and other works of British landscapes. Although Pyne is remembered best as an artist, he was also a talented writer, and, as indicated by DNB, he did the text here, not the drawings, which were "supplied by Mackenzie, Nash, Pugin, Stephanoff, and others." The beautifully rendered and detailed illustrations are frequently heightened with gold, and they are given a convincing depth and an overall vividness that are consistently pleasing from plate to plate. Unfortunately, their very beauty has led to the breaking up of many of these volumes, and the plates continue to appear frequently in the marketplace at steadily escalating prices. Complete sets are still regularly encountered, but those that are handsomely bound and in really excellent condition are becoming more and more uncommon. Our set is in the superior condition typical of the books from the library of Doris Louise Benz (1907-84), who collected fine bindings, the best of the private presses, major English authors, and manuscripts. Dickinson says that because she had acquired things very privately, the book world was shocked at the richness of her collection when it came on the market in 1984. According to the Dartmouth College Library, which was the sole beneficiary of the proceeds from the sale, "Miss Benz was a quiet collector, almost unknown to other collectors and to dealers, except to Col. Marston Drake of the firm of James F. Drake of New York, and to Maggs and Quaritch in London." She wanted her collection broken up and sold so that "others could enjoy the pleasures of identifying, locating, and acquiring books for their own collections," just as she had.

Price: $15,000.00