Art, Architecture and More Pre-1800 Books from Charles Wood
Pre-1800 English books on art, architecture, etc., from Charles Wood.
By Michael Stillman
Just released by Charles Wood Antiquarian Booksellers is their catalogue 127: Art, Architecture, Garden History and Related Subjects. Books in English Before 1800. Since there were not a lot of architectural and related texts being published that early in the rest of the English-speaking world, it is a safe assumption that these books carry British imprints. Wood may come from Cambridge, The New World, but these books come from the environs of the Old World Cambridge. Not that all were originally in the English language. There are numerous books first published on the continent, which only made their way to English via translation. Nevertheless, this catalogue is filled with books that made their mark in both the new and old worlds, some having appeared in the libraries of notable Americans such as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. They remain appropriate to libraries on both sides of the Atlantic today, though perhaps more as collectibles than tools for practical use. Then again, artistic design never grows old, so designers may find some ideas still worthy of emulation today. Here are a few of the books Woods has to offer.
This is an example of a book that worked its way from Paris to London and then America. The title is Fires improved: or a new method of building chimneys, so as to prevent their smoaking... Originally published in Paris in 1713, this is the first English edition from 1715. The book describes improvements in chimneys designed by author Nicolas Gauger which would provide the starting point for Benjamin Franklin's Pennsylvania or Franklin stove. Franklin recognized Gauger's work for its influence on him, and it is likely that this 1715 English edition is one the American inventor read. Item 35. Priced at $1,500.
Item 32 presents Franklin's findings on the subject. The title is Observations on smoky chimneys. Their causes and cure; with considerations on fuel and stoves. This is a third British edition, published in London in 1793. Franklin was, so to speak, a master electrician and heating contractor of his day, along with being just about the most important statesman of Revolutionary America. $1,100.
Here is a book that comes with the most cogent of criticism from Samuel Pepys. Sir Balthazar Gerbier wrote this book, entitled The first and second part of counsel and advice to all builders for the choice of their surveyors, clerks of the works, bricklayers, masons, carpenters and other workmen therein concerned. At one point, the overly generous Gerbier dedicates the book to 38 different people. This was too much for Pepys, who apparently did not like the book anyway. Pepys bitingly remarks that the book is dedicated to "almost all the men of any great condition in England, so that the epistles are more than the book itself; and both it and them not worth a turd, that I am ashamed that I bought it." Hopefully, if you buy this book, you will not feel the same as Pepys. Item 36. $2,600.
Art, Architecture and More Pre-1800 Books from Charles Wood
Miss Engleheart was a fine French student in 1789.
Item 1 is the right place to start this catalogue, though it was placed there based on the authors' surname, rather than its importance. The book is, The works in architecture of Robert and James Adams, Esquires, by the Adams brothers. Wood describes this 1773-1779 first edition set as "the most important and one of the rarest British architectural books of the eighteenth century." It is said to be both comprehensive and lavishly illustrated, but evidently did not sell nearly as well as the brothers expected. Many copies apparently remained unsold. The Adams brothers would probably be shocked, but pleased, to see what it is worth today. $85,000.
Here is a title that sounds like some new age work on preparing to reach your final reward: Elements of the art of dying, containing the theory of dying in general... No need to call Dr. Kevorkian for his opinion. This 1792 book by Claude Louis Berthollet is about coloring things. Wood describes this as "the first modern book on dying." Berthollet was a chemist, colleague of famed chemist Lavoisier, and a friend of Napoleon. The better known Lavoisier did become an expert on the other kind of dying, being beheaded during the terror of the French Revolution. Berthollet managed to keep a lower profile, being rewarded in turn with a long life. Item 8. $850.
Charles Tiphaigne de la Roche wrote of an imaginary world in this 1761 work, translated from the first edition in French of 1760: Giphantia: or a view of what has passed, what is now passing, and, during the present century, what will pass, in the world. One of his predictions is amazingly close to photography. In Giphantia, they coat a mirror with a sticky substance, which, instead of reflecting images, captures them as a painting on canvas. However, this image is a perfect duplication of what is seen. "This impression of the image is instantaneous, and the canvas is immediately carried away into some dark place. An hour later the impression is dry, and you have a picture..." Item 149. $2,600.
Item 39 is The Roman history abridged for use of schools by Oliver Goldsmith. This 1786 fourth edition carries a special label on the cover. The label is headed "First Class," and states that the book was given to Miss Engleheart for her performance at Mrs. Chassaing's French Boarding School, Sloan House, Chelsea, Xmas 1789. Congratulations, Miss Engleheart! The school's motto was "Every Lady has a separate bed," so we can assume that Miss Engleheart slept in well-deserved luxury. Mrs. Chassaing's school long ago closed its doors, and Miss Engleheart faded into history, but the young lady's accomplishments will be remembered as long as this book graces someone's bookshelves, possibly your own. $500.
You may reach Charles Wood Antiquarian Booksellers online at www.cbwoodbooks.com or by phone at 617-868-1711.